FIRE MELTS ICE AT CNN
There was more storm coverage on CNN Wednesday; however, the coverage was provided by other news media as the cable news network contended with yet another programming upheaval that included the ouster of an eminent anchor, his replacement by a rising star, and a realignment of shows. CNN/US President Jonathan Klein suggested that what he had once called his "fire and ice" pairing of Anderson Cooper and Aaron Brown during the 10:00 p.m.-to-midnight time period was not working and that he had no option other than to drop Brown. The decision came while Brown was on vacation, and reporters could not reach him for comment. However, the blog "What's Happening at CNN" quoted a source close to the journalist as saying he felt "somewhat 'liberated' by CNN's action. "He was NOT happy with much of what's been going on at CNN," the source said. Klein told Reuters that there was "no reason to delay making this move. We've got the pieces in place," apparently referring to the fact that, because of Brown's absence, Cooper had already taken over as the de facto sole anchor of the late-evening time period. In an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Klein expressed confidence that "Anderson's the man, obviously" to reinvigorate the news channel and overcome the current ratings lead of rival Fox News Network. "The whole country is talking about Anderson," Klein told the newspaper, "and it only made sense to find a larger showcase for him." Klein also announced a reshuffling of CNN's primetime programs. Wolf Blitzer will take over Cooper's former time period at 7:00 p.m. with The Situation Room, which will now air from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Paula Zahn and Larry King will continue in their present time periods at 8:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. and Anderson Cooper: 360 will take over the 10:00-p.m.-to midnight hours. Reaction to the CNN moves by critics and business analysts was generally negative. In an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, Alex Jones, director of Harvard's Shorenstein Center on the Press, deplored the fact that CNN could find no place on its schedule for Brown, whom he called "a smart, thoughtful, careful, unhyperbolic newsman -- exactly the kind of analytic thinker and calm presence that CNN should want to have." But Charles Bierbauer, now dean of the University of South Carolina's College of Mass Communications and Information Studies, noted that "Cooper is younger, more energetic" than Brown. "He cuts a different figure."
NIELSEN REPORTS PROCESSING PROBLEM WITH RATINGS
With the November sweeps set to officially begin tonight (Thursday), Nielsen has reported a processing problem that delayed Tuesday's and Wednesday's ratings. The company alerted its clients of the delays but did not provide details about the problem.
WORLD CUP TO COST $425 MILLION
ABC, ESPN and Univision have together paid a record $425 million to broadcast soccer's World Cup competition through 2014. The lion's share of that fee -- $325 million -- will be contributed by Univision, which has won the rights for the Spanish-language telecasts. "The FIFA [Fédération Internationale de Football Association] World Cup is the most important sporting event among U.S. Hispanics,'' Univision President Ray Rodriguez said in a statement. "It has enormous advertiser and audience appeal." ABC and ESPN said that they plan to show every game of the 2006 World Cup in Germany live and in high definition. In addition, the two networks said that highlights will be available on the Internet and on mobile platforms.
NBC UNIVERSAL TO DEBUT GUMSHOE CABLE NET
NBC Universal plans to launch Sleuth, a cable channel devoted primarily to reruns of cop shows and movies, beginning January 1. Among the TV shows to be offered are Miami Vice and The A-Team; and among the movies, Scarface, The Jackal, Casino, Sneakers, and Mercury Rising. The network will initially be available on some Time Warner cable systems, reaching about 5 million homes. Some of the content will be available on high-definition TV for the first time.
NEW CBS SHOW THRESHOLD WILL HONEYMOON ON WEB
In the latest move by a television network to explore the potential of the Internet to generate viewers and revenue for its programs, CBS announced on Wednesday that it plans to make available three episodes of its new drama Threshold on its website. However, unlike ABC, which had said last month that it would sell episodes of Lost and Desperate Housewives through Apple's iTunes Store, CBS said it would make the Threshold series available for free. In reporting on the network's move, today's (Thursday) London Financial Times commented that it "highlights the broadcast television networks' growing embrace of the Internet both for distribution and promotion of its content." Meanwhile, the BBC said that it plans to broadcast its 24-hour news channel, BBC World News, on the Internet, using RealNetworks' SuperPass broadband service.
WILL THE SKY FALL ON DISNEY THIS WEEKEND?
Disney executives and shareholders were presumably fretting over trade reviews for Chicken Little, which concluded that the film's storyline and lack of humor will prevent it from becoming the kind of blockbuster holiday hit that Pixar had been producing for the studio in recent years. Last year's The Incredibles, which, like Chicken Little, debuted during the first weekend of November, earned $70.5 million, eventually accumulating $241 million domestically and $631.4 million worldwide. But Daily Variety's Todd McCarthy said that "Chicken Little lives up to its name by serving up a fraction of what audiences are used to getting in this department from Pixar and DreamWorks -- little originality, little humor and little ingratiating characterization." He went on to forecast that it will "will ring up less B.O. than most of the high-flying animated features of recent holiday seasons." A more positive review appeared in the Hollywood Reporter, whose Michael Rechtshaffen concluded that while the film makes "a convincing case for the possibility of life after Pixar," it nevertheless "ultimately lacks ... that satisfying, lump-in-the-throat gentle emotional tug" that distinguishes most animated hits. FoxNews.com's Roger Friedman commented, "Alas, Chicken Little -- despite having a solid cast of comic voices -- looks like it's going to be pre-Thanksgiving turnkey. ... By the way, do you see Michael Eisner around anywhere to take the blame for this mess?"
ICAHN APPEARS TO WIN ROUND AGAINST TIME WARNER
In what was widely interpreted as a concession to corporate activist Carl Icahn, Time Warner agreed to double a planned buyback of shares to $12.5 billion, up from $5 billion that it had originally charted, but below the $20 billion that Icahn had demanded. However, in an interview with today's (Thursday) New York Times, Time Warner Chairman Richard Parsons denied that he had "split the difference" with Icahn for the number. "That is a coincidence," Parsons told the newspaper. "This is the result of engaging a lot of people in conversation -- not just Carl -- and fine-tuning our views," he said. Meanwhile, the company reported a 13-percent income increase in the third quarter, but noted that its weakest performer was filmed entertainment -- essentially Warner Bros. and New Line Films -- which fell 30 percent in operating income.
CONTROVERSIAL VIETNAM DOCUMENTARY SHOWN IN BOSTON
Boston has become the second U.S. city ever to screen the controversial documentary Winter Soldier, made in 1972 and featuring Vietnam veterans participating in a public hearing in Detroit at which they claimed that they witnessed or participated in atrocities during the Vietnam War. In a review appearing in today's (Thursday) Boston Globe, critic Wesley Morris writes that the film "is infuriating, its testimonies depressingly surreal. The searing first-person accounts reach each branch of the American military, creating a harrowing oral indictment." The film was initially screened at a Lincoln Center theater in New York but in recent weeks has been cropping up at numerous local film festivals, often accompanied by one of the soldiers who appeared at the hearing. However, it has been vigorously attacked by conservatives who claim that many of those who testified lied and that several never even served in Vietnam.