ALL EYES ON CBS
Following the Boston Red Sox's sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, television ratings returned to a familiar pattern. CBS again dominated the ratings on Thursday night, as it had since the beginning of the fall season -- only more so, since NBC elected to air a string of repeats, presumably in the belief that they would face overwhelming competition from a fifth World Series game. As a result, CBS averaged a 15.8 rating and a 24 share, leaving second-place NBC in the dust with an 9.3/15. ABC was far behind in third place with a 4.5/7. On Friday, NBC regained the lead with an average 6.2/11. CBS placed second with a 5.3/9, followed by ABC with a 4.8/9. The ratings leadership see-sawed back to CBS on Saturday, which won the night with a 5.1/9, followed by ABC with a 4.8/9. NBC settled for fourth place (behind Fox's 3.9/7) with a lowly 3.3/6. CBS was able to retain the lead on Sunday night, despite another strong showing by ABC's Desperate Housewives. Thanks to the NFL Fotball overrun, 60 Minutes and Cold Case, CBS won the night in overall households with an average 10.8/16. But ABC was close behind with a 9.9/15 (and well in the lead among 18-49-year-old viewers) as Housewives scored a 15.7/23 -- easily the highest numbers of the night -- and vanquished NBC's competing Law & Order: Criminal Intent (8.9/13).
TOP NBC EXECS ADMIT THEY'VE BEEN "SPANKED"
NBC Universal Television Group President Jeff Zucker has acknowledged that the network is struggling to compete with its rivals and has been unable to offset the loss of its hit sitcoms Frasier and Friends. "We've gotten spanked," Zucker told today's (Monday) Los Angeles Times. "I'm not in denial. ... We've got issues." Nevertheless, Zucker insisted that the network is even more determined than ever to redeem itself. "We're in a dogfight," he told the newspaper, "and dogfights make you hungrier." NBC Universal Chairman Bob Wright suggested that the network had become complacent because of its longtime success. "When you have had so much success, you begin to lean on that, thinking that success will breed success," he said. He added that he recently told network programming execs, Every day we start from scratch. ... What we did two years ago, or last year, doesn't matter. Every day is a new day."
BIG BROADCAST GROUP FIRES ITS PRESIDENT
The president of Meredith Broadcasting Group, whose 13 stations reach 10 percent of the U.S. audience, was abruptly fired Friday for what was described as "violations of Meredith's Equal Employment Opportunity policies." The company declined to provide further specifics about the dismissal of Kevin O'Brien. News reports suggested that O'Brien had instituted a reign of terror since taking over the broadcast division three years ago, forcing the resignations of five general managers and six news directors within a few months. O'Brien has also been under relentless attack from some TV critics in Meredith markets for sensationalizing the news and knocking down the traditional wall between news and sales. A Nashville newspaper recently accused O'Brien and the local station of defying basic journalism standards.
AD BUYERS ROOTING FOR KERRY
Nearly two-thirds of advertising media planners and buyers are supporting John Kerry for president in the belief that Kerry will reverse the trend of growing media consolidation which has made it increasingly difficult for them to bargain with broadcasters, according to a survey conducted by InsightExpress conducted for MediaPost. One survey respondent observed: "The new FCC has already tried to divert more power to TV broadcasting moguls, which would work against the benefits of free competition, and end up raising advertising prices and generally stifling the advertising industry." Top media moguls are generally believed to be supporting President Bush.
SAN FRANCISCO STATION TO BE FIRST TO LAUNCH 30 MINUTES
KPIX, the CBS-owned station in San Francisco, plans to launch a half-hour local version of the network's 60 Minutes on Nov. 14, according to MediaWeek. The local magazine show is the idea of 60 Minutes creator Don Hewitt, who said after his retirement as executive producer of the national program last June that he planned to travel to CBS stations around the country and help them launch local versions of the program he created in 1968. "We jumped at the chance," KPIX news director Dan Rosenheim told the trade publication. The local program is being titled 30 Minutes and will feature Anna Werner, described as a "top investigative reporter" hired by the station in June; Joan Ryan, a San Francisco Chronicle columnist; KPIX News anchor Dana King; and the husband-and-wife team of Mike Sugerman and Janice Wright, who will provide an Andy Rooney-type "kicker" at the end of the program.
BBC ABANDONS PLAN TO SELL BBC WORLDWIDE
A controversial plan to sell BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC, has been abandoned, the London Independent on Sunday reported, citing unnamed sources. BBC Worldwide has been criticized for its inability to boost sales of its films, magazines, books and overseas operations, which resulted in a net profit of just $68 million last year on revenue of $1.2 billion. One source told the Independent: "They don't want to throw the baby out with the bath water. Why sell it now when they can run it better themselves?"
ON HALLOWEEN THE GRUDGE IS JUST THE TRICK
The Grudge didn't budge from its first-place standing at the box office over the Halloween weekend. The Sarah Michelle Gellar starrer took in a better-than-expected $22.4 million, according to industry estimates, beating another thriller timed for Halloween, Saw, which opened in third place with $17.4 million. Ray, the biopic starring Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles, debuted in second place with $20.1 million -- but its scorching $10,000-per-theater average -- higher than any other film in wide release (The Grudge averaged about $6,700 per theater) -- astounded many analysts. Exhibitor Relations chief Paul Dergarabedian told Bloomberg News: "By going into fewer theaters , they did better in attracting an older audience. It will build and build." The Associated Press observed that the film had been shopped around the studios for some time before Universal picked it up and quoted Nikki Rocco, the studio's distribution chief as saying, "Nobody wanted this movie, so as a result we are celebrating like you can't even believe." Sales of the top 12 films totaled $92.8 million, about 2.9 percent above the comparable weekend a year ago.
The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:
1. The Grudge, $22.4 million; 2. Ray, $20.1 million; 3. Saw, $17.4 million; 4. Shark Tale, $8 million; 5. Shall We Dance? $6.3 million; 6. Friday Night Lights, $4.1 million; 7. Ladder 49, $3.3 million; 8. Team America: World Police, $3.1 million; 9. Surviving Christmas, $2.6 million; 10. Taxi, $2.15 million.
OVITZ HOLDS HIS OWN IN COURT BATTLE
Michael Ovitz continued to trade verbal punches with lawyers for Walt Disney shareholders on Friday, at one point vigorously denying a suggestion by plaintiff attorney Steven Schulman that he might not have owned a corporate jet that he sold to the company for $7.8 million when he joined the firm. Ovitz insisted that the deal was Disney chief Michael Eisner's idea and that he lost money on it. "You're taking something that's incredibly simple, and for some reason you seem to be taking us all around in circles," he told the lawyer at one point. Then later: "They got an extraordinary deal on that plane. Everyone ended up pretty happy with the deal except you." Still later, Ovitz paused for a moment before answering another question from Schulman, then remarked: "I'm trying to figure out if this is another one of your trick questions." Ovitz is expected to wind up his testimony today (Monday).
L.A. POLICE BUST THREE DVD PIRATE RINGS
In three separate raids last week, Los Angeles police said they seized more than 18,000 allegedly pirated DVDs and 24,000 CDs and arrested eight men and one 15-year-old. The raids, carried out by a police antipiracy unit aided by MPAA investigators, also netted duplicating equipment and thousands of blank discs and cases, according to police. One of the raids took place at a mobile van that police said looked like a video store from the inside.
MOORE'S FAHRENHEIT TO DEBUT LEGALLY ON WEB
Although Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 has been available on the Internet for weeks without charge from unauthorized websites, the film will make its first licensed appearance on the video-on-demand site CinemaNow tonight (Monday) at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time. It will also be made available to subscribers to the Dish Network satellite service. Either way, the price will be $9.95. Dish Network tonight also plans to offer the anti-Kerry documentary, Stolen Honor: Wounds that Never Heal.
O'TOOLE: TROY WAS A "DISASTER"
Peter O'Toole has offered a belated review of this year's Troy, in which he appeared in a supporting role as Priam, the father of Paris, played by Orlando Bloom. (The film, which reportedly cost between $175 million and $200 million to make, earned just $133 million in the U.S. but $489 million worldwide.) No stranger to epic films -- he cemented his reputation in film history with his performance in the title role of Lawrence of Arabia -- O'Toole called Troy "a disaster." In an interview appearing in Britain's Guardian newspaper today (Monday), O'Toole especially lashed out at the film's director, Wolfgang Petersen. "That kraut," he remarked, "what a clown he was. ... When it was all over, I watched 15 minutes of the finished movie and then walked out."