IT'S A SLAM DUNK FOR ABC Last week's NBA Finals games between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Detroit Pistons may not have drawn the enormous crowds of viewers that Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls once did, but ratings for the first three games of this year's championship match-up were nearly twice what they were a year ago. And they produced the best ratings ABC has enjoyed since the Academy Awards telecast, giving the last-place network a taste of what it feels like to be No. 1 again. The three basketball telecasts gave ABC a win in all key demographic groups. By contrast, virtually all other network shows, most of them reruns, produced typically low summer ratings, even some first-run offerings like NBC's Next Action Starreality series, which generated little interest, as did the revived (for the summer) Drew Carey Show on ABC. Meanwhile, it was reported that fewer than 21 million viewers tuned in to coverage of the Ronald Reagan funeral ceremonies in Washington and about 35 million, to the services in California on all of the broadcast and cable networks on Friday. The number was well below the 43.4 million who watched President Bush's State of the Union address in January. The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:1. NBA Finals (Game 4, Sunday), ABC, 12.7/22; 2. NBA Finals (Game 2, Tuesday), ABC, 10.7/19; 3. NBA Finals (Game 3, Thursday), ABC, 10.5/19; 4. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 9.2/15; 5. Without a Trace, CBS, 9.0/15; 6. Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS, 8.8/15; 7. Two and a Half Men, CBS, 8.5/14; 8.CSI: Miami, CBS, 8.2/14; 9.Law and Order: SVU, NBC, 7.6/13; 10. Cold Case, CBS, 7.3/13.
SIX FEET UNDER PRODUCER TO BECOME THE WB PRESIDENT
As expected, David Janollari has been named entertainment president of The WB network. Janollari is one half of Greenblatt Janollari Studio, which created HBO's Six Feet Under, UPN's Eveand One on One, and PBS' American Family. (Robert Greenblatt is currently head of programming for Showtime.) Janollari replaces Jordan Levin, who was forced out Monday as Co-CEO after refusing an offer that would have returned him to his old post of entertainment president, which was not filled when he was promoted.
FOX NEWS YANKED FROM JAPAN SATELLITE SERVICE
News Corp is pulling its Fox News Channel from the Sky Perfect satellite service in Japan, citing low subscriptions, according to Nikkei English News. The Nikkei report indicated that News Corp had concluded that subscriptions were so low that it appeared doubtful that the news channel could generate a suitable profit. Last August News Corp sold its entire 8.1 stake in Sky Perfect to its Japanese partners, Sony Corp., Fuji Television Network Inc., and Itochu Corp., for an undisclosed figure.
JAPANESE NETWORK TO APOLOGIZE FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORT
The Japanese TV network TV Asahi has settled a lawsuit brought be a group of farmers who had charged that a 1999 news report about dioxin contamination of their crops resulted in a plunge in sales. Besides a cash pay-out, the settlement calls for the network to issue a formal apology to the farmers. The agreement was lampooned in a message posted on the English-language Japan Today website by one writer who imagined the apology sounding in part like this: "Our investigative journalism gave the consumer unprecedented access to accurate information and the power of choice. That was unfortunate. In the future, we will revert to gathering all our information at the press club, and regurgitating press releases verbatim like all other news organization."
INTERACTIVE TV NETWORK TO BE LAUNCHED IN RUSSIA VIA ADSL
Russian billionaire Vladimir Yevtushenkov, whose Sistema conglomerate includes MTS, the largest cell phone company in Russia, plans to launch an interactive ADSL-based television service in the country by the start of next year, according to the Russian newspaper Vedomosti. In an interview with the newspaper, Yevtushshenkov remarked, "We have the ability to get a TV signal to consumers -- it would be stupid not to use it." Sistema Media exec Nikolai Repin disclosed that Sistema has already begun content development and is negotiating with Western studios for additional programming. Yevtushenkov said that Sistema is planning to invest some $600 million in the Indian market, focusing on companies that are being privatized by the Indian government. He described Indian assets as "fantastically" undervalued. "Privatization is just starting there, and this is interesting for us," he said.
BAILEYS TO SPONSOR VH-1 SERIES OF MUSIC SPECIALS
The London-based spirits company Diageo PLC has bought time on VH1 to air a one-hour music series called Baileys in Tune, which will include commercials for Baileys Cream Liqueur. It marks a major commercial advance by a liquor company since the industry lifted its self-imposed ban on TV commercials in 1996. Other spirits companies will likely be assessing public reaction to the move. Jack Trout, president of a Connecticut marketing firm, told Dow Jones News: "If they don't get too many arrows in their back, the others will pile on."EX-GOV. CUOMO TO APPEAL FAHRENHEIT RATING Former New York Governor Mario Cuomo is coming to the aid of Michael Moore and Fahrenheit 9/11, agreeing to represent him in an appeal of the MPAA's decision to slap the film with an R rating. In its decision to bar children under 17 from seeing the film unless accompanied by a parent or guardian, the MPAA's ratings board cited the film's "violent and disturbing images" and language. In an interview with Newsday,Cuomo commented, "I've seen it three times, and I think every American should see this film." He said that he had already spoken to members of the appeals board and that "they seemed receptive."
MPAA WARNS KIDS AGAINST DOWNLOADING MOVIES
The MPAA took out ads in seven leading newspapers Tuesday urging parents to discuss with their kids "the serious consequences of illegal downloading." Today's (Wednesday) Daily Varietyindicated that those consequences are likely to be legal action by the MPAA, similar to that taken by the record industry. (The MPAA ad warned that those who illegally engaged in file swapping faced "substantial penalties.") However, in an interview with the trade publication, MPAA chief Jack Valenti said: "We're not determined that we're going to sue or not sue. ... We're trying to persuade people of the wrongness of their actions, that taking a creative work without permission from its owner is wrong." In a tougher interview with the Los Angeles Times, Valenti added: "We have to stem the tide of film theft online before it is too late. ... If we don't react promptly ... we will live with intense regret."
QUICK, WHAT'S THE SECOND-HIGHEST-GROSSING FILM OF THE YEAR?
While it may come as no surprise that the top-grossing film worldwide during the first six months of 2004 was Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christwith a gross of $608.5 million, studio watchers may be startled when they learn what the second-highest-grossing film is. It's the Warner Bros. epic Troy,which has thus far grossed $419.3 million, 70 percent of it from overseas ticket sales, according to the Box Office Mojo website. Not far behind in third place is Fox's The Day After Tomorrow, which has grossed $398.4 million worldwide, 61 percent of it from overseas markets. Shrek 2, the highest grossing film domestically this year, is fifth in worldwide sales, but it has rolled out in only a handful of overseas markets and therefore only 1.5 percent of its gross comes from overseas sales.
NETFLIX TO UNVEIL MOVIE DOWNLOADING SERVICE
Netflix said Tuesday that it plans to roll out an Internet service that will allow its subscribers to download movies on line beginning next year. The company's statement follows reports that RealNetworks and Starz Encore are also ramping up such a downloading service. Noting that their service won't make movies available online until a year or more after they are released on DVD, Ted Sarandos, chief content officer at Netflix, observed in an interview with CBS MarketWatch that studios receive $15 per movie when it is sold on DVD, but only $3-4 when it is released on video-on-demand. "The studios are protecting the early window for DVDs," he remarked. Sarandos predicted that they will eventually cave when the demand for downloadable movies intensifies.
ONETIME KID STAR SCHRODER COMPLETES PRODUCTION OF INDIE MOVIE
Rick Schroder, the former child actor (The Champ) who eventually became a regular on NYPD Blue, has launched a new career as an independent producer in Arizona. Entertainment Tonightis reporting that Schroder's first film, Black Cloud,which he also wrote, directed and starred in, is due in the theaters in September. In an interview with the television show, Schroder said that he has moved permanently to Arizona so that he and his family can be closer to his parents. He also was able to find financing for his film there. "Ninety percent of it is financed from Indian tribes," he told E.T. "I wrote this screenplay and then I tried to get it financed through normal channels and it was dead end after dead end. I was talking to somebody and they said, 'What about Indian tribes?' I started cold calling. I went through a lot of tribes before I found my first partner. I will feel great when I pay everybody back." The film concerns a young Native American boxer who fights for a spot on the U.S. Olympic boxing team. "It just felt like the perfect marriage between a unique culture that hasn't been explored and a commercial boxing film," Schroder remarked.
MOVIE REVIEWS: AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS
Reviews of the latest remake of Around the World in 80 Daysare decidedly mixed. On the one hand, Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Timesis calling it "a jolly comedy made from the wheezy high concept." Stephen Holden in the New York Times calls it "a deliriously silly caper that goes out of its way to thumb its nose at logic." And Manohla Dargis in the Los Angeles Times writes glowingly that the movie "sails along on a slipstream of pleasant scenery, amusing incident and the boundless charms of its appealing leading men, Jackie Chan and Steve Coogan: It's an unexpectedly buoyant spectacular." On the other hand, Chris Kaltenbach writes in the Baltimore Sun: "Heaven knows what the suits at Disney were thinking, for what they ended up with was a bland Jackie Chan movie and a lifeless travelogue." Similarly Lou Lumenick writes in the New York Post that the film amounts to "an exceedingly lame vehicle for an increasingly tired-looking Jackie Chan. [It] might as well be called Around the World in 80 Yawns." Noting that the film reportedly cost $110 million to make, Stephen Hunter asks in the Washington Post: "How could they spend so much money and end up with something that looks so Orlando?" Liam Lacey in the Toronto Globe and Mail notes dolefully that while Disney bought the film and didn't produce it itself, it nevertheless "resonates with the Magic Kingdom experience." And Jack Mathews in the New York Postgrumbles that the movie "is one of the lamest remakes of a classic film I've ever seen."