MORE BRITISH ACCENTS ON U.S. TV?

Should a writers' strike shut down U.S. television production in the coming months, broadcast networks may substitute programs produced in Canada, the U.K., and Australia, Daily Variety reported today (Thursday). Although the trade publication said that producers and networks have had "conversations" with international producers and broadcasters, no deals, apparently, have been negotiated. "I've been communicating with people and looking all over the world for ideas," NBC Entertainment Co-chairman Ben Silverman told Variety. Silverman had previously brought to U.S. television several British hit shows that were transformed into domestic hits by employing American actors and revising scripts. Chris Coelen, CEO of RDF USA, a company that has produced the British and U.S. versions of Wife Swap, Off the Charts, Don't Forget the Lyrics, Meadowlands and Supernanny, remarked, "The tone of British television is becoming more American. ... It's made the two markets come together even more." As for concern about British accents, Coelen said, "The biggest star on American television is Simon Cowell ... and accents haven't hurt the James Bond movies." Variety also observed that ABC's one ratings winner this past summer was Just for Laughs, originally produced for Canadian TV.

BAD NEWS IS GOOD NEWS FOR CNBC

The return of gut-wrenching roller-coaster rides on Wall Street has resulted in a ratings surge for NBC-Universal's business channel CNBC. Nielsen Research observed Wednesday that the market's breathtaking ups-and-downs had produced the strongest overall ratings for the channel in two years and the highest for August since 2002.

E!: NOW THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT

E! Entertainment Channel, which was originally launched on a shoestring 20 years ago showing movie trailers and presenting gossip about movie stars and features about their movies, has finally hit the big time. The channel, now owned by cable provider Comcast, announced Wednesday that it had agreed to pay nearly $40 million for the first network broadcasts of such films as Knocked Up, Evan Almighty, and Man of the Year, to begin airing in 2009.

CONSERVATIVE GROUP CLAIMS MORNING NEWS SHOWS FAVOR DEMOCRATS

The conservative Media Research Center claimed Wednesday that the three network morning news shows gave far more time during the first half of the year to Democratic candidates running for president than their Republican counterparts. According to L. Brent Bozell, the group's founder, the network news shows devoted 284 segments of Democrats and 152 to Republicans. "The double standard has got to stop," Bozell told the Associated Press. "What you hope is that there would be fairness. If you are going to give that much coverage to the Democrats, give it to the Republicans, too." But Jim Bell, executive producer of Today, responded that the Democratic race was simply more interesting to viewers. "You've got a former first lady and a black senator fighting for the nomination. ... That's historic. We're not going to make apologies for covering that." He also noted that stories about the cancer relapse of Democratic candidate John Edwards' wife were included in the group's total.

HELLO TO HULU

Five months after NBC Universal and News Corp announced that they would team up to create a new online video-sharing website aimed at countering YouTube, the two media giants said Wednesday that it planned to begin testing the service in October. They also gave it a name: Hulu. In a statement posted on the new site, Jason Kilar, the CEO of Hulu said that they name had been chosen because it is "short, easy to spell, easy to pronounce, and rhymes with itself." (Not so easy was understanding what Kilar meant by "rhymes with itself.") He continued: "Our hope is that Hulu will embody our (admittedly ambitious) never-ending mission, which is to help you find and enjoy the world's premier content when, where and how you want it."

HISTORIC STUDIO SITE TO BE SOLD

The Hollywood television studio once owned by Warner Bros. where the first sound movie, The Jazz Singer, was filmed in 1927 has been offered for sale by its current owner, the Tribune Co. The columned, Colonial-style building currently houses Tribune's Los Angeles television station, KTLA, and is the production site of several syndicated programs including the courtroom shows Judge Judy and Judge Joe Brown and Disney Channel's Hannah Montana. Today's (Thursday) Los Angeles Times, which is also owned by Tribune, said that the property could fetch about $175 million. It is expected that KTLA would remain at the site as a tenant following a sale, although the station is likely to go elsewhere to update its facilities in the future. General Manager Vinnie Malcolm told the Times: "We have been working around a lot of not-very-efficient uses of space. There is no question we could use a better physical plant."

HDTV HITS TIVO

Consumers' sudden embrace of all things HDTV, including home theaters, Blu-ray and HD DVD players, and DVD recorders has resulted in a glut of standard-definition TiVo digital video recorders and the cancellation of 145,000 TiVo subscriptions in the last quarter, TiVo executives said Wednesday as they filed second-quarter results. TiVo reported that it took an $11.2-million write-down on unsold standard recorders. That resulted in a $17.7 million loss for the quarter versus a $3.5 million loss in the comparable quarter a year ago. In a conference call with analysts and reporters, TiVo CEO Tom Rogers said that sales of HDTV sets "progressed at a pace that surprised many in the industry, including us." TiVo shares dropped 4.2 percent to $5.94 in after-hours trading.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.