CBS TO LOCK HORNS WITH CABLE COMPANIES
Saying, "We're tired of not getting paid," CBS Chairman Les Moonves said Monday that the network plans to seek cash from the cable companies that carry it when Viacom's planned split of its broadcast and cable operations takes place. Speaking to the Deutsche Bank Securities Media & Telecommunications conference, Moonves observed that while most of CBS's carriage deals don't expire for another three to five years, the cable operators should expect to begin paying for retransmission of CBS's telecasts when they do. He added: "Needless to say, the cable operators are not happy with me stating this, but it's a new day and I want to get paid for my good programming." Moonves said that CBS would be making the move following the split because currently negotiations with the cable companies involve a single Viacom executive who negotiates for both its cable networks like MTV and Nickelodeon and its broadcast networks, CBS and UPN. Also, he noted the company's sales forces work under a corporate umbrella. "The minute you start combining your sales forces entirely, you defeat your businesses," he said. "If there's a dollar out there, I want my guy grabbing that dollar instead of Tom Freston [who is responsible for Viacom's cable operations]." He said that although he and Freston remain friendly, "there is very little that the two sides do together."
TOP O' THE MORNIN', IT WILL BE O'BRIEN & O'BRIEN
In what is regarded as CNN chief Jonathan Klein's first major on-air change since he took over last Dec. 14, Bill Hemmer is being replaced by Miles O'Brien on CNN's American Morning effective June 20. O'Brien will be teamed with Soledad O'Brien, who is no relation. He will also continue as CNN's space correspondent. Today's (Tuesday) Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Hemmer had been offered the job of senior White House correspondent but had turned it down, regarding it as a demotion. The newspaper quoted Klein as saying that he intended to make the morning program "newsier" than his network competitors, which he said, "have descended into this morass of cross-promotion of prime-time shows. They do meaningless segments on who ate the most insects last night, or who won the reality show of the moment. There's a vast audience out there that just wants news."
TONYS ARE NO WHERE NEAR SRO
With little on Broadway to excite either critics or audiences, the fact that ratings for Sunday night's telecast of the Tony Awards actually rose a bit from last year must have been welcomed by CBS. Overnight Nielsens indicated that the awards show drew a second-place 4.7/9, behind the second hour of a two-hour NBC Dateline, at 8:00, then fell to third place in the final two hours, averaging a 4.4/8. In viewer numbers, the show averaged 6.6 million, slightly above last year's 6.5 million.
GERAGOS ACCUSES NEWS MEDIA OF BOOSTING PROSECUTORS
Famed defense attorney Mark Geragos has accused the news media of creating a "FOX-ification" of the legal system in which prosecutors are portrayed as "the good guys" and defense lawyers as "the bad guys." In an interview with CNN's Larry King Monday night, Geragos said that television now hires "lawyers who are not practicing" to comment on trials in the same way that it hires ex-jocks to comment on sports events. "What I think is bad is when you go out and you deliberately either don't know anything about the case, or you have abandoned the presumption of innocence, or you mislead the public."
FOX NEWS APOLOGIZES FOR COMMENT BY ANALYST NAPOLITANO
Fox News has sent British TV watchdog OFCOM an apology for remarks made by its judicial analyst, Andrew Napolitano, on the Fox News program The Big Story on April 26. During a discussion about the nomination of John Bolton to become U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Napolitano remarked, "The United Nations sends peacekeepers to the Congo to rape children." OFCOM noted that two days later Napolitano "clarified" his remarks, saying, What I meant to say was, 'The United Nations sends peacekeepers to the Congo and there have been reports that some of them raped children.' Sorry for the confusion." OFCOM said Monday that Napolitano's allegation was unfortunate and expressed in a clumsy manner. "We welcome the apology and clarification by Fox News, and regard the matter as resolved,"
IN THIS CORNER, CROWE; IN THAT CORNER, CLOONEY, FORD, DE NIRO
Russell Crowe, who was arrested Monday after reportedly throwing a telephone at a New York hotel porter, has stepped up a verbal fight against actors who appear in TV commercials, including George Clooney, Harrison Ford and Robert de Niro. Crowe, currently appearing as the boxer James Braddock in the biopic Cinderella Man, threw the first verbal punch when he accused the actors of breaking the "social contract" they had with their audiences. Clooney then countered by remarking that Crowe was using his celebrity to boost his rock band. Now, in the London daily Sun, Crowe responded, "An endorsement is about money. My music is from the heart."
EPISODE 15: REVENGE OF THE SLUMP
Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith may have passed the $300-million mark over the weekend, becoming the fastest film to do so, and DreamWorks' Madagascar may have crossed the $100-million mark in its second weekend (and taken the lead at the box office in doing so), but the box-office continued to look anemic overall, with total receipts some 30 percent below what they were during the comparable week a year ago. It marked the 15th consecutive weekend of lower grosses than last year. Moreover, moviegoers appeared to be ignoring all but the top films at the box office. As today's (Tuesday) Los Angeles Times observed, "Not often does a movie that grosses less than $1 million make it to the top 10, but on the 15th weekend of a streak of downturns relative to the comparable period last year, that distinction goes to Unleashed, the month-old Jet Li movie about a man trained as an attack dog."
The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):
1. Madagascar, DreamWorks, $28,110,235, 2 Wks. ($100,377,791); 2. The Longest Yard, Paramount, $26,078,156, 2 Wks. ($95,782,410); 3. Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith, 20th Century Fox, $25,088,336, 3 Wks. ($307,892,961); 4. Cinderella Man, Universal, $18,320,205, (New); 5. The Sisterhood of The Traveling Pants, Warner Bros. $9,833,340, 1 Wk. ($13,575,149 -- From Wednesday); 6. Monster-in-Law, New Line, $6,021,418, 4 Wks. ($71,107,390); 7. Lords of Dogtown, Sony, $5,623,373, (New); 8. Crash, Lions Gate, $3,266,884, 5 Wks. ($40,932,504); 9. Kicking & Screaming, Universal, $2,311,155, 4 Wks. ($47,720,545); 10. Unleashed, Focus Features, $842,482, 4 Wks. ($23,556,488).
STAR WARS REMAINS ON TOP OVERSEAS
While Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith plunged 56 percent in its third weekend in the U.S., the drop was less extreme overseas, where the decline was a comparatively modest 37 percent. Daily Variety reported that the movie earned an additional $38.5 million in 105 markets to bring its overseas gross to $308.4 million -- almost equal with its domestic total.
MCDONALD'S TO END RELATIONSHIP WITH DISNEY
McDonald's has signaled that it is ready to end its exclusive marketing relationship with the Walt Disney Co., the Wall Street Journal reported today (Tuesday), citing people familiar with the situation. The newspaper said that McDonald's is anxious to play the field among animation companies, including DreamWorks Animation and Pixar, as it has watched the rival animation companies (Pixar is set to end its partnership with Disney next year) turning out hits, while Disney has been plagued by a string of animation flops. McDonald's franchisees, the Journal observed, have blamed those box-office duds in part for lower sales of Happy Meals.
SATELLITE RADIO MAY OFFER MOBILE VIDEO
Sirius Radio chief Mel Karmazin says that the company will eventually begin delivering digital video to automobiles. Appearing at the "D" -- All Things Digital conference in Carlsbad, CA, Karmazin said, "We plan to put real-time TV in the back of the car. ... We'll have new features like pause and replay. We have the ability to get any kind of [digital] bits to the car like nobody else." However, studies have indicated that, except for small children, the number of passengers riding in the rear seat of automobiles is virtually infinitesimal.
JUDGE OKAYS DISSIDENTS' LAWSUIT AGAINST DISNEY
A Delaware judge has refused to toss out a lawsuit against the Walt Disney Co. filed by former dissident board members Roy E. Disney and Stanley P. Gold. The two had claimed that the Disney board conducted a sham search for an executive to succeed Michael Eisner as CEO of the company, then hired Eisner's hand-picked successor, Disney President Robert Iger. "Should these allegations be proven, plaintiffs could be entitled to the relief they seek because the board's statements materially misled plaintiffs with respect to the board's intent to conduct a bona fide executive search process," Chancery court judge William B. Chandler III said in his decision.
WRITERS SELL A SCREENPLAY -- BY PLACING AN AD FOR IT
A pair of first-time screen writers who bypassed the traditional Hollywood system by taking out an ad for their screenplay in the Hollywood trade papers have signed a six-figure deal for it with the fledgling independent production company Vine Entertainment. In a statement, the company said that it had picked up Silver, by Chrisanna Northrup and Halle Eavelyn, when it became "the center of a fierce bidding war" following the writers' "unconventional sales approach." Northrup said in the statement, "I was told that we were crazy taking out an ad, but ... we were determined not be put off by the usual stories of how hard it is to sell a script in Hollywood."
BARBIE GOES 3-D
Lions Gate Family Entertainment and Mattel said Monday they will release a Barbie movie on DVD on Sept. 20 that will include 15 minutes of 3D content interspersed throughout the film. The young viewers will be cued when to put on their 3D glasses (four pairs will be included in the DVD) by an icon appearing on screen. A version of the film without the DVD content will be available for rental stores that are unable to provide separate pairs of glasses to each renter. Mattel is planning to release a line of Barbie dolls tied to the movie, titled Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus.
AUSTRALIA ADOPTS COMBINED RATING SYSTEM
Australia will become the first country to adopt a common rating code for films, videos and computer games, the country's Office of Film and Literature Classification announced today (Tuesday). The system offers six color-coded classifications: green "G" for general audiences, yellow "PG" for parental guidance, blue "M" for mature audiences, red "MA15+" requiring a parent or guardian to accompany anyone under 15 to view the material, and black R18 for "high impact" content and black X18+ for films, videos or games depicting sexual intercourse. At a news conference, OFLC director Des Clark said, ""It makes sense that people should be able to use one system to become informed about classification of entertainment, particularly when the traditional ways in which we are used to receiving our entertainment are so rapidly changing and evolving."