ABC GOLF TELECAST LANDS IN THE ROUGH
Golf fans flooded ABC switchboards with complaints Sunday night when the network abruptly cut away from its coverage of the PGA Buick Classic after it ran long and began broadcasting the scheduled America's Funniest Home Videos instead. ABC Sports later issued an apology saying in part, "We're very apologetic to those who wanted to stay with the golf, but we also had an obligation to those people who are tuning in expecting to see scheduled programming." Thanks to the NBA finals which began later in the evening, ABC won the night with an average 8.5 rating and a 15 share, well ahead of the competition. (The game itself peaked in the 10:00 p.m. hour with a 10.8/19.)

PROMOTING THE NEWS

Two television news personalities, ABC's Barbara Walters and NBC's Brian Williams, have been set to give their views on the importance of promotion to the Promax&BDA convention in New York next week (June 23-25). The organization includes promotion personnel in network and local television, cable and satellite. "I am thrilled that Ms Walters, a respected journalist and producer, wants to share her opinions on the power of promotion with our membership," Promax&BDA CEO Jim Chabin said in a statement. Walters is also scheduled to be honored as a winner of the Television Century Award. Among other top TV personalities and executives expected to be on hand for the conference are Viacom TV Stations Group COO Denis Swanson; MTV Networks President Judy McGrath; Court TV commentator Dominick Dunne; and Oxygen Media chief Geraldine Laybourne.

CNN CO-FOUNDER CALLS FOR FACT CHECKING GOVERNMENT REPORTS

The co-founder of CNN has challenged news organizations to scrutinize news releases from government agencies for truth and accuracy. Referring to an apparently deceptive State Department report that global terrorism was down 45 percent from 2001, Reese Schonfeld observed that the findings were reported without verification last month by leading news agencies. The report "was filled with errors but the press printed and broadcast it as if it were gospel," Schonfeld said in a statement published on his website, www.meandted.com. (During an appearance on Meet the Press Sunday Secretary of State Colin Powell acknowledged that he was "embarrassed" when he learned that the report was inaccurate, but he denied that the findings were distorted for political purposes.) Commented Schonfeld: "It's time the press hired people with some knowledge of basic arithmetic. Maybe they could end the free flow of b***s*** into the media mainstream."

STARZ! BEGINS OFFERING MOVIES ONLINE

The Starz Encore Group, which operates the Starz! pay-TV movie channels, together with RealNetworks Inc., will today (Monday) begin offering Starz! Ticket, a subscription service aimed at PC users that will allow them to download an unlimited number of movies from the Internet for $12.95 per month. Analysts expressed skepticism over the potential value of such a service, noting that it takes a minimum of two hours to download even a rather short film over a broadband connection and that most people prefer to watch movies on their TV sets than on their PCs. "This is great for business travelers, but that's a very small segment," analyst Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research told today's Los Angeles Times. "We're talking about tens of thousands, not millions." Separately, Apple and Pixar Chairman Steve Jobs said in an interview with today's Wall Street Journal that people will not accept the poorer quality of movies on PCs. "With video, people have ratcheted up to the DVD format and no one is going to go back to VHS quality just because they can download it faster over the Internet. It ain't going to happen," he said.

SOCCER MATCH CAPTURES 73 PERCENT OF U.K. AUDIENCE

Twenty-one million viewers, representing 73 percent of the entire British audience, watched France defeat England 2-1 in the final moments of their first game of Euro 2004 Sunday, according to overnight figures. Overall, the game averaged 17.6 million viewers, representing 67 percent of the audience. It was the highest rating for a British TV program since two World Cup matches in 1998 drew 23.8 million and 19.8 million respectively.

WIZARD LOSES MAGIC
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban experienced a scary new adventure over the weekend as its box office plummeted some 63 percent, far more than analysts had predicted, winding up with about $35.1 million. The film was challenged by three newcomers, each of which took in more than $20 million. (Overseas, Potter experienced a far more moderate drop as it faced little competition. It earned $65.5 million in 40 countries.) Potter's new domestic rivals were: the Vin Diesel sci-fier, The Chronicles of Riddick, which took in an estimated $24.6 million to place second; the remake of the Stepford Wives, which earned around $22.2 million, placing fourth; and Garfield: The Movie, with Bill Murray providing the voice for the cartoon cat, which opened with about $21.7 million, and landed in fifth place. Shrek 2 continued to show off strong, green legs as it took third with an estimated $24 million to bring it four-week haul to $354 million. the top 12 films gross $155.5 million -- 34 percent above the same weekend a year ago. The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:
1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, $35.1 million; 2. The Chronicles of Riddick, $24.6 million; 3. Shrek 2, $24 million; 4. The Stepford Wives, $22.2 million; 5. Garfield: The Movie, $21.7 million; 6. The Day After Tomorrow, $14.55 million; 7. Raising Helen, $3.8 million; 8. Troy, $3.5 million; 9. Saved! $2.55 million; 10. Mean Girls, $1.5 million.

END OF THE ROAD FOR FURY ROAD

Mad Max: Fury Road , which was to have returned Mel Gibson to the role he made famous in three Australian-filmed action flicks in the late '70s and early '80s, has been scrapped, published reports in Australia said Sunday. Although hundreds of thousands of dollars had already been spent on development of the film, work was halted last week reportedly because of logistical difficulties. Originally set to film last July in Namibia, the production was postponed because of security concerns. Oddly, Namibia, which is mostly Christian and is located in southern Africa, is not regarded as a terrorist target, and no security advisories have been issued for the country. Principal filming had been scheduled for the Kalahari desert, which is sparsely populated. Director George Miller said Sunday that filming could not take place elsewhere because the Kalahari uniquely offers a hard surface for the vehicles that were to be used in the movie. Elsewhere, they would have bogged down, he said.

STEVE JOBS SAYS APPLE COMPUTERS WILL HAVE NO HDTV DVD RECORDERS

For the first time, Steve Jobs has acknowledged that he is facing a conflict between his position as head of Apple Computer and his position as head of Pixar Animation. In an interview with today's (Monday) Wall Street Journal, Jobs said that he had decided to wear his "Pixar hat" and to urge Hollywood not to release any of its movies on digital hi-definition TV until security software can be integrated into home theaters that sport high-definition recorders. He indicated that, for the time being, Apple computers will not be equipped with such recorders.

SLOW-DOWN AT MIRAMAX

As Miramax Co-chairmen Harvey and Bob Weinstein continue to wrangle with Michael Eisner and other top Disney execs over their continued role within the company, Miramax's production machinery has virtually ground to a halt, Daily Variety reported today (Monday). "Pundits are trying to figure out if there's a connection between the slowdown and the pact talks," the trade publication observed, noting that traditionally Miramax experiences a slow summer before gearing up for end-of-the-year releases. But Variety observed that the current retrenchment could affect Miramax's operations in 2005.

FEW HAPPY CAMPERS AMONG HAPPY MEAL PATRONS

McDonald's franchise owners are the latest to express dissatisfaction with their deal with the Walt Disney Co., angry that they are being required to promote flops released theatrically by the company and inconsequential films sent directly to video, the Los Angeles Times reported today (Monday). The current pact expires in about 30 months. Dick Adams, a consultant to 500 McDonald's franchisees, told the newspaper, "The reality is this deal was done in 1996 at a time when McDonald's was on their knees and Disney was running real strong. ... It's an entirely different negotiating environment." Meanwhile, McDonald's competitors have been able to form less costly alliances with companies that are effectively challenging Disney in the family film field. Burger King, for example, is currently promoting DreamWorks' hit film Shrek 2.

MOVIEGOERS WILL CONFRONT MORE ON-SCREEN ADS

Faced with declining audiences for network TV and fragmented audiences for cable, ad buyers are spending heavily on advertising in movie theaters, pouring $356 million into on-screen ads last year, up 37 percent from 2002, according to the Cinema Advertising Council. CAC President Matthew Kearney told today's (Monday) Los Angeles Times: "Advertisers are trying to find ways to attract younger people, and the best place to find the younger demographic is in cinemas." Making theaters even more attractive than TV to ad buyers, the Times observed, is the fact that theater patrons are essentially a captive audience. The newspaper cited a recent Arbitron study, which concluded: "Consumers aren't subject to the distractions they face at home such as the telephone, remote-control devices or simply performing household activities."