CBS SPORTS HAS A NEW GAME PLAN: THE WEB
As part of a previously announced plan to focus its expansion on the Internet -- thereby skirting cable, where it has a meager presence -- CBS said Thursday that it will immediately beef up CBS SportsLine.com with broadband content. Speaking to reporters during a conference call, CBS Sports President Sean McManus said that the site "gives us an outlet for a lot of things that we would like to be putting on CBS Sports but can't because of time constraints." Added Larry Kramer, president of CBS Digital Media: "It allows us to build a 24-hour, 7-day a week relationship with our viewers. These viewers want programming available when they want to see it." The centerpiece of the revamped site will be what the company calls "TheEyebox," featuring video clips, many of which are preceded by a 15-second ad. Nike has signed a deal to become the exclusive sponsor during its launch, but the site reportedly also has deals in place with BlackBerry, Visa, Volkswagen, Geico, Subway, CDW and UPS. CBS has added a new video studio to its headquarters in Ft. Lauderdale to produce programming for the site, that initially will include an NFL highlights show and an NCAA football highlights show. Audio material from the various features will also be available as podcasts. Meanwhile, News Corp. announced Thursday that it is expanding its own Internet presence, paying $650 million in cash for IGN Entertainment, which primarily operates a number of videogame sites as well as the movie sites Rotten Tomatoes and FilmForce.
TV SHOW TO DEBUT ON THE WEB
Hoping to persuade viewers to sample its new series Supernatural, The WB plans to make the first episode available online without commercials from now until the show airs on Sept. 13. David Katz, head of sports and entertainment for Yahoo!, told the online edition of Advertising Age: "They've given us a unique, exclusive window to premier a television episode before it runs on television. In exchange for that, we are promoting this feature on Yahoo! TV and throughout the network because we think it's compelling to users." Garth Ancier, chairman of The WB, said that he did not believe the stratagem would cost the show viewers. "I think the nature of streaming is such that generally it's more for awareness than actual viewing. There will be some people who will watch it on their small PC screen, but the majority of people will [just] sample it," he told AdAge.
ABC WILL SPEAK SPANISH
"Lost in translation" took on a whole new meaning Thursday as ABC announced that it plans to make its hit series Lost, along with all of its other regular primetime shows, available in Spanish. Some of the programs, including Lost, Desperate Housewives, George Lopez and Freddie (the new Freddie Prinze Jr. sitcom), will be dubbed; others will be available in closed captioning. The move is an effort to capture part of the sky-rocketing ad expenditure for the Latino market -- the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population. "Almost half of the 41 million Hispanics in this country watch only or mostly Spanish-language television, and we want to bring that audience to ABC," ABC Entertainment President Stephen McPherson said in a statement. Some reports indicated that the network recently tested Spanish versions of Lost and Desperate Housewives in Miami and Los Angeles and that the results were stunning.
TV SHOW MAY BECOME ANOTHER KATRINA VICTIM
Advertisers are reportedly balking about including their spots in a new ABC fall show called Invasion that begins with a hurricane. "I'm a little skittish," said one media agency executive, who did not wish to be identified, in an interview with MediaPost's online MediaDailyNews. "It shows how people are suffering. People could consider ABC heartless for running it." The trade website also quoted Shari Anne Brill of Carat USA as saying. "There are advertisers who would be cautious. They don't want to be associated with this kind of art that imitates life. The timing of this is the problem. Maybe ABC could just run it commercial-free." But ABC pointed out that the show is not about a hurricane, but about an alien invasion in which a hurricane may have been triggered by the invaders.
FEMA PROMOTES ROBERTSON CHARITY; IGNORES SECULAR ONES
Televangelist Pat Robertson's controversial charity group Operation Blessing stands to gain millions of dollars after being prominently included on a list of organizations accepting donations for hurricane relief, according to an article posted on the website of The Nation magazine. In fact, only two non-faith-based organizations were included in the FEMA list, one of which is the American Red Cross, which has been at odds with the Department of Homeland Security after being barred from attending to New Orleans holdouts who have refused to evacuate. The Nation pointed out that Operation USA, a prominent secular disaster-relief group, was omitted from the FEMA list. It described Operation Blessing as "a front for [Robertson's] shadowy financial schemes" and cited, among other things, an exposé in the Virginia Pilot alleging that Operation Blessing's planes had been used to transport diamond-mining equipment for a Robertson-owned venture in Zaire.
BROADCASTERS TRY TO RESUME TRANSMISSIONS -- BUT TO WHOM?
As many as 50 to 100 radio and TV stations remain off the air in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, FCC Office of Homeland Security director Kenneth Moran told the House Commerce Committee Thursday. Earlier, the FCC announced that it will devote its Sept 15 regular monthly meeting to efforts to restore communications services to the ravaged region. Chief financial officers for two New Orleans stations have issued warnings to shareholders that the effects of the storm could affect business for some time. Some TV and radio stations have pooled resources, but it was not at all clear whether their message was getting through to regular listeners, many of whom have dispersed or do not have access to portable receivers. Advertising, for the most part, has been limited to announcements from insurance companies.
FALL MOVIE SEASON STARTS OFF WITH A WHIMPER
The fall movie season launches this weekend with a thriller and a comedy neither of which cost much to produce -- nor are they expected to break any records at the box office. Sony's Screen Gems The Exorcism of Emily Rose is expected to sell the most tickets -- between $12 million and $15 million worth, according to box office analysts. New Line's The Man, starring Samuel L. Jackson and Eugene Levy, is expected to land in second place with between $8 million and $10 million, although it could be outclassed by last week's box-office champ, 20th Century Fox's The Transporter. Also Focus' well-reviewed The Constant Gardener, which earned more on a per-theater basis than any other film last weekend,is expected to hold up well in its second go-round.
MOVIE REVIEWS: THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE
The Exorcism of Emily Rose is "based on a true story," its audience is told -- words, says the New York Times' A.O. Scott, that are "guaranteed to scare most movie critics." Scott is not among them, however. The movie, he says, "ranges from OK to god-awful." However, he remarks, it represents "a fascinating cultural document in the age of intelligent design. Its point of view suggests an improbable alliance of postmodern relativism and absolute religious faith against the supposed tyranny of scientific empiricism, which is depicted as narrow and dogmatic." Similarly David Gilmour writes in the Toronto Globe & Mail that the movie is likely to "find a sympathetic home among doctrinaire Catholics and among those many people who were moved by Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ." Few other critics even bother to take the film seriously. Michael Sragow in the Baltimore Sun observes: "The selling point of this piece of "serious" horror is that it's rooted in fact. Unfortunately, nothing in it rings with the faintest tinkle of truth." Jami Bernard in the New York Daily News calls it "the dullest exorcist movie ever made." Likewise, Philip Wuntch in the Dallas Morning News describes it as "a largely ho-hum experience." On the other hand, Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times is one of the few critics to give the film a thumbs-up, calling it "intriguing and perplexing."
MOVIE REVIEWS: THE MAN
Lou Lumenick in the New York Post concludes his review of The Man by remarking that it is "another screwed-up mess that will give audiences another excuse to shun the multiplexes this weekend." Once again, the critics seem to agree, a studio has resorted to tried-and-true formula in hope of assuring box-office success. Writes Gene Seymour in Newsday: "The formula that powers The Man is so rusty from overuse that you can practically hear it creaking and sputtering." Ty Burr in the Boston Globe credits stars Eugene Levy and Samuel L. Jackson for giving a professional performance. They "wring every last ounce of mustard out of a rancid boardwalk hotdog. Nice try, but The Man still tastes dreadful."
DISNEY SHAREHOLDERS APPEAL OVITZ RULING
Dissident Walt Disney shareholders are not going gently into the night following last month's ruling by a Delaware Chancery Court judge that board members acted properly in the hiring and firing of Michael Ovitz. New York-based law firm Milberg Weiss Bershad & Schulman issued a news release saying that it had filed an appeal of the decision with the Delaware Supreme Court, asking it to review the decision.
CORMAN FILMS TO BE DISTRIBUTED ON DVD BY DISNEY
B-movie king Roger Corman has signed a distribution deal with Disney that will bring his library of more than 400 films to DVD at the mass-market level. He had previously been selling them to retailers on his own. Some of the films included in the collection include the low-budget classics The Little Shop of Horrors,' Rock and Roll High School, Death Race 2000, The Intruder, Grand Theft Auto, and Cry Baby Killer. In a statement, Bob Chapek, head of Disney's Buena Vista Home Entertainment, said, "Corman's avant-garde films have undoubtedly influenced Hollywood filmmaking and cultivated generations of classic genre film fans, so we're elated to bring this legendary film library to existing fans and new audiences alike."
SAMSUNG HAS SOLUTION FOR HI-DEF DVD IMPASSE
Seoul, South Korea-based Samsung Group said Thursday that if backers of the incompatible Blu-ray and HD DVD formats are unable to agree on a unified standard for high-definition DVD systems, it will offer a DVD player that will play both formats. Choi Gee-sung, the company's head of consumer electronics, told the London Financial Times: "It won't be simple but you'll see our solution in the coming year. Consumers will be too confused otherwise."