NBC CHIEF: SAG STRIKE WOULD KILL NBC

NBC would be unable to survive another industry strike, NBC Universal chief Jeff Zucker told an advertising industry meeting in Washington Monday. Zucker said that an actors' strike would not affect his company's Universal Studios business. "Our film business has prepared," he said. "But it would have a real impact on the TV business, and I don't think the economy or the TV business would be able to survive something like that." A strike by the actors could be "incredibly devastating" for the network, he conceded.

TIBET, DARFUR PROTESTS NOT SCARING OFF OLYMPICS ADVERTISERS

NBC chief Jeff Zucker said Monday that Olympics advertisers have shown "no discomfort" over growing political protests connected with China's human-rights record regarding Tibet and Darfur. In an interview with Reuters, Zucker said that ad prices for the Olympics have been "incredibly strong." His remarks came on the same day that Sen. Hillary Clinton called for a boycott of the Olympics opening ceremonies. Presumably no U.S. ad buyer has agreed to join the boycott. The fact is the Olympics are a sporting event on the world stage," Zucker said. "It's not surprising that some would try to use that stage to further their own causes and we understand that, but at the end of the day this is about the event and both the advertisers and our viewers understand that."

WILLIAMS APOLOGIZES FOR INTERRUPTION OF HIS NEWSCAST

NBC's decision to broadcast NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams live from the Lorraine Motel in Memphis where Martin Luther King was assassinated 40 years ago became a disaster Friday when the live audio was drowned out by what Williams later described as "hyper-amplified speeches" taking place behind him. Writing on his blog, Williams apologized to viewers, then explained: "From the very first plans we made to do the broadcast live from a grassy hillside across from the Lorraine Motel, we were promised (by event organizers) in no uncertain terms that it would be quiet -- if anything, there were concerns expressed early on, that if we made too much noise, we risked appearing disrespectful." Making matters worse was the fact that the noise made it doubly difficult for Williams to carry on a live interview with Sen. John McCain, who has acknowledged that he was "wrong" to have opposed honoring King with a federal holiday. "The McCain folks are angry, justifiably so," Williams wrote, "and so are we."

AOL AND ESPN TEAM UP

AOL, a unit of Time Warner, has secured rights to carry video from ESPN, a unit of the Walt Disney Co. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Aside from whatever financial provisions, if any, may have been included, the deal obviously gives ESPN an expanded online presence. Likewise it gives faltering AOL the ability to enhance its portal. Programs will consist primarily of highlights from games and original ESPN programming, including SportsCenter Right Now, a digest of sports stories that is updated twice daily; Mike and Mike in the Morning; and Pardon the Interruption.

CABLE SHOWS HAVE ROCKY TRANSITION TO NETWORK TV

NBC's plan to fill gaps in its programming created by the writers' strike with reruns of hit cable shows has apparently failed to attract audiences. The quirky cable dramas Monk and Psych on Sunday night drew audiences whose size cable networks would cheer but which looked anemic on network television. Monk, which aired at 8:00 p.m.drew just 5.7 million viewers, while Psych, which aired at 9:00 p.m. attracted just 4 million. (On the other hand, CBS drew decent numbers -- 7.1 million -- for the quirky drama Dexter on the same night.)

KENTUCKY DERBY COVERAGE TO LAST 2 1/2 HOURS

A typical horse race lasts about two minutes, but NBC on Monday added an additional 30 minutes to its coverage of the Kentucky Derby on May 3, bringing the length of the total telecast to 2 1/2 hours. In many respects it will resemble coverage of a Hollywood awards ceremony, complete with Access Hollywood host Billy Bush on hand to cover the red-carpet arrival of celebrities and the numerous parties and celebrations around Louisville, site of the Churchill Downs race course where the Derby is held.

NBC ATTEMPTS TO BLOCK THE RUNWAY

NBC Universal has filed suit against The Weinstein Co. to keep Project Runway, the highest-rated show on its Bravo network, from, well, running away to Lifetime. In its lawsuit, NBC Universal claimed that it had a right of first refusal to the series after its current contract concluded and maintained that The Weinstein Co. had attempted to change the deal by bundling Runway with other programs that it wasn't interested in. The Weinstein Co. shot back that there was no right of refusal in the previous contract. Lifetime President Andrea Won told the Associated Press that she "moved quickly and jumped at the opportunity to get this show." Lifetime said that it had paid $150 million for the right to televise the show for five seasons.

SHARES OF CONSOLIDATED MEDIA HIT HARD BY MURDOCH WALK-OUT

Shares in Australia's Consolidated Media dived 11 percent Monday on the Sydney stock exchange after Lachlan Murdoch scrapped plans to take the company private with the company's chairman James Packer, citing a change in "overall transaction terms." Analysts suggested that the biggest change involved rising interest charges on debt. Chris Hall with Adelaide-based Argo Investment, told Bloomberg News, "It's saying a lot about the state of the market when Lachlan and James can't get it over the line. ... The cost of doing deals has risen."

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.