SABAN MORPHS INTO UNIVISION BUYER
Univision has agreed to accept an offer for the company from an investors' group led by onetime entertainment mogul Haim Saban (who introduced Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and other kids shows to TV audiences), published reports said today (Tuesday). The reports said that the group had agreed to pay $36.25 per share in cash and assume $1.4 billion in debt. Inasmuch as the shares closed Monday at $32.03, the amount offered represented a premium of about 13 percent. The total value of the deal was put at $12.3 billion. However, today's Los Angeles Times observed that the deal could be challenged by a group headed by Mexican broadcaster Televisa, one of the current owners of Univision. The Times observed that two seats on the Univision board held by Televisa and Venezuela's Venevision voted against the deal. It said that the Televisa group had been prepared to raise its own offer for Univision and didn't learn that the Saban group had already done so until the Univision board meeting on Monday. Although he had hoped for a bid of around $40 per share, Univision Chairman Jerry Perenchio nevertheless called the deal "a blockbuster transaction" and said that it "reflects the extraordinary growth of the Hispanic population, Univision's unique bond with its community and our ability to deliver tremendous audiences to our mainstream advertising partners."
UNIVISION SETS RATINGS RECORD WITH WORLD CUP COVERAGE
Saturday's World Cup coverage on Univision drew more Hispanic viewers than any previous Super Bowl telecast, which traditionally draws the biggest overall TV audience of the year, an analysis of Nielsen ratings indicated Monday. The match between Mexico and Argentina attracted 6.7 million viewers, including 4.3 million in the much-sought-after 18-49 year-old demographic. It was also the #1 most-watched sports telecast ever broadcast in Spanish.
STAR JONES TO LEAVE THE VIEW
Star Jones is expected to announce this week that she will leave The View sometime next month, Access Hollywood reported Monday. She has been a panelist on the show since it was launched in August 1997. There have been persistent rumors that Jones would be ousted following the decision of program producer Barbara Walters to replace Meredith Vieira with Rosie O'Donnell (Vieira was named co-host of Today). O'Donnell and Jones have repeatedly clashed, both on and off the air, particularly after Jones dropped an enormous amount of weight without disclosing how she had done so, riling O'Donnell. O'Donnell is expected to join The View in September.
NBC ENTERS THE ENEMY CAMP
Taking a kind of if-you-can't-beat-'em-join-'em stance, NBC, which like all of the other networks, has battled the YouTube video website over users posting segments of its shows online, said today (Tuesday) that it plans to promote its fall lineup via the website, providing clips from such shows as The Office, Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. It also plans to buy ads on the site and mention YouTube on the air.
BRITAIN'S MOST POWERFUL TV MOGUL MAY BE FORCED OUT
Charles Allen, who, as CEO of ITV, is Britain's most powerful figure in commercial television, could be forced to resign within six weeks unless the company's financial situation improves, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported today (Tuesday), citing unnamed sources in London's financial district. The newspaper noted that ITV stock has failed to rise in recents months and that advertising revenue has not picked up despite huge ratings for the World Cup soccer telecasts. The newspaper said that August 9, when ITV announces quarterly financial results, could become Allen's "D-Day." The paper quoted a source as saying, ""People acknowledge it's a tough job but they are not convinced that what ITV is currently doing is likely to create substantial value. I don't think that Charles himself convinced people that he has a strategy for that. The pressure is on - even though people acknowledge how difficult it is."
MOVIE REVIEWS: SUPERMAN RETURNS
Just like in the comics and the movies, Superman is receiving much adulation while dodging Kryptonite as he faces movie critics today (Tuesday) in advance of midnight screenings of Superman Returns. The critics are about equally divided over whether Superman flies. "Man, oh Man of Steel, it's good to have you back," Jack Mathews fairly shouts in his review in the New York Daily News. William Arnold in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer describes the film as "immensely satisfying ... magnificently mounted." Claudia Puig in USA Today calls it "a rousing spectacle ''' an action-packed saga with exhilarating special effects and dazzling production design." To Terry Lawson in the Detroit Free Press, it's "an elegantly rendered, perfectly pitched homage to the golden era of comics." Lou Lumenick in the New York Post writes that with this sequel, "Bryan Singer's super, soulful and very expensive new resurrection of the venerable big-screen franchise ups the ante with must-see results." Amy Biancolli expresses thanks to the filmmakers for not trying to invest Superman with angst as the makers of Batman Begins did with their superhero. "because an angsty Superman is no Superman at all." Ty Burr in the Boston Globe also remarks that "this isn't a reinvention of a beloved franchise. It's a renewal." He concludes that the film is "a generally thrilling entertainment that's not quite the grand slam you want it to be." Similarly, Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune dishes out what he calls "qualified praise" to the film, but refers to the title character as "the savior from Krypton." But Manohla Dargis in the New York Times takes the criticism a step further, accusing director Bryan Singer of turning the superhero into a kind of Jesus. Referring to his earlier work on the X-Men franchise, Dargis remarks: "Mr. Singer likes to make important pop entertainments that trumpet their seriousness as loudly as they deploy their bangs. It's hard not to think that Superman isn't the only one here with a savior complex." Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times makes a similar point: "This is a film that tries too hard and wants too much," he writes. And Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times simply dismisses it as "a glum, lackluster movie in which even the big effects sequences seem dutiful instead of exhilarating."
STUDIO INCREASING AD SPENDING ON THE WEB
Several critics have observed that it's really not necessary to sit through 2 1/2 hours of Superman Returns in order to see the best special-effects sequences. Most of them have been squeezed into the trailers, which can be viewed on any number of websites. On its website Monday, Advertising Age observed that while the movie studios have increased their advertising on the Internet to $40 million from January through May (versus $35 million during the same period a year ago), many have discovered the numerous free outlets for their latest trailers. "This is turning out to be a huge boon to the movie industry because it's a relatively cheap way to drive awareness levels, which does translate at the box office," Exhibitor Relations chief Paul Dergarabedian told AdAge. Websites also have a great deal to gain by providing the trailers since they help drive traffic to them.
SANDLER CLICKS AGAIN WITH AUDIENCES
Adam Sandler, a regular one-man Pixar studio whose name on the marquee appears likely to guarantee a movie's success regardless of what the critics say about it, chalked up another big opening over the weekend. Click, Sandler's fifth film to open with $40 million or more, took over the top spot at the box office with $40.01 million, as Disney/Pixar's Cars dropped a moderate 31 percent to second place with $23.3 million. Paramount's Nacho Libre, by comparison, had a 55-percent fall, winding up in third place with $12.7 million. Universal's The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift performed better than expected on Sunday, taking in $9.8 million to take fourth place in the weekend standings. It dropped 59 percent from a week earlier. The most surprising performer was Rogue Picture's Waist Deep, which debuted on only 1,004 theaters with $9.4 million. Its $9,367 per-theater average was exceeded only by Click, which averaged $10,673 per theater. Overall, the box office was up 10 percent over the comparable week last year, with admissions up 6 percent. The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):
1. Click, Sony, $40,011,365, (New); 2. Cars, Disney, $23,285,367, 3 Wks. ($156,664,916); 3. Nacho Libre, Paramount, $12,699,864, 2 Wks. ($53,221,306); 4. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Universal, $9,801,835, 2 Wks. ($43,144,240); 5. Waist Deep, Rogue Pictures/Focus Features, $9,404,180, (New); 6. The Lake House, Warner Bros., $8,832,259, 2 Wks. ($29,774,472); 7. The Break-Up, Universal, $6,596,625, 4 Wks. ($104,235,420); 8. Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties, 20th Century Fox, $5,209,818, 2 Wks. ($16,483,101); 9. X-Men: The Last Stand, 20th Century Fox, $4,841,950, 5 Wks. ($224,506,162); 10. The Da Vinci Code, Sony, $4,050,844, 6 Wks. ($205,589,742).
SUPREME COURT WON'T HEAR POOH APPEAL
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear a case brought by Clare Milne, the granddaughter of Winnie the Pooh writer A.A. Milne who had been attempting to strip the rights to the Pooh books from the estate of Stephen Slesinger. Milne's case had been backed financially by the Walt Disney Co., although Disney was not a party to Milne's action. In a statement, the Slesinger heirs said that the action by the high court, "has effectively ended Disney's cynical attempt to do a legal end-run around its legal and financial obligations to the Slesinger family."
WILL ROWLING KILL OFF HARRY?
It became clear Monday that the Harry Potter franchise will end with the seventh film. Author J.K. Rowling said in a television interview in the U.K. on Monday that she plans to kill off several of the regular characters in her seventh book and that one of them may be Harry himself. Rowling said that she could understand "the mentality of an author who thinks, 'Well, I'm gonna kill them off because that means there can be no non-author-written sequels. So it will end with me, and after I'm dead and gone they won't be able to bring back the character.'" Asked specifically whether Harry will die in the seventh book, Rowling declined to respond, saying that she feared any remark she might make would draw hate mail.