It won't happen for another five years, but Conan O'Brien is due to succeed Jay Leno as host of The Tonight Show, NBC announced Monday. The announcement was largely interpreted as a maneuver to prevent O'Brien from jumping ship and heading for another network. Leno himself referred to his successor Monday night, the 50th anniversary of the show. "In 2009, I'll be 59 years old and will have had this dream job for 17 years," Leno said. "When I signed my new contract, I felt that the timing was right to plan for my successor and there is no one more qualified than Conan. Plus, I promised Mavis [Leno's wife] I would take her out for dinner before I turned 60." The Tonight Show generally tapes around dinner time.
COMEDY CENTRAL UNSPINS O'REILLY
Determined not to be caught up in a spin zone created by Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly, Comedy Central on Monday refuted O'Reilly's assertion that his audience was composed of "stoned slackers." The channel extracted data from Nielsen Media Research to indicate that Stewart's viewers are more likely to have completed college than O'Reilly's. O'Reilly made his remarks when Stewart appeared on his show a few weeks ago. "You know what's really frightening?" O'Reilly said. "You actually have an influence on this presidential election. That is scary, but it's true. You've got stoned slackers watching your dopey show every night and they can vote." O'Reilly is due to face the slackers directly when he appears on Stewart's show on Oct. 7.
DAILY SHOW'S VIEWERS AMONG BEST INFORMED VOTERS
Concerns that people who receive their political information from late-night comedy shows may not be adequately familiar with the issues in order to vote knowledgeably appeared to be laid to rest Monday by a study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania's National Annenberg Election Survey. In a poll conducted between July 15 and Sept. 19, nearly 20,000 young adults were asked six questions about the presidential candidates' stands on various issues. Those who watched no late-night comedy shows answered 2.62 questions correctly. David Letterman's viewers answered 2.91; Jay Leno's, 2.95; and Jon Stewart's (The Daily Show) 3.59. The results for Stewart appeared particularly striking to the pollsters, who noted that his viewers "have higher campaign knowledge than national news viewers and newspaper readers."
NATION'S TOP CABLE OPERATORS TO MAKE JOINT BID FOR ADELPHIA
Comcast and Time Warner plan to divide the spoils of Adelphia's bankruptcy if their joint bid for the crippled cable operator is accepted, published reports said today (Tuesday). Comcast is reportedly training its eye on Adelphia's cable system in the Baltimore-Washington market, while Time Warner is seeking to lock up Adelphia's operations in Los Angeles. Some analysts have speculated that the companies would sell off Adelphia's five other cable systems to other operators. Today's Los Angeles Times, citing industry analysts, observed that the arrangement would permit Comcast to exchange its stake in Time Warner Cable for parts of Adelphia without incurring the tax liability of an outright sale. Adelphia has said that it plans to announce a decision on a winning bid early next year.
ABC SCORES ANOTHER NIGHT OF HIGH RATINGS
ABC added a fourth consecutive night of strong ratings Monday, thanks to the matchup of the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins on Monday Night Football. The game posted a 13.2 rating and a 20 share during the 9:00 p.m. hour and an 11.9/18 in the 10:00 p.m. hour. However, the game, won by Dallas 21-18, dropped slightly behind CBS's CSI: Miami, which scored a 12.6/20 at 10:00. Unfortunately, earlier in the evening, ABC had little success with its new reality series The Benefactor, which managed only a 6.3/10, to place third.
DID IGER TRY TO BLOCK LOST?
Disney President and COO Bob Iger, who is CEO Michael Eisner's choice to succeed him, was "furious" with former ABC Entertainment Chairman Lloyd Braun for greenlighting the pilot for Lost, which has become the biggest new hit of the season, the New York Post's "Page Six" column reported today (Tuesday), citing an unnamed source. "He hated the show -- he thought it was awful and was really angry the pilot cost $12 million. He got Michael Eisner on his side and fired Lloyd. But now the show is the biggest success ABC has had in a long time, so who's lost now?" the Post's source said. A spokesman for Disney called the report "ridiculous."
CNN PRODUCER ABDUCTED IN GAZA
The militant Palestinian group Hamas has condemned the kidnaping of CNN producer Riad Ali in Gaza City on Monday. "We emphasize that this ugly incident is a violation of the sanctity of journalism and contradicts the morals of the Palestinian people," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said. Riad was riding in a taxi with CNN correspondent Ben Wedeman and CNN photographer Mary Rogers when their car was blocked by a vehicle with several men armed with revolvers and AK-47 assault rifles. They ordered Riad out of the car, then drove away with him. CNN said it had yet to hear from his abductors.
MPAA CHAFES AT BIT(TORRENT)
A new technology called BitTorrent, which can download a pirated feature film in DVD quality in less time than it takes to watch, is posing a new threat to movie studios. According to Mercury News, the technology, which requires several "owners" of a particular film to "share" individual parts of it with others, is particularly tough for the studios to battle since the sharing network shuts down after the film is downloaded. The BitTorrent software was created by Bram Cohen of Seattle, who receives no money from sales of pirated films but does welcomes "donations" from visitors to his website. However, that may not insulate him from a lawsuit by the MPAA. John G. Malcolm, director of worldwide anti-piracy for the Motion Picture Association of America, told Mercury News: "BitTorrent and others who are complicit in copyright theft should take little comfort from their temporary celebrity status."
A WEEKEND TO FORGET AT BOX OFFICE
Although Sony's The Forgotten exceeded analysts' expectations by taking in a solid $21 million over the weekend, landing in first place, most of the other box-office entries put in a poor performance, dropping the box office to a new low for the year. (It has set a new low during each of the past three weeks.) Paramount's Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, which cost $70 million to make, slid to second place in its second week with just $6.7 million, down 57 percent, bringing its two-week total to $26 million. Disney's baseball drama Mr. 3000 was hitting around .130 in its second week as it took in $5.1 million. Sony's Resident Evil: Apocalypse wallowed in fourth place with $4.04 million, while 20th Century Fox's First Daughter debuted weakly in fourth place with $4 million, to place fifth. One happy surprise was the performance of Rogue Pictures' Shaun of the Dead, which took in $3.3 million from just 607 theaters. But the re-release of the somewhat updated Fahrenheit 9/11, playing in 604 theaters, took in only $247,230. The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):
1. The Forgotten, Sony, $21,022,111, (New); 2. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Paramount, $6,658,035, 2 Wks. ($25,517,193); 3. Mr. 3000, Disney, $5,094,867, 2 Wks. ($15,418,888); 4. Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Screen Gems, $4,035,512, 3 Wks. ($43,463,183); 5. First Daughter, 20th Century Fox, $4,002,067, (New); 6. Cellular, New Line, $3,660,608, 3 Wks. ($25,071,475); 7. Shaun of the Dead, Focus Features, $3,330,781, (New); 8. Wimbledon, Universal, $3,323,570, 2 Wks. ($12,120,600); 9. Without a Paddle, Paramount, $2,353,609, 6 Wks. ($53,483,218); 10. Hero, Miramax, $2,244,628, 5 Wks. ($49,231,569).
TOP "RENTAILERS" TEST $.99 VIDEOS
Hollywood Video and Blockbuster have begun testing a 99-cent rental program at individual stores, Video Store magazine reported Monday. The offer is limited to selected titles at both chains and to one-day rentals at Blockbuster. The trade publication said that it was not clear whether either chain plans to implement similar pricing campaigns nationwide. In an interview with Video Store, Michael Pachter, an analyst with Webush Morgan Securities in Los Angeles insisted that the chains cannot turn a profit on individual 99-cent rentals and that the purpose of the test may be to determine whether customers will rent more movies at the 99-cent price.
AUSSIE PENSION GROUP SEEKS TO HALT NEWS CORP'S DEPARTURE
An alliance of Australian pension funds, the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors, has announced that it will oppose Rupert Murdoch's plan to move the headquarters of News Corp to the U.S. The group said that it had decided to resist the plan because it would result in the dilution of stockholder power and an increase of the board's. "We are left with the unsavory odor of further entrenchment of the board and management's hegemony in News Corporation," ACSI president Michael O'Sullivan said in a statement.