SCORCHED EARTH

NBC's coverage of the Live Earth concerts Saturday night drew only 2.7 million viewers, but additional coverage by NBC cable channels, including CNBC, Telemundo, the Sundance Channel, Bravo, MSNBC and Universal HD, pushed the number to 19 million. Nevertheless, reports from other countries where the concert aired indicated that the telecast, which organizers had forecast would reach up to 2 billion viewers, would come no where near that figure. Reuters reported that the Internet appeared to be the medium of choice for most people wanting to watch coverage of the event, with MSN, the Microsoft portal, claiming to have generated more than 9 million streams, setting a record for an online entertainment event.

REILLY, OUSTED BY PEACOCK, HIRED BY FOX

Kevin Reilly wasn't able to collect half his unemployment insurance benefits after being fired by NBC as entertainment president last month. Fox officially named him its own entertainment president on Monday, reuniting him with his former colleague at FX, Peter Liguori, who was named entertainment chairman of Fox. News Corp chief Peter Chernin said Monday that Liguori had approached him with the idea of reteaming him with Reilly. In a statement, Chernin recalled his reaction. I thought it was a bold move to redefine the structure of the network behind a pair of dynamic executives who have a proven track record of advancing the medium," he said. In an interview with the Associated Press, Reilly remarked, "I'm going back to a situation I know well. ... It was a great fit before, it's a better fit now."

COURIC NOW TARGETED BY FORMER NBC COWORKERS

Not only are some of Katie Couric's coworkers at CBS News expressing criticism of her abilities as Evening News anchor ("It's damaging, and it's really tacky," Couric told New York magazine about the anonymous quotes), but now comes a former member of the NBC Today staff to do the same thing. In a message posted on the TVNewser blog, the staffer writes that while Today show booking producers prepared a detailed background summary on persons invited to be interviewed for the show, including suggested questions for Couric, Matt Lauer, Ann Curry and Al Roker, Couric "couldn't be bothered" to read the material and would "wing it." The staffer added that Couric "would frequently ask questions that did not pertain to anything in the interviewee's background and we'd make her look intelligent in the edit room."

FOX SCRAPS SCRIPTS FOR NEXT SEASON'S 24

Fox programming executives have scrapped virtually the entire story line for next season's 24 after rejecting plans for costly location shooting in Africa, TV Guide Online columnist Michael Ausiello reported today (Tuesday), citing unnamed sources. Actress Mary Lynn Rajskub, who plays Chloe on the series, was quoted as saying, "I don't know what's going on over there, but they're going crazy. ... I don't think we're starting until a couple of weeks into August now. It's kind of exciting, because I think it means that they're really having to dig in there and come up with new stuff."

PRODUCT PLACEMENT TAKES CENTER STAGE IN NEW TELENOVELA

Spanish-language Univision is taking product placement to a whole new level with the integration of a new Caress brand from Unilever in its first online telenovela. Indeed, according to Advertising Age the introduction of Caress Exotic Oil Infusions body wash becomes an integral part of the story line as the star of the telenovela, Mi Adorada Malena (My Beloved Malena), plays a spokesmodel for the product. AdAge observed: "Caress is so woven into the plot and characters that the online back story section describes Malena's assistant Rebeca as 'personifying the characteristics of the Caress woman, modern and confident.'" Rob Master, marketing director for Caress, told the trade publication that the telenovela will be cross-promoted over all of Univision's outlets. "The hub is online but we're bringing the storytelling to TV, print and radio," he said.

NBC NEWS COMBINES DATELINE WITH REALITY PROGRAMS

With TV news magazines more frequently resembling reality TV shows than traditional news documentaries, NBC News has decided to consolidate several of its units, including Dateline, into a new division called Peacock Prods. The division will include nonfiction programming produced for sibling cable networks like MSNBC, A&E, Sci-Fi Channel, and Bravo. Daily Variety reported today that Dateline's regular time slots may be preempted in the future to test some of the nonfiction programming. At the same time, the unit will also be responsible for turning out traditional documentaries, including Tom Brokaw's specials.

BROADCASTING & CABLE MAGAZINE URGES MORE GRAPHIC COVERAGE OF WAR

The editor-in-chief of Broadcasting & Cable, the leading TV industry trade publication, has urged producers of the three major evening newscasts to become "more aggressive" in covering the Iraq War. "I'd advise them to provide even more graphic coverage of what's actually going on in Iraq and to never shy away from the gruesome toll the war is taking," Robins writes in the current edition. Saying that he is familiar with the arguments against presenting terrifying visuals in the newscasts, he remarks that nevertheless, "The real sell here is that whoever does own this story will be able to call itself the true network of record. Be purely mercantile about this if you want to be: The audience that the true news leader on the Iraq story will have will be one of quality that advertisers will pay a premium for."

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.