WRITERS SIGN "SEPARATE BUT EQUAL" DEALS

Even as "informal" talks continued between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the WGA announced that it had reached separate deals with Canadian-based Lionsgate and Marvel Studios, a subsidiary of the company behind the Marvel superheroes characters. The deals are described as "interim" with "most favored nation" clauses that essentially mean that if the AMPTP negotiates a more beneficial contract for the producers, then that would supersede the current ones. The deal with Lionsgate allows writers to resume work on the Showtime hit Weeds and AMC's Mad Men. More important, Lionsgate is the first movie distributor to sign a separate deal with the WGA. Meanwhile, today's (Friday) New York Times reported that the strike has still not had a significant effect on the bottom line of the major networks, whose primetime ratings "have not dipped in a meaningful way," according to the newspaper, which noted that ratings traditionally dip in December and January. Advertisers have not taken advantage of options in their contracts that would have allowed them to cancel their commitments because of the strike, Michael Parent, head of the national broadcast unit at TargetCast TCM ad agency, told the Times.

SUPER BOWL MEANS SUPER SALES -- OF BIG-SCREEN TV SETS

The Super Bowl not only means tens of millions of dollars to the network that carries it, but it means far more than that to the manufacturers of big-screen TV sets. The Consumer Electronics Association said that wholesalers will likely gross $2.2 billion from the 2.4 million HDTV sets that are expected to be sold in advance of Super Bowl XLII. Retailers, it noted, will benefit not only from sales of the sets but ancillary items such as surround-sound audio systems, cables, mounting brackets, etc. The CEA also observed that its expects 18 percent of those watching the game on TV will have a laptop PC nearby to check statistics and betting lines and send instant messages to friends who are also watching the game.

FOX DECLINES TO SELL POLITICAL ADS ON SUPER BOWL TELECAST

Fox says that it did not offer to sell ads during its Super Bowl telecast to presidential candidates in order to comply with FCC regulations regarding political advertising. A spokesman told Advertising Age that Fox would have refused to sell spots to any candidate because of an FCC rule requiring networks to offer equal opportunities to all candidates. He noted that since ad time was quickly grabbed up by commercial advertisers, it would have been impossible to sell spots during the game to all the candidates. However, the trade publication noted that the courts have made exceptions for "unique, one-time only" broadcasts and have held that candidates may not dictate where their "equal opportunity" ads must be placed. This year's Super Bowl, which takes place on February 3, would have been a logical place for such ads, Ad Age observed, since it is held just two days before the Super Tuesday primaries.

BAND GRITS TEETH OVER TOOTHPASTE AD

The New York rock band Moldy Peaches recently discovered that their CDs had become big hits in Chile because one of their songs, "Jorge Regula," was featured in an ad for Pepsodent toothpaste in that country. Band co-founder Adam Green said that the song was used without authorization -- or payment. He told Britain's New Musical Express, "Recently we've had music in adverts and people haven't even asked. We had to hunt down lawyers in South America to sue toothpaste companies that have used songs of mine."

FOX NEWS'S GIBSON APOLOGIZES FOR REMARKS ABOUT LEDGER

Fox News commentator John Gibson apologized on his TV show, The Big Story, Thursday for remarks he made on his radio talk show the previous day about the death of Heath Ledger. During the show, he had mocked the late actor as a "weirdo" with a "serious drug problem" and laughed that he may have killed himself in reaction to the plunge in the stock market. He then played a clip from Brokeback Mountain -- a movie that Gibson had once described as a "gay agenda movie" -- in which Ledger utters the famous line "I wish I knew how to quit you." Well, Gibson mocked, "he found out how to quit you." He then played another clip in which Ledger remarked, "We're dead," then repeated the line himself laughing. On Thursday's telecast, Gibson said, "To anyone offended by my comments, I'm sorry. But I'm also sorry Heath Ledger is no longer alive and with us." The gay-rights group GLAAD said it planned to send a petition to Fox News asking why it continues to provide a platform for Gibson's "cruel and tasteless comments."

SPONSOR SUES IMUS FOR BELITTLING ITS ADS

A publisher who bought ads on Don Imus's radio show last year to promote a book by former President Gerald Ford has sued Imus for more than $4 million for disparaging the book even as he read commercials for it. The publisher, Flatsigned Press, Inc., which said that the books were individually signed by Ford, claims that Imus adlibbed at one point, "Now that he's flatLINED, you go to flatSIGNED.com." After reading a line in the commercial that Ford had "hand-signed" the books, Imus allegedly remarked, "How else would he sign them, with his foot?" The publisher said that its sales dropped $40,000 a day following the Imus broadcast and that some stores refused to stock the Ford book thereafter.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.