SUMMERTIME AND THE RATINGS ARE LOUSY
The list of the top ten television shows for last week, which was packed with summer reruns, looked pretty much like the list during the regular season -- except that the ratings were much lower. One glaring exception: None of NBC's Thursday-night "must-see" programs made the top-ten list as the network recorded its lowest Thursday numbers in history. CBS nailed eight of the top ten; NBC took the other two. CBS was able to win the week with a lowly 5.4 rating and a 10 share. NBC was second with an average 4.6/8. ABC followed with a 3.8/7, while Fox trailed with a 3.3/6. The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:
1. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 8.8/15; 2. Without a Trace, CBS, 8.7/15; 3. CSI: Miami, CBS, 7.9/13; 4. Law and Order, NBC, 7.4/13; 5. Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS, 7.3/12; 5. Two and a Half Men, CBS, 7.3/12; 7. Law and Order: SVU, NBC, 7.0/12; 8. Amazing Race: 5, CBS, 6.9/12; 9. 60 Minutes, CBS, 6.5/13; 10. Cold Case, CBS, 6.4/12.
WHERE ARE THE VOTERS ... ER ...VIEWERS?
Network spokespersons indicated Tuesday that the low ratings recorded for the first night of coverage of the Democratic National Convention vindicated their decision to reduce the amount of coverage. Jeffrey Schneider, a spokesman for ABC News, told today's (Wednesday) New York Times: "While some might try to make the chicken-and-egg argument -- that more coverage would mean more viewers -- that notion is contradicted by the evidence." Nevertheless, reports indicated that while network television was attracting fewer viewers for their convention coverage, cable networks and PBS, which were giving them full-time coverage, were attracting more. (Cable news networks attracted about 2 million more viewers than they did in 2000, with Fox News recording a four-fold increase as it has sped by CNN over the intervening years. PBS said it averaged 2.5 million viewers versus 1.9 million four years ago.) Meanwhile, Sam Donaldson, covering the conventions for ABC's digital channels and the Internet (it was referred to in press accounts as "narrowcasting") remarked, paraphrasing Churchill, "Never have so many covered so little for so few."
CNN ANCHORS SINK IN CONVENTION BABBLE
CNN's decision to place its anchors on the floor of the political conventions instead of in "sky boxes" overlooking them has precipitated a host of unexpected difficulties with boisterous delegates sometimes drowning out the anchors and creating distractions behind them as they seek to be noticed by family and friends at home. Commented the Chicago Sun-Times TV critic Phil Rosenthal. "Wait till CNN gets to the floor of the Republican convention next month at New York's Madison Square Garden, and rather than just wave to the cameras, those delegates hold up signs plugging Fox News Channel."
OFF AIR WITH RYAN SEACREST
Fox TV's syndication unit, Twentieth Television, abruptly canceled American Idol host Ryan Seacrest's talk show On-Air With Ryan Seacrest one day after a broadcast group of 20 stations, Sinclair Broadcasting, dropped it. The show debuted in January, and has rarely risen above a 1.0 rating. In a statement, the syndicator said, "It was our desire that the program would appeal to a wide array of viewers, but unfortunately, the marketplace's response was not as strong as we had hoped."
TV STATION IN AMISH COUNTRY TO PREEMPT REALITY SHOW DEBUT
Another TV station located in Pennsylvania Amish country has decided not to carry tonight's premiere of UPN's reality series Amish in the City. Station manager Matt Uhl said that he wants to view the program and get the reaction of local educators, reporters, and ad agencies to it before putting it on the air. "If I deem it appropriate, we'll air the first episode on Friday and the other episodes in their regular timeslot" he said. Last week, another station in Lancaster, PA said that it would not carry the series.
DISNEY SETTLES WITH FIRM THAT CLAIMED IT STOLE ITS TECHNOLOGY
Disney has settled a patent infringement lawsuit brought by OpenTV Corp., which developed a system for synchronizing Internet content with TV programs. Under the terms of the settlement, Disney has agreed to license OpenTV's technology and pay royalties. In a statement OpenTV Chairman and CEO Jim Chiddix said, "Disney's agreement to license these patents and our late stage discussions with Walt Disney Internet Group to work with us to develop enhanced TV programming provides a solid foundation on which we can create exciting television for viewers across the United States."
BROSNAN BIDS BOND A FOND FAREWELL
Four months after complaining that producers of the next James Bond film were at "an impasse" over how to proceed with the production, Pierce Brosnan has himself bowed out of the film. In an interview posted on Entertainment Weekly's website, Brosnan said, "Bond is another lifetime behind me." He added: "I've said all I've got to say on the world of James Bond. ... We went out on a high, and I look back affectionately at that time and doing those four movies. But I've said all I gotta say on it." Reporting on Brosnan's remarks, the Associated Press speculated Tuesday: "The 51-year-old's statement might be a negotiating ploy." However, last weekend Scotland's Sunday Mail reported that the producers intended to "pension off" Brosnan and replace him with a younger actor. Ewan McGregor, Jude Law and Clive Owen were reportedly being considered. In March, Brosnan told the London Daily Mirror, "You know going in that your time will come to boy out, walk off and say goodbye. If that time is now, then it's been a glorious ride." He criticized the producers for sacrificing character-driven plots for gimmicky spectacle, saying, "It's frustrating, really, because they feel they have to top themselves in a genre which is just spectacle and huge bang for your buck."
MOORE USES CONVENTION TO KEEP FAHRENHEIT BURNING
Michael Moore, whose Fahrenheit 9/11 documentary crossed the $100-million mark over the weekend to set a new record for a nonfiction film, is keeping the fire burning under his film at the Democratic National Convention. Moore has been attracting as much media attention in Boston as leading politicians (and has apparently found it necessary to surround himself with as much security personnel as the two presumed candidates). Moreover, he is using the media to attack the media, charging that they failed to raise the questions that he did in his film. He is due to continue stumping for his film in Texas, where he is due to attend a screening of his film in Crawford, close to the president's ranch. Meanwhile, Fahrenheit is set to open in Germany today (Wednesday), where it is expected to create the same sort of sensation that it did in France and the U.K. Andreas Fallscheer, the managing director of the company distributing the film in Germany, told Germany's Deutsche Welle that Germans regard Moore as "the other voice of America." Meanwhile, some German exhibitors are complaining about the dearth of prints of Fahrenheit that have been made available. A spokesman for the Cinemaxx movie chain, which has 343 screens, expressed frustration over the limited number of prints, saying that the chain could have screened it in all of its theaters if more prints had been available.
TIME WARNER LIKELY TO CAPTURE LION, SAYS REPORT
MGM, being wooed by Sony and Time Warner, now appears to be leaning toward the latter, Reuters reported on Tuesday. The wire service quoted one source with knowledge of the talks as saying, "Time Warner has caught up and gone beyond Sony in terms of due diligence." Each media conglomerate is waving an offer of about $5 billion in cash and stock at MGM. NBC Universal, which for a time had also been considered a possible suitor, reportedly has dropped out of the courtship, after concluding that the $5-billion pricetag is too high.
CAMCORDER PIRATES STILL ON THE LOOSE
Efforts by the MPAA, exhibitors, and law-enforcement authorities to keep camcorders out of movie houses appeared to be deficient to keep up with the adroitness of pirates, as recent raids continue to turn up stacks of DVDs produced from camcorded tapes of movies. In a police crackdown on Tuesday, a stack of 1,500 DVDs was confiscated -- among them copies of The Bourne Conspiracy, which opened only last weekend. Two weeks ago, a similar raid produced a stack of 6,000 discs, many of them copies of Spider-Man 2.