FAMILY OUTING
An internal study concluded last year that Disney's ABC Family Channel was worth about $2 billion less than the $5.3 billion that Michael Eisner agreed to buy it for in 2001, the Los Angeles Times disclosed today (Tuesday). (The newspaper said that after the deal was signed, News Corp Chairman Rupert Murdoch told associates that he could have kicked himself for not asking more -- since Eisner was so eager to buy it.) Former Disney board member Andrea Van de Kamp, an Eisner foe, told the Times: "None of us really understood to what extent we overpaid. ... We all got carried away with the enthusiasm and concept of the purchase."

PEOPLE METER FOUND DEFECTIVE

An Ernst & Young audit of Nielsen's local people meter system discovered, among other things, that 1 in 6 viewers was improperly classified as black and 1 in 14 as Latino, the Los Angeles Times reported today (Tuesday). The newspaper said that the accounting firm also faulted Nielsen for not training users of the device adequately and claimed that the devices sometimes malfunctioned so that they did not recognize the programs viewers were watching or could not transmit the information to Nielsen's headquarters. Wireless devices like cell phones and satellite TV systems also sometimes threw off the people meters, the report said. A spokesman for the ratings company told the Times that it was aware of the problems and is working to fix them.

LEVIN OUSTED AS CO-CHIEF OF THE WB NETWORK

Jordan Levin, who was appointed only last September as co-CEO and co-chairman of The WB Network, quit Monday after refusing the lesser job of entertainment president, published reports said today (Tuesday). Garth Ancier will become the sole CEO and chairman. Ratings for the "fifth" network fell drastically during the 2003-2004 season. In a statement on Monday, Barry Meyer, chairman and CEO of Warner Bros. Entertainment, said: "Taking a nontraditional organizational route was a noble effort, but having a sole leader is simply more productive, efficient and effective."

CBS OUT IN FRONT AFTER UPFRONT

CBS and ABC concluded their upfront sales on Monday with CBS reportedly registering $2.4 billion in sales, up from $2.2 billion last year. CBS had also posted the largest price increase -- 10 percent above last year. ABC boosted its rates about 5 percent, recording $1.6 billion, down slightly from its 2003 numbers. Industry analyst Jack Meyers told today's (Tuesday) Los Angeles Times. "Everything came off in almost a best-case scenario. ... The marketplace didn't get out of hand and the networks really held to their guns in terms of pricing."

DONALDSON RETURNS TO THE WILDERNESS

Veteran ABC newsman Sam Donaldson said Monday that he felt like Lazarus after being called on by many news producers to contribute his recollection of encounters with Ronald Reagan during coverage of the Reagan funeral ceremonies. In an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, Donaldson, the former ABC White House correspondent, 20/20 co-anchor, and This Week co-anchor, remarked: "I was delighted to be part of the remembrance. But let's face it, that was last week. This week, I'm back to my present-day status." He indicated that he remains in a professional wilderness. "They don't know what they want me to do. It's like the interim government of Iraq -- we're going to turn over sovereignty, but we don't know to whom."

ROCK STAR WINNER TO JOIN INXS

The winner of the upcoming reality series Rock Star will be awarded a job as lead singer of the Australian rock band INXS, producer Mark Burnett said Monday. "I am a long-time fan of INXS and feel very fortunate that INXS approached us with this idea and have entrusted us with their future," Burnett said in a statement. The winner would succeed Michael Hutchence, who committed sicide in 1997.

OFCOM CHASTISES FOX NEWS CHANNEL

The British television watchdog Ofcom today (Tuesday) accused the Fox News cable channel of breaching equal-time guidelines when it aired a commentary by reporter John Gibson last January in which he claimed that the BBC had shown "a frothing-at-the-mouth" anti-American bias. Fox News Channel is carried in Britain by the BSkyB satellite service and each is a unit of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. Gibson's remarks were made in a commentary following release of the Hutton Report, in which the BBC was accused of airing a report on Iraq that was deemed to be unfounded and showing "defective" editorial oversight. He said that the BBC "felt entitled to lie and, when caught lying, felt entitled to defend its lying reporters and executives." Ofcom, which said it had received 24 complaints about the commentary, said that "the strength and number of allegations ... meant that Fox News should have offered the BBC an opportunity to respond." Fox News had no immediate reaction to the Ofcom finding.

GOT NEWS? SEND IT IN BY PHONE

Britain's ITV News is urging users of 3G video phones to send them clips of newsworthy happenings ("such as riot footage") when they come across them. Many of the 3G cell phones include a small camera that can capture still photos or about 15-20 seconds of video. The clips can be emailed to [email protected]

SHARP TO INTRODUCE WORLD'S LARGEST LCD TV SET

Japan's Sharp Corp. said Monday that it will introduce a 45-inch liquid crystal display (LCD) TV set -- the world's largest LCD receiver -- in the Japanese and U.S. markets in August. The units will be priced at about $9,000. The company said that the Aquos unit is capable of receiving digital TV signals from broadcast, cable, satellite or DVD sources. Sharp said that the screen is just 8.7 centimeters (3.4 inches) thick.

IT'S MAGIC: HARRY FALLS BUT STAYS ON TOP
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban continued to captivate audiences last weekend, but four other movies gave it stiff competition. Although it remained at the top of the box office with $34.9 million, the figure represented a 63 percent decline from last weekend's debut. Vin Diesel's The Chronicles of Riddick took second place with $24.3 million. The animated Shrek 2 placed third with $23.3 million (and became the top-grossing animated film of all time, with a gross-to-date of $353.3 million). Garfield: The Movie opened in fourth place with $21.7 million. And the remake of The Stepford Wives rounded out the top five with $21.4 million (considerably more than analysts had expected). It was only the second weekend in box office history that five movies earned more than $20 million each. The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):
1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Warner Bros., $34,910,393, 2 Wks. ($157,975,042); 2. The Chronicles of Riddick, Universal, $24,289,165, (New); 3. Shrek 2, DreamWorks, $23,316,920, 4 Wks. ($353,333,317); 4. Garfield: The Movie, 20th Century Fox, $21,727,611, (New); 5. The Stepford Wives, Paramount, $21,406,781, (New); 6. The Day After Tomorrow, 20th Century Fox, $14,538,226, 3 Wks. ($153,144,814); 7. Raising Helen, Disney, $3,705,336, 3 Wks. ($31,284,112); 8. Troy, Warner Bros., $3,417,016, 5 Wks. ($125,604,418); 9. Saved!, MGM, $2,535,013, 3 Wks. ($3,717,375); 10. Mean Girls, Paramount, $1,486,032, 7 Wks. ($81,303,696).

FAHRENHEIT 9/11 SLAPPED WITH R RATING

Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 faced a new stumbling block Monday as the MPAA ratings board sapped it with an R rating, barring anyone under the age of 17 from seeing it unless accompanied by a parent or guardian. The board cited the film's "violent and disturbing images and for language." Distributors Lions Gate and IFC said they immediately filed an emergency appeal of the board's decision. In a statement Moore pointed out that teenagers may eventually be called upon to serve in Iraq and therefore should be able to see the film. "If they're old enough to be recruited," he said, they certainly deserve the right to see what's going on."

WEINSTEINS AND JOBS TO JOIN UP?

A group of New York investment bankers are proposing that Miramax founders Bob and Harvey Weinstein be teamed with Pixar Animation Studios' Steve Jobs to form a new film company, the New York Post reported today (Tuesday), citing unnamed sources. The newspaper quoted the sources as saying that while no direct negotiations have been held between Jobs and the Weinsteins, bankers are busy drawing up such plans. The Post said further that bankers are making a separate pitch for a Weinstein-led group to acquire MGM.

BLOCKBUSTER GETS SET TO LAUNCH ONLINE SERVICE

Poised to present a significant challenge to the Netflix online DVD rental service, Blockbuster Video said Monday that it is ahead of schedule in developing software for its own online rental service. In an interview with Video Store magazine, Blockbuster CFO Larry Zine said, "It'll be very good to have two very strong, viable competitors in the online space." If successful, the online service would help defend Blockbuster against criticism by analysts that it is facing obsolescence. Zine said that he expected that by the middle of next year, Blockbuster would be able to begin filling online orders through the company's stores, although initially it would do so through about 20 distribution centers. (Netflix uses 25.) Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Morgan Securities, told the trade publication: "Blockbuster is going to eat Netflix's lunch when they roll this thing out."

BIG BROTHER CONTESTANT STAGES A PROTEST

A contestant on the Australian version of Big Brother decided to use his 15 minutes of fame Sunday night to protest the government's detention of asylum seekers. After being voted off the show after six weeks, 24-year-old Merlin Luck showed up at a TV studio for a live interview with his mouth taped shut and holding a paper sign reading "Free the Refugees." "I wasn't trying to destroy the show," Luck told the Associated Press on Monday. "If people want reality television, then this is reality."

GUARDS SENT TO INDIAN THEATERS SHOWING LESBIAN DRAMA

The government of India today (Tuesday) began posting armed guards at theaters throughout the country screening the Hindi film Girlfriend, which depicts a sexual relationship between two women. The government's action came after student activists of the Hindu Shiv Sena organization, which has been responsible for attacks on movie sets where non-comformist films were being shot. "We'll not allow such a film to be screened," Arun Pathak, a leader of the group, told Reuters Monday: "What one does in the bedroom and bathroom should not be displayed publicly."