WILL NIELSEN COUNT STUDENT BODIES?
A study by Nielsen Research has found that college students in dorms watch about 3.7 hours of television a day and that if out-of-home viewing were included in its research, those students could push up the ratings of some shows by as much as 10 percent. The study was reported in today's (Tuesday) Wall Street Journal, which observed that they are likely to accelerate efforts to include dorm viewing in Nielsen's ratings reports. Television networks have also been urging Nielsen to survey other out-of-home locales, like bars and retirement communities.
CNN HEADLINE NEWS SEES RATING SOAR AT 8:00 P.M.
Efforts by CNN Headline News to overhaul its primetime schedule appear to be paying off. According to today's (Tuesday) Hollywood Reporter, in just its first 30 days, ratings for the new Nancy Grace show in the 8:00 p.m. hour -- which replaced the channel's traditional "news wheel" in that period -- have soared 56 percent, with audience numbers rising to 472,000 versus 209,000 for the same period a year ago. They have already risen above MSNBC's Countdown (308,000), although they are well behind Fox News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor (2,300,000) and CNN's Paula Zahn Now (673,000). In an interview with the trade paper, Ken Jautz of CNN News Group, called the ratings rise, "the most substantive change this channel has ever had."
"PENIS NOSE" GETS BY NBC CENSORS -- AND AUDIENCE, TOO
It didn't generate a single protesting phone call, but a source at NBC's Saturday Night Live has confirmed a report in the online edition of Broadcasting & Cable that on last weekend's show, David Spade's nose was made up to look like a "urologically -correct" penis -- "right down to what we believe is called the dorsal vein." The trade publication posted an enlarged view of the nose on its website. "It was hilarious," said the B&C source, adding that it was intended to be an inside joke. In its report, the magazine commented: "It's been a while since Saturday Night Live regularly inspired an 'I can't believe they did that!' reaction in viewers, but the March 12 show came pretty close."
MURDOCH LOOKING TO BROADCAST DIRECTLY TO INDIAN HOMES
Rupert Murdoch's visit to India, during which he is meeting with top Indian officials, including the prime minister, may be aimed at winning a license to broadcast his Star satellite programming directly to homes, the London Financial Times reported today (Tuesday). Currently Star provides its programs to Indian cable operators, who redistribute them to subscribers. Murdoch, the newspaper said, is likely to find support from Indian broadcasters, who have long complained that the cable operators have under-reported subscription revenue. Moreover, by permitting direct-to-home broadcasting, the government would bring multi-channel television to millions of rural Indians who are not currently served by cable.
BBC TO CUT DOMESTIC BUREAUS, LEAVE FOREIGN ONES ALONE
In a reversal of the cost-cutting moves that hit the news operations of American networks more than a decade ago, the BBC is planning to reduce the number of its domestic reporters and leave its foreign operations almost intact, according to a report in today's (Tuesday) Guardian newspaper. According to the newspaper, the budget cutbacks include closing only one foreign bureau, in west Africa. The BBC has announced plans to cut 2,050 jobs, or about 20 percent of its workforce. In an interview with today's London Independent, Luke Crawley, an official with the broadcast union BECTU, predicted: "Life for those who survive [the cuts] is going to be miserable." (U.S. networks in the late '80s and early '90s drastically cut their foreign bureaus while leaving domestic ones mostly untouched.)
THE OFFICE STAR TURNS DOWN EXCLUSIVE DEAL
Golden Globes winner Rickey Gervais, star of the BBC comedy The Office, has turned down a $9.5 million offer to sign an exclusive deal with the publicly supported broadcaster, the London Daily Telegraph reported today (Tuesday). The newspaper quoted Gervais as saying that such deals "promote laziness and extravagance." He also said that by remaining free to go elsewhere, he can increase his bargaining leverage with the BBC. "As long as they are terrified, they'll be good to me and let me do exactly as I want," he said. Gervais is also exec-producing an American version of The Office, which is scheduled to have its premiere on NBC Thursday night, with Steve Carell in the Gervais role.
TIME WARNER PAYS $300-MILLION FINE
Literally closing the books on the darkest days of its storied past, Time Warner on Monday agreed to pay $300 million to settle charges brought against it by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC had charged the company's AOL unit with "materially overstating online advertising revenue and the number of its Internet subscribers" to make it appear as if the Internet giant was stronger than it actually was, thereby defrauding investors. The long-running SEC investigation had stymied Time Warner's efforts to compete with rivals and still faces numerous shareholder lawsuits over the company's alleged books-cooking. In a note to investors, Merrill Lynch media analyst Jessica Reif Cohen wrote: "The good news is that Time Warner can finally move ahead, e.g., issue stock. While shareholder lawsuits will take years to resolve, which will be an ongoing overhang, the final resolution of both the DOJ and SEC investigations is a major relief."
RING ROSY AT BOX OFFICE
The Ring Two has become the latest film to defy the best judgments of film critics and box-office analysts by producing blockbuster business in its debut. The film, which received mostly negative reviews and was expected to earn $20-25 million, wound up with $35 million, according to final figures released Monday by Exhibitor Relations. It was more than twice what the original English-language version earned in 2002. The animated family film Robots, which had been expected to top the box office for a second week, instead slipped to No. 2 with $21 million. Disney's The Pacifier remained strong in its third week with $12.5 million, while the studio's Ice Princess faced tough sledding competing with a plethora of family films and ended up with just $6.8 million in its debut, to place fourth.
The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):
1. The Ring Two, DreamWorks, $35,065,237, (New); 2. Robots, 20th Century Fox, $21,025,937, 2 Wks. ($66,067,739); 3. The Pacifier, Disney, $12,530,486, 3 Wks. ($72,270,940); 4. Ice Princess, Disney, $6,807,471, (New); 5. Hitch, Sony, $6,480,230, 6 Wks. ($159,325,368); 6. Hostage, Miramax, $5,989,221, 2 Wks. ($19,503,139); 7. Be Cool, MGM, $5,871,979, 3 Wks. ($47,275,015); 8. Million Dollar Baby, Warner Bros., $4,021,437, 14 Wks. ($89,943,692); 9. Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Lions Gate, $2,402,875, 4 Wks. ($47,667,768); 10. Constantine, Warner Bros., $2,325,359, 5 Wks. ($70,382,151).
MURDOCH BUYS BACK STAKE IN FOX
Rupert Murdoch has agreed to buy back the 18.6 percent of Fox Entertainment that it doesn't already own for about $6.2 billion in stock. Murdoch reportedly consented to sweetening the deal for the stake, which his News Corp sold off in 1998, in order to stave off a threatened shareholders' lawsuit which claimed that his previous offer undervalued its worth.
IRELAND TO BE FIRST COUNTRY TO GO ALL-DIGITAL IN THEATERS
Ireland said on Monday that it intends to take the lead in digital projection by replacing 35mm film projectors with digital ones in all of its 500 theaters. The Irish Film Board said that the plan will include both the Republic of Ireland and British-ruled Northern Ireland. The board noted that not only would picture quality be improved but that small towns would be able to view the same films as those in large cities. The film board said that theaters will be able to download the latest releases via satellite. Board member Moira Horgan told the BBC: "We don't have big Hollywood budgets to market those films so any way we can save money on distribution costs and actually spend it on promotion and advertising can only be a good thing."
KING KONG FILMING COMPLETE
Peter Jackson has marked the end of live shooting of his King Kong remake with a lavish wrap party in Sea View, New Zealand, near Wellington. According to local reports, Jackson spared no expense for the party, staged on the movie's New York set, erecting elaborate carnival rides, including a ferris wheel and merry-go-round, flying in hot dogs and hamburgers from the U.S., and assembling a number of local bands to entertain the film's office staff, crew and actors. The New Zealand Press Association quoted one attendee as saying, "It was absolutely amazing. ... It's just the way Pete does things -- puts on a huge party like this because everyone works so hard and sweats blood on the film."
CRITICS BOO OPERA/VIDEO PRODUCTION
German film producer Bernd Eichinger's effort to combine live opera with video was greeted with what the Berliner Morgenpost reviewer described as "a concert of boos." Another newspaper, the Berliner Zeitung, said that those applauding at the end of the performance dwindled quickly to about 30 people. A critic for yet another German newspaper, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, wrote: "Eichinger showed a video for every state of the soul, degrading Wagner's music to the status of a soundtrack." Eichinger is no stranger to controversy. His film, Der Untergang (The Downfall), about the last days of Hitler, although nominated for an Oscar, was attacked by numerous critics for making the Nazi leader appear too sympathetic.
BRITISH STUDIO FAILING TO ATTRACT BIG HOLLYWOOD PRODUCTIONS
Suggesting that the weak dollar may have done more to slow runaway production abroad than a host of other industry maneuvers, Britain's Pinewood Shepperton Studios warned investors on Monday that revenue from renting its sound stages would be down substantially from last year during the first half. The company blamed the weak U.S. dollar and confusion over tax breaks. Last year, such big-budget Hollywood films as Batman Begins, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and King Arthur filmed at Pinewood Shepperton. The company said on Monday that the weak dollar and tax concerns had "understandably caused delays in the timing of some key productions."