VIEWERS TUNE IN BROKAW'S SWAN SONG
Television viewers bade farewell to Tom Brokaw Tuesday night as they flocked to NBC's coverage of the presidential voting. Although there was hardly any mention on the air that this would be Brokaw's last election-night hurrah, it had earlier been widely reported that Brokaw's departure as NBC's news anchor was being timed to take place after the election. (He actually leaves his post as anchor of NBC Nightly News on Dec. 1.) According to ratings figures released by Nielsen Research on Wednesday, NBC drew 15.2 million viewers during the primetime coverage of the election results (an 11.5 rating and a 15 share), well above the 13.2 million (9.5/13) who watched the Peter Jennings-anchored coverage on ABC. The Dan Rather-helmed coverage on CBS drew 9.5 million (6.3/9). Impressively, Fox News Channel, whose audience is largely Republican, according to studies, averaged 8.1 million, representing the cable network's biggest audience ever. (In addition, the cable channel also produced a two-hour program for the Fox TV broadcast network that was watched by 4.7 million viewers.) CNN, which attracts more Democrats and independents, counted 6.2 million -- up 7 percent over 2000, but well behind FNC.
CRITICS SLAM EXIT POLLS
Although all television outlets had expected that election results would see-saw back in forth in the so-called battleground states and had developed contingency plans to extend coverage into Wednesday morning, many were surprised at how quickly the election was decided. Fox was the first to call Ohio in favor of Bush (it was also the first to call Florida for Bush in the 2000 election). NBC followed 18 minutes later. ABC, CBS, and CNN held off until about the time word came from the Kerry camp that the candidate was preparing a concession statement. While memories of the 2000 debacle in which the networks embarrassed themselves by making incorrect snap judgments about the election may have contributed to the reluctance of most of the networks to call close states in Bush's favor, an equal factor, some analysts suggested, may have been early exit polls that gave Kerry a significant lead. CNN's conservative commentator Tucker Carlson, who earlier in the evening had commented that the exit polls indicated that Kerry would win, told today's (Thursday) Washington Post that the polls proved to be "totally useless. ... In fact, they may be counterproductive." On Wednesday's Today show, Brokaw commented, "The exit polls, which happily we did not report on air, were distorted." The polls had been conducted by Edison Research and Mitofsky International, who had put together an enhanced polling system, employing more sophisticated computer software and more interviewers in key states than were at work in 2000.
JENNINGS NOW TOP GAME-SHOW WINNER
The biggest winner to emerge Wednesday may not have been George Bush, but Ken Jennings, who won an additional $45,099 on Jeopardy! making him the top game-show winner of all time with a grand total of $2,197,000. The figure beats the previous record of $2,180,000 held by Kevin Olmstead, a contestant of ABC's Who Wants to Be a Millionaire in 2001.
VIEWERS FIND LOST AGAIN
After taking a back seat to Fox's postseason baseball coverage for two weeks, ABC's hit drama Lost on Wednesday night at 8:00 p.m. scored its highest ratings since its premiere episode, an 11.4 rating and a 17 share. Meanwhile, NBC's decision to move its new LAX to Wednesday night in the same hour to replace the poor-performing Hawaii crash-landed with a 5.3/8. Despite the poor lead-in, NBC's The West Wing jumped ahead of the competition at 9:00 as it registered a 9.0/13. CBS took over the lead at 10:00 with CSI: NY drawing a 9.6/16. ABC's Wife Swap was in second place with a 7.7/13, while NBC's Law & Order dipped to third place with a 7.5/13.
ELTON JOHN: SITCOM STAR?
Aging rock star Elton John has agreed to star in an ABC sitcom about an aging rock star, Daily Variety reported today (Thursday). In an interview with the trade paper, John described the series as "an upmarket Spinal Tap," referring to the 1984 "mockumentary" about a group of over-the-hill British rockers. He denied that the character he'll portray is based on him. Rather, he said, the character is a composite of "everybody we've encountered over the past 30 years. ... We've met every star and seen every misbehavior." Variety said that the program's exec producer is Michael Edelstein, responsible for this season's biggest hit, Desperate Housewives. Separately, John told the German celebrity weekly Gala what he wants to wed his longtime companion, David Furnish, although no date or place has been decided on.
WITNESS: IT WAS HARD TO FIRE OVITZ
A former director of the Walt Disney Company, who was also Disney chief Michael Eisner's personal attorney, blamed inaccurate news reporting for the uproar over the $140-million payment that Michael Ovitz received when he was fired in 1996. Irwin Russell, who additionally was chairman of the company's compensation committee, said that the money was not part of a "golden parachute," as news reports have indicated, but a payment that was due Ovitz as part of his employment contract. In testimony during a shareholders' lawsuit in Delaware, Russell said that although the compensation committee never formally met to consider the deal with Ovitz, he informed the members of all of its elements. Russell related that even after Ovitz was fired, he insisted on remaining on the Disney board, keeping his offices and staff, and being hired as a consultant. All of the demands were denied, Russell testified. In the end, he said, he listened to a "stream of consciousness" rant by Ovitz in which he pleaded to stay on. "There were tears in his voice. The door had closed, but he just had to get it out of his system," Russell recalled.
UPLOAD A MOVIE; GET HIT BY A LAWSUIT
The MPAA warned Wednesday that anyone who uploads a movie onto the Internet to share with users of peer-too-peer networks may face the same kind of copyright infringement lawsuit that the music industry has brought against record pirates. Published reports said that the MPAA is expected to file its first lawsuits as early as today (Thursday). The move follows a campaign by the movie industry to discourage online piracy with MTV-type video announcements in movie theaters comparing it to shoplifting videos in a store. Still, Eric Garland, head of Big Champagne, an Internet company that monitors movie downloading, suggested that the problem might be exaggerated. In an interview with today's Los Angeles Times, Garland said: "Most people won't even know of anyone who has used the Internet to download Hollywood fare without permission, much less do it themselves. ... This is truly an extremely early-adopter fringe activity."
VIDEO STORE OWNERS CHEERED BY PROP. 64 PASSAGE
Video store owners on Wednesday hailed the passage of California's Proposition 64, aimed at limiting lawsuits against small businesses. The proposition requires that the individual filing a suit show that he or she has suffered financial or property loss. Opponents of the law said that, among other things, it would bar lawsuits alleging false advertising and labeling. But Sean Bersell, a spokesman for the Video Software Dealers Association, told Video Store magazine today (Thursday) that, as a result of the passage of Proposition 64, video retailers won't be open to "frivolous" and "shakedown" lawsuits that often forced them to settle with scheming lawyers rather than face the costs of a legal defense.
PRICE WAR MAY NOT HURT NETFLIX, SAYS FOUNDER
The founder of online video renter Netflix has indicated that the price war his company is engaged in with Blockbuster may not turn out to be as costly as many analysts have predicted. In an interview with Video Store magazine, Reed Hastings said that as a result of cutting subscription costs from $22.00 to $18.00 this week, "We are getting a lot of people to sign up that might not have otherwise signed up. ... We are also getting Pay TV subscribers that are shifting over because at $18 you are not only competing with DVD rentals, but with other forms of entertainment." At the same time, he claimed, Blockbuster is spending $50 to sign up each new subscriber while Netflix is spending about $37. "Blockbuster is massively overinvesting relative to good economic sense," he said.
DIRECTOR FILMS DURING POST-BASEBALL-GAME CELEBRATION
Major League Baseball and the St. Louis Cardinals permitted an entire movie film crew and cast members onto the infield of Busch Stadium following the final game of the National League playoffs last month to film the ending of the forthcoming Farrelly Brothers movie Fever Pitch. Bobby Farrelly told the Associated Press that he and his brother Peter wanted to change the final scenes of the movie so that it would end happily for the central character, a Red Sox fan played by Jimmy Fallon. The scenes, shot among the celebrating players and fans, "works brilliantly at the end," Farrelly said. "Red Sox Nation is going to be very, very happy with what we got."
THE INCREDIBLES' PERFORMANCE WON'T BE INCREDIBLE, SAY ANALYSTS
Analysts doubt that Pixar's latest CGI movie, The Incredibles, which opens on Friday, will achieve the same degree of success at the box office as its previous film, Finding Nemo, Investor's Business Daily reported today (Thursday). The newspaper observed that the film will be facing tougher competition from other family films than other Pixar movies had. Among the rivals: Warner Bros.' The Polar Express (Nov. 10), Paramount's The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, and Paramount's Jim Carrey starrer, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. Harris Nesbitt Gerard analyst Jeffrey Logsdon predicted that The Incredibles will gross $225 million domestically and close to $500 million worldwide -- ordinarily a huge result, but well below the $865 million for Pixar's Finding Nemo. It would also be well below the record (for an animated film) $882 million earned by DreamWorks' Shrek 2.