NBC WINS WEEK, WITH HELP FROM FRIENDS
Driven by massive ratings for the series finale of Friends, NBC easily captured the Nielsen crown last week. The top-rated show of the week attracted 52.5 million viewers, while the number-two show was the Friends "clip show," which drew 36.9 million. (A Wednesday-night Dateline special devoted to the finale drew 14.7 million viewers and was the 15th highest-rated show of the week.) NBC's other Thursday-night entry, E.R., also benefited from the huge Friends audience as it attracted 28.4 million. CBS's Survivor All-Stars Finale also drew big numbers on Sunday night, 24.8 million viewers, the best numbers for a Survivor wrap-up in two years. NBC won the sweeps week with an average 9.5 rating and a 16 share. CBS was in second place with an 8.4/14. Fox placed third with a 5.3/9, while ABC trailed with a 4.9/8. The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:
1. Friends, NBC, 29.8/43; 2. Friends Clip Show , NBC, 22.0/35; 3. E.R., NBC, 18.1/29; 4. American Idol (Tuesday), Fox, 13.6/22; 5. Survivor All-Stars Reunion, CBS, 13.1/22; 6. Survivor All-Stars Finale, CBS, 13.0/21; 7. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 12.8/18; 8. American Idol (Wednesday), Fox, 12.3/20; 9. NBC Movie of the Week: 10.5 (Pt. 2), NBC, 12.2/19; 10. CSI: Miami, CBS, 11.6/18.
ABC BEATS NBC IN NEWS RATINGS FOR FIRST TIME IN TWO YEARS
ABC's World News Tonight with Peter Jennings managed to shove NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw out of the top spot on the ratings list for the first time in nearly three years with both anchors in front of the cameras. The ABC newscast averaged 8.9 million viewers versus NBC's 8.7 million.
MORE GRISLY FOOTAGE OF U.S. ABUSE IN IRAQ TO AIR ON CBS TONIGHT
CBS News, which broke the story of how Iraqi prisoners were being abused by their American guards at Abu Ghraib prison, said Tuesday that it plans to broadcast new pictures and video showing similar abuse at another prison called Camp Bucca. The new material, to be shown on the network's 60 Minutes II tonight (Wednesday), includes a video diary taken by a soldier at Camp Bucca in which she says, "We actually shot two prisoners today. One got shot in the chest for swinging a pole against our people on the feed team. One got shot in the arm. We don't know if the one we shot in the chest is dead yet."
TV OUTLETS WORLDWIDE REFUSE TO AIR BEHEADING OF AMERICAN
Although the Associate Press distributed footage to its clients of American civilian Nick Berg being beheaded by Islamic militants, no television news outlet, including those in the Arab world, decided to broadcast it, early reports indicated. "The news story itself is strong enough," a spokesman for al-Jazeera told A.P. "To show the actual beheading is out of the realm of decency." The other major Arab satellite news channel, al-Arabiya, also refrained from showing the beheading. Many channels did, however, show footage of the terrified Berg being hauled in front of the camera, which many news executives maintained was upsetting enough. Steve Capus, executive producer of NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, told A.P.: "I saw it from start to finish and I wish I didn't have to."
SO HOW DID LENO LAND SURVIVOR WINNERS?
In an odd bit of celebrity booking, the winner of CBS's latest Survivor contest and her runner-up fiancé, will appear not on CBS's The Late Show with David Letterman but on NBC's The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. NBC said that Amber Brkich and "Boston Rob" Mariano would appear on tonight's (Wednesday) show, which will originate at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas and also feature Jerry Seinfeld and Wayne Newton.
NBC MAKING PEACE WITH PAX
NBC is apparently taking a more active interest in PAX-TV, the last-place network in which it holds a 32-percent stake. According to Crain's New York Business, NBC has been helping the so-called family network develop a lineup of new shows that will be true to the spirit of founder Bud Paxson's vision of a broadcast network that offers an alternative to the sex and violence presented on the major nets, while at the same time attracting a larger audience. For example, among a number of reality shows that will be produced in the fall season, will be one featuring a houseful of people trying to quit smoking.
WEINSTEINS TO DO A PIXAR?
Miramax Co-chairmen Bob and Harvey Weinstein may join the exodus of high-level Disney executives as contract-renewal talks with the pair appear to have hit what today's (Wednesday) Daily Variety called "a Pixar-like impasse." The trade paper reported, without citing sources, that if a new deal can not be reached within the next few weeks and if Disney remains adamant in it refusal to sell Miramax back to the Weinsteins, the two are prepared to set up a new company, backed by Steve Rattner of the Quadrangle group, a media investment firm (he is also chairman of New York public TV station WNET); Comcast CEO Brian Roberts; and other "Wall Street lenders." Negotiations have reportedly become especially fractious following Disney's decision to block Miramax from distributing Michael Moore's documentary Fahrenheit 911. Although Disney has maintained that it told Moore and Miramax over a year ago that it would not distribute the film, it nevertheless put up the $6 million that it cost to produce it. However, according to Variety, the company is now refusing the Weinsteins' offer to buy it back in order to find a new distributor, as it did in the case of Kids and Dogma, two other films that it rejected because of the content matter.
SMOKE AND JEERS AT SENATE HEARING
Jack Valenti sparred with members of the Senate Commerce Committee looking into links between a rise in teenage smoking and an increase in the number of movies showing characters smoking. The hearing was reportedly touched off by a recent Dartmouth study that found that smoking in movies encourages young people to start. As legislators urged the MPAA chief to deliver an R rating to films depicting smokers or to warn parents about smoking scenes, Valenti pointed out that films often show unacceptable behavior. "Ultimately, filmmakers must decide what story to tell and how to tell it, though others may be unsettled by what they see," Valenti said. But Oregon Senator Ron Wyden warned Valenti that if the industry refuses to act, Congress will. "The ball is in your court," he said.
WINDOWS BETWEEN THEATRICAL AND DVD RELEASES GROW SMALLER
Each of the major studios exhibits a different releasing pattern in the way it decides the time spread between a movie's theatrical exhibition and its distribution on home video, according to the newsletter DVD Release Report, published by Video Store magazine. The trade publication observed that only 76 movies have been released on DVD within 100 days after they appeared in theaters. Thirty-two percent of those came from Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment, a company that accounts for just 14 percent of the total number of films released on DVD. Twentieth Century Fox holds the record for the fastest turnaround -- 29 days for From Justin to Kelly. The average window for CTHE was 145 days, the smallest of all the studios. At the opposite end of the spectrum was Disney's Buena Vista Home Entertainment with 175 days. The average for all studios was 159 days.
DISASTER FILM HAS ENVIRONMENTALISTS UP IN ARMS
Many environmentalists who have had a look at Roland Emmerich's upcoming disaster movie The Day After Tomorrow and slammed it as "bad science," are now suggesting that the film could serve a positive purpose if it encourages discussion about global warming. Following a screening by 20th Century Fox for a group of experts in London Tuesday night, most audience members expressed mixed reactions in interviews with Reuters. Typical was a remark by Brenda Boardman of the University of Oxford's Environmental Change Institute, who commented, "I was disappointed by how little there was by way of reference to why climate change happens, but it still widens the opportunity to talk about it." And Mike Hume, executive director of the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research observed, "Good science, good film making and good politics rarely go together." Meanwhile, former Vice President Al Gore told today's New York Times that there are now "two sets of fiction to deal with. ... One is the movie, the other is the Bush administration's presentation of global warming." And Laurie David of the Natural Resources Defense Council (and wife of writer/comedian Larry David) told accused Fox of being "completely disinterested in raising any consciousness. In fact they're bending over backward to disassociate themselves from the environmental community."
PEACE AT CANNES?
Organizers of the Cannes Film Festival appeared to have averted possible disruptions by protesting French actors and technicians after an eleventh-hour agreement that will allow the protesters to hold news conferences at the festival site, the Palais des Festivals, to discuss their grievances against the government. But news reports indicated that the grievances, originally involving pension and unemployment insurance issues, may also extend to the decision by Cannes programmers to include more mainstream movies in its mix this year. Daily Variety quoted a spokesman for one group of workers as saying that it planned to "denounce the system and its treatment of cinema as merchandise." The festival opens tonight (Wednesday) with a screening of Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar's film noir, Bad Education, about abusive behavior by Catholic priests.