UNO BUYER FOR UNIVISIONA group headed by Mexico's Televisa that was expected to wind up as the winner in the bidding for Jerry Perenchio's Spanish-language Univision network suddenly came apart Thursday, with three investment firms breaking ranks with Televisa over the offer. Although Televisa is expected to put together another group of investors, Univision currently has only one formal offer on the table -- from a group headed by Haim Saban, which is said to have offered $35.00 per share for the company -- about its current market value -- or a total of slightly less than $11 billion. Univision is known to be seeking $12-13 billion. The Saban group's offer expires today (Friday). Analysts appeared divided in predicting whether Univision will now call off the sale.
EISNER'S CONVERSATIONS SETS NEW RATINGS LOW
Apparently televangelist Pat Robertson did not bring his substantial flock along with him when he appeared on CNBC's Conversations with Michael Eisneron Tuesday. According to Nielsen Research, only 68,000 viewers tuned in, the fewest viewers since the interview show debuted on March 28. (The show is repeated several times during the week.)
BIG TEN SIGNS BIG CONTRACTS
The Big Ten college conference signed two major TV contracts Wednesday. In one, it renewed its deal with Disney's ABC and ESPN for another 10 years. In another, it signed on with News Corp's Fox Networks Group to create a Big Ten cable channel that is due to debut in the fall of next year. The channel will reportedly carry 35 football games, 105 men's basketball games, 55 women's basketball games, and 170 Olympic events.
NICHE SPORTS FIND PAYING VIEWERS -- ON THE WEB
Sports that broadcast television and cable networks choose to ignore -- or give short shrift -- are turning up as pay-to-view webcasts, including 250 matches from Wimbledon beginning on Monday, USA Todayreported today (Friday). The Wimbledon coverage will be carried by MediaZone.com, which also carries rugby matches, European basketball, surfing, and other events. "There are thousands of people willing to pay to watch our events," MediaZone CEO Michelle Wu told the newspaper. Viewers who sign up before Monday can receive up to nine Wimbledon matches simultaneously for $20. (The figure rises to $25 on Monday.) A separate package for just the quarter-finals, semifinals and finals costs $10. Although such events can be downloaded onto PCs for later viewing, some choose to watch them live even when they originate in far-away time zones. "Half our viewers watch this stuff in the middle of the night," Claude Ruibal, CEO of WCSN.com, which carries track-and-field events, told USA Today. Webcasting could seemingly offer an alternative to Olympics fans who would prefer to watch events live, even at odd hours, than watch them after news reports of the results have already been released. Meanwhile, it was reported that online coverage of the U.S. loss to Ghana in the World Cup on Thursday led to a record spike in Internet traffic Thursday. Streaming provider Akamai said that traffic for the World Cup webcast reached over 7.2 million visitors per minute.
CBS WRITES "THE END" FOR TUESDAY NIGHT BOOK CLUB
CBS has closed the book on its Tuesday-night reality series Tuesday Night Book Clubafter only two chapters, er, episodes. The show, aimed at attracting women during the NBA basketball Finals, attracted hardly anyone at all. Last Tuesday's episode drew an overall rating of 3.4 and a 5 share, with a 1.4/5 among adults 18-49. It is due to be replaced next week by the CBS news magazine 48 Hours Mystery.
ACTORS ON THE SOPRANOS LOOK FOR OFFER THEY CAN'T REFUSE
The Sopranosstar James Gandolfini is planning to intervene in a pay dispute between HBO producers and co-stars Steven Van Zandt and Tony Sirico, according to the Hollywood Reporter, which cited unnamed sources. According to the trade publication, the two actors are demanding $200,000 per episode -- twice their current salary -- to appear in the final eight episodes of the crime drama, due to air in 2007. With production scheduled to resume on July 5, several other key cast members have also not signed on, the Reporterobserved. In a statement to the trade paper, an HBO spokesperson said, "HBO has made generous offers to the cast, and, as always, we're confident that we will resolve all of these matters amicably."
CBS BLOG NOT EXACTLY OVER THE MOON ABOUT OTHER BLOGS' NOTICE
The CBS News blog Public Eye appeared to play down recent errors that it committed when it posted a graphic for a story about China's planned lunar landing that showed the Japanese flag instead of the Chinese planted on the moon -- which was actually a moon of Saturn, not the Earth's. Responding to corrections that appeared on various other blogs, Vaughn Ververs, who runs Public Eye, acknowledged the errors but devoted much of a commentary to what he called the "quibbling over the angle of a shadow" in the graphic, which he noted, had "absolutely no bearing on the story." In a kind of straw-dog defense, Ververs concluded that while using "the wrong nation's flag was an error that may or may not have gone unnoticed" but for the blogs --likewise, the wrong moon -- "it's also worth warning against drawing any broader conclusions from such mistakes and trying to find hidden messages in shadows that don't exist." TIMING SHOULD BE PERFECT FOR CLICKThe Adam Sandler comedy Clickis expected to click with audiences this weekend and take in close to $50 million, making it the biggest opening of any Sandler film. It bows just days ahead of Wednesday's premiere of Superman Returnsand two weeks ahead of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, which are expected to battle one another for the year's box-office championship. Also opening today is the thriller Waist Deep, aimed at black and Hispanic audiences (on only about 1000 screens), but it is expected to wind up behind two holdovers, Disney's Cars and Paramount's Nacho Libre. "This is a healthy mix, Exhibitor Relations chief Paul Dergarabedian told today's Los Angeles Daily News. "You've got a little bit of everything, a marketplace that literally has something for every type of audience."
MOVIE REVIEWS: CLICK
In CLICK, Adam Sandler plays a man who discovers a TV remote control that allows him to fast forward, rewind, and freeze-frame any part of his life. It's a gimmick that Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Timesfinds downright offensive. "The movie is being sold as a comedy," he writes, "but you know what? This isn't funny. ... I am not sure if this story device could possibly have been made funny." Likewise Rick Groen in the Toronto Globe and Mailcalls the movie "a premise in wandering pursuit of a movie." Stephen Hunter in the Washington Post also found the film more "aggressively hostile" than funny. "It's the humor of a bullied boy striking back at his tormentors without fear of retaliation," he writes, adding hostilely: "Halfway through the film ... I was the one wishing for a remote. I'd have hit that Off button so fast it'd make your nose bleed." Philip Wuntch in the Dallas Morning News and Lou Lumenick in the New York Post each sums up the movie in two identical words: "Clickdoesn't."
TOSHIBA SELLING HD-DVD PLAYERS AT A LOSS
Hoping to deal Sony's Blu-ray high-definition DVD player a knock-out blow before it even enters the ring, Toshiba has begun selling its own HD DVD player at a loss, the online edition of Business Weekreported today (Friday), citing a study by market research firm iSuppli. According to the firm, it costs Toshiba more than $700 to produce each HD DVD player, which it plans to sell at U.S. retailers for $499. Sony's Blu-ray players, by contrast, are expected to display a price of around $999. In its report, iSuppli analyst Chris Crotty commented, "Toshiba wants to get a head start and build an early lead."
SHYAMALAN BLASTS DISNEY EXECS IN NEW BOOK
A new book, The Man Who Heard Voices: Or, How M. Night Shyamalan Risked His Career on a Fairy Tale, due to be published on July 20, will describe director Shyamalan's conflict with Disney studio executives and his decision to leave the company that had produced his successfully thrillers, beginning with 1999's The Sixth Sense, the Los Angeles Timesreported today (Friday). The book, by Sports Illustratedwriter Michael Bamberger, is reportedly particularly tough on Disney production President Nina Jacobson, quoting Shyamalan as saying that he "had witnessed the decay of her creative vision right before his own wide-open eyes." Later Shyamalan says that over the years, he had concluded that Disney "no longer valued individualism ... no longer valued fighters." Eventually he left the studio after Jacobson and others assailed his script for Lady in the Water, which was eventually produced by Warner Bros. and is due to be released on July 21.
ANTI-AMERICAN FILM TO BE FEATURED AT MUSLIM FILM FESTIVAL
A Muslim film festival, which opens in San Francisco on Saturday, will be highlighted by a screening of the Turkish film Valley of the Wolves, an anti-American docudrama that hinges on a July 4, 2003 incident during the Iraq war when U.S. forces captured 11 Turkish soldiers who were actually members of coalition forces. The incident sparked outrage in Turkey after the soldiers were shown with hoods over their heads being marched out of their headquarters at gunpoint. The villain in the film is played by Gary Busey, as a doctor who removes organs from Iraqi prisoners and sells them to hospitals abroad. The $10-million film is the most expensive Turkish film ever made and is one of the country's biggest hits. Last February, one woman, emerging from a theater showing the film in Istanbul, told a BBC reporter: "If I see an American when I get out of here I feel like taking a hood and putting it over their head."