NETWORKS SAY "NO GO" TO TIVOTOGO
The announcement Monday that TiVo is planning an enhancement of its TiVoToGo service that would allow subscribers to download TV programs onto their iPod or PlayStation Portable (PSP) has generated anger among some network executives. NBC said Monday: "TiVo appears to be acting unilaterally, disregarding established rights of content owners to participate in decisions regarding the distribution and exploitation of their content. ... This unilateral action creates the risk of legal conflict instead of contributing to the constructive exploitation of digital technology that can rapidly provide new and exciting experiences for the consumer." The controversy appears destined to pit the network against one of its former top executives, TiVo CEO Tom Rogers, who had served as president of the company's cable operations and held the title of executive vice president of the network before joining the digital video recording company. For Rogers, the new TiVoToGo technology would simply, in his words, be "making it easy for consumers to enjoy the TV shows they want to watch right from their iPod or PSP." However, today's (Tuesday) Daily Variety pointed out that currently the number of people who own a TiVo box and a home-networking system to which it can be linked is only 300,000. "Initially, the additional portability may not affect [the] status quo too much," the trade paper commented.
DID CNN GIVE CHENEY AN "X" RATING?
Conservatives and Republicans who have long accused CNN of left-wing bias were again pointing accusing fingers at the news network Monday following reports that a large black "X" repeatedly flashed over the image of Vice President Dick Cheney as he addressed the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. A screen shot was posted on conservative gossip columnist Matt Drudge's website. Drudge also displayed the picture on Fox News's Hannity & Colmes and remarked, "I think they've gotta give an explanation." Responding to an inquiry from the TVNewser blog, CNN later said, "Upon seeing this unfortunate but very brief graphic, CNN senior management immediately investigated. We concluded this was a technological malfunction, not an issue of operator error. A portion of the switcher experienced a momentary glitch. We obviously regret that it happened and are working on the equipment to ensure it is not repeated."
VAN SUSTEREN EXPLAINS NATALEE COVERAGE
Fox News personality Greta Van Susteren has responded to the criticism that she has devoted dozens of hours to the disappearance of teenager Natalee Holloway in Aruba, while hundreds of similar cases go unmentioned. Writing in her blog, GretaWire, Van Susteren remarked Monday, "It i really random ... and the family has been willing to provide information to us to make reporting possible. (We can't follow up on the missing honeymooner on the cruise ship since no one will talk. I can't just talk to myself on air -- I need a guest.) ... I regret that we can't cover every story. Each day I open my e-mail to families asking for help. I try and guide them to the right places since I can't cover them all on the air." At the height of her coverage of the case, Van Susteren's was the highest-rated program on any cable news channel.
NBC UNIVERSAL MOVING TRIO FROM CABLE TO THE WEB
NBC Universal may have come up with an answer for what to do about a cable network that can't get sufficient cable-system outlets to carry it: put it on the Internet. The company said Monday that it plans to migrate its Trio channel from cable to the Web on Jan. 1 as part of the BravoTV.com banner. "Trio is a rare venture among major media companies, a channel that executives would rather simply shut down than attempt to morph into something with more ratings success," Broadcasting and Cable commented on Monday. The channel's most talked-about offering has been the series "Brilliant, But Canceled" -- in which shows that were critically well received but were unable to attract an audience are replayed. Trio execs were unable to say whether the series will survive on the Internet since the use of any shows on a different platform has to be renegotiated. However, they suggested that the series -- and others currently being aired on Trio -- could be transferred to Bravo's cable channel.
WIFE SWAP CONTESTANT SUES OVER GAY "WIFE"
A contestant on ABC's Wife Swap is suing the Walt Disney Company and the show's producer, RDF Media, for $10,225,000 after the person involved in the swap turned out to be a gay man. Jeffrey D. Bedford of Haileyville, OK told the Muskogee Phoenix that he could not comment on the case but provided a copy of his lawsuit in which he claims that the producers told him that if he did not proceed with the filming, they would not tell him his wife's whereabouts and would not pay for her return home; that the gay man invited members of a "gay coalition" to his home for Bible study; and that "as a result of intentional infliction of mental distress he has incurred medical bills, public humiliation, embarrassment and undue grief." ABC spokeswoman Annie Fort told the Phoenix: "ABC is confident that RDF Media, the producer of Wife Swap, treats participants professionally and with respect. The show is meant to challenge a family's norms and moreover, the agreement between the plaintiff and RDF specifically stated that the swapped spouse could be either male or female." She said that the episode involving Bedford has yet to be scheduled.
REPORT: U.S. PLANNED TO BOMB ARAB CABLE NEWS CHANNEL
British Prime Minister Tony Blair dissuaded President Bush from implementing a plan to bomb the Qatar headquarters of the Arab news channel al-Jazeera and other bureaus of the channel, the London Daily Mirror reported today (Tuesday), citing a top-secret memo leaked to it from Downing Street, the prime minister's office/residence. The newspaper said that Bush revealed the plan for "military action" against al-Jazeera to Blair at a White House summit on April 16, 2004. Al-Jazeera has announced plans to begin airing an English-language version of its channel early next year and recently hired former U.S. Marine Captain Josh Rushing, a coalition spokesman during the U.S. invasion of Iraq, who subsequently resigned and became a critic of the war and the U.S. media's coverage of it.
PENTAGON ADMITS IT MISHANDLED RESPONSE TO ITALIAN TV DOCUMENTARY
The Pentagon has acknowledged that it bungled its response to a documentary produced by RAI, the Italian state television network, which accused the U.S. of using white phosphorous weapons against insurgents and civilians during the siege of Fallujah a year ago. The U.S. had initially said that the weapons were used only for illumination purposes and denied that they had been targeted at people -- and stuck to that position even after the pro-U.S. Iraqi government's health ministry said that it had proof of civilian casualties resulting from the weapons. It has now stated that the U.S.'s use of the weapons were "perfectly legitimate" and that it "took extraordinary measures to prevent civilian casualties." The matter, which received little coverage on American television, has been headlined overseas and has been the lead story on numerous TV news reports. Weapons expert John E. Pike told the New York Times that it has fueled worldwide suspicions of a cover up. "The story most people around the world have is that the Americans are up to their old tricks -- committing atrocities and lying about it," Pike told the newspaper. "And that's completely incorrect." Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Barry Venable, who responded to the inital inquiries about the Italian TV documentary, commented: "There's so much inaccurate information out there now that I'm not sure we can unscrew it."
POTTER HOTTER THAN THOUGHT
As many analysts had expected, more families turned out at the multiplex on Sunday to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire than Warner Bros. had forecast. Final figures indicated that the movie earned $102.3 million over the weekend versus the studio's estimated $101.4 million. (Estimates released by the studio on Sunday are based on actual revenue reported on Friday and Saturday but only an educated guess for Sunday.) Tickets purchased at IMAX theaters accounted for $2.9 million of the total. All of the other films in the top-ten list performed about as expected, with 20th Century Fox's Johnny Cash bio, Walk the Line, debuting in second place with $22.3 million and the third week of Disney's Chicken Little placing third with $14.7 million. Meanwhile, Warner Bros. International said today (Tuesday) that the Harry Potter film took in $25,516,137.66 in the U.K. over the weekend, making it the biggest opening in British box-office history.
The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):
1. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Warner Bros., $102,335,066, (New); 2. Walk the Line, 20th Century Fox, $22,347,341, (New); 3. Chicken Little, Disney, $14,711,378, 3 Wks. ($99,093,096); 4. Derailed, Weinstein Co. $6,506,669, 2 Wks. ($21,817,607); 5. Zathura: A Space Adventure, Sony, $5,133,592, 2 Wks. ($20,316,508); 6. Jarhead, Universal, $4,753,335, 3 Wks. ($54,280,420); 7. Get Rich or Die Tryin', Paramount, $4,420,706, 2 Wks. ($24,547,483); 8. Saw II , Lions Gate, $3,961,863, 4 Wks. ($79,918,817); 9. The Legend of Zorro, Sony, $2,355,095, 4 Wks. ($42,840,410); 10. Pride and Prejudice, Focus Features, $2,141,554, 2 Wks. ($6,000,723).
IS LATEST POTTER FILM POSTED ONLINE?
It remained unclear Monday whether Internet pirates had succeeded in breaching Warner Bros.' elaborate security defenses and posted copies of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Prior to the release of the earlier installments, there were numerous reports about poor-quality copies being posted online. Forbes magazine reported Monday that it had found 1,500 AVI and 500 MPEG versions of the movie available for download on peer-to-peer file-sharing sites. Nevertheless, a spokesman for Warner Bros. told the magazine, "We are 100% sure that these files you have found are not going to be of the Harry Potter film" -- a statement that suggests that the studio itself may have posted decoys in an effort to confuse -- or perhaps even trap -- illegal downloaders.
PRICES OF OLDER DVD'S BEING SLASHED FOR HOLIDAYS
Membership warehouses and giant consumer electronics stores have slashed prices of older DVD titles to about $5.00 and public-domain titles to about $1.00 for the holidays, the Los Angeles Times reported today (Tuesday). The tactic has upset several home video distributors, the newspaper observed. Steve Beeks, president of Lions Gate Entertainment, told the newspaper, "Price reduction is a sound part of any marketing strategy ... but it's a matter of balance. You don't want to drop prices to maintain sales level -- we're in it for the long run." But Gary Arnold, an executive at Best Buy, said that retailers must do something to offset falling sales of newer DVDs. "The challenges Hollywood faced attracting people to the box office have transferred to the DVD world," he said.
INDIAN PRODUCER MAKING FILM EXPOSING PORN FILMMAKERS
Famed Bollywood producer/director Mahesh Bhatt says his latest movie, Kalyug, will expose the workings of the international pornographic film industry. Shot in Amsterdam, Zurich, and Mumbai (Bombay), the movie, originally titled Blue Film, will follow the life of a young earthquake victim, played by actress/singer Deepal Shaw, who is forced into the industry.