FOX & DISNEY HEADS LAUDED FOR ENDING STRIKE

News Corp President Peter Chernin and Disney CEO Robert Iger were being credited for hammering out a new three-year tentative contract with the Writers Guild of America that will likely bring their 14-week-old strike to an end on Tuesday. Referring to negotiators for the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, WGA executive director David Young told the Los Angeles Times, "We spent six months in a room with people who did not want to negotiate with us. ... All of this that we have here today was negotiated over the last two or three weeks with two CEOs who were willing to negotiate." Most analysts agreed that the key to the agreement was a concession on the part of the studio negotiators to give writers a percentage of distributors' revenues for videos streamed over the Internet in the third year of the contract. (During the first two years they'll receive a one-time-only payment of $1,200.) However, some observers have noted that in an era of swiftly changing technology, three years is a lifetime; for example, storage devices capable of recording thousands of television shows may be so inexpensive by then that it will no longer be necessary to distribute programs over the Internet. Instead, all of a viewer's favorite programs -- and then some -- will likely be automatically recorded for later on-demand viewing.

STRIKE: DID EACH SIDE LOSE?

Several analysts have suggested that the strike will end with each side losing. Ratings at each of the networks except Fox are down substantially since the strike began, with advertisers being given rebates or "make goods" because of the ratings fall. Producers of scripted television shows have been informed by the networks that "efficiencies" are being instituted that in some cases will result in the networks skipping the pilot process. Networks often pay as much as $2 million to develop a pilot, only to decide later that it is unsuitable to develop into a series. Indeed, the networks are likely to cut back on scripted TV series in general after audiences demonstrated during the strike that they preferred many cheap game shows and reality series. With fewer pilots and scripted series in production, writers are likely to find work opportunities substantially curtailed. Moreover, while it had been presumed earlier that existing series whose production had been cut short by the strike would resume once it was settled, several reports cast doubt on whether marginally rated shows would return. It had previously been reported that Fox's 24 would be postponed for a year and that ABC's Lost would probably have its 16 episodes cut to 13 this season.

END OF STRIKE SAVES OSCARS

The tentative agreement between the writers and producers reached over the weekend appears to have rescued the February 24 Oscars telecast. At a news conference on Sunday, WGA chief negotiator David Young suggested that keeping the Oscars hostage, in effect, helped the union leverage a settlement. "It was going to be a huge thing for the industry to lose the Oscars," he said. Nevertheless, with less time to prepare, Academy Awards producers are likely to simplify production numbers and entirely eliminate customarily elaborate filmed pieces. And as the principal entertainer of the night, Jon Stewart is expected to face even greater pressure than usual to keep things light and lively.

GRAMMY AWARDS STAR ON SUNDAY

CBS's telecast of the 50th annual Grammy Awards dominated the ratings Sunday night, scoring a 12.4 rating an a 19 share. While the audience dipped nearly 10 percent from last year, ratings for the other networks also showed erosion from last year -- as they have throughout most of the season. Amy Winehouse was the big winner at the televised ceremonies, capturing five awards, including record of the year, "Rehab." She was forced to watch the awards and perform her numbers at a studio in London after being denied a visa to visit the U.S. -- presumably because of her history of drug abuse.

NIELSEN APOLOGIZES FOR LATE NUMBERS

Nielsen Media Research has apologized to its clients on Friday for numerous recent delays in reporting ratings for TV programs, explaining that they have resulted from the increased amount of data that is now is required to be processed -- including information on the use of digital video recorders. But the delays have angered TV executives charged with analyzing the Nielsen data provided and applying them to sales pitches. "This is the currency of the business," Alan Wurtzel, president of research for NBC, told today's (Monday) New York Times. Wurtzel asked why Nielsen did not plan for the new demands, expressing a concern that Catherine Herkovic, head of national television client services for Nielsen, has acknowledged as legitimate. "I don't think we did as good a job as we should have in anticipating these spikes," she told the Times.

ASLEEP AT THE SWITCH?

A substantial segment of the millions of people with analog TV sets that receive signals over the air may not be able to view their local stations -- even if they purchase an analog-to-digital converter box, when the switchover to digital occurs next year, according to Centris, a market research firm in Los Angeles, and reported by today's (Monday) New York Times. "For the people with rabbit-ear antennas, I would say at least 50 percent won't get the channels they were getting," Dr. Oded Bendov, a consultant hired to supervise the analog-to-digital transition at the transmitter at the Empire State Bldg. in New York said. "I would say a lot of people are going to be very unhappy." He pointed out that digital signals do not travel as far as analog signals. Overall, he estimates, 5.9 million people will discover that they cannot receive TV pictures once the transition occurs.

CELL PHONES GET NEW SOUND SYSTEM FROM DOLBY

Dolby announced today (Monday) that it has developed a new sound-processing system for mobile phones that it said will bring "rich, vibrant surround sound to music, movies, and television programs." The system was unveiled at the 2008 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. In a statement, François Modarresse, Vice President of Marketing, Dolby Laboratories, said, "We developed Dolby Mobile to help create products that stir the senses and excite people's imaginations so the industry can deliver on the promise of mobile entertainment."

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.