SAG VOTES OVERWHELMINGLY "YES"
Ending a year-long, bitter stalemate, the membership of the Screen Actors Guild has voted overwhelmingly to ratify a two-year contract with film and TV producers. The vote was 78 percent in favor, 22 percent opposed. More than 35 percent of the 110,000 members of the union took part in the voting, above average for such votes. The schismatic divisions within the union remained evident even after the results were tallied. In a statement, SAG National Executive Director David White praised the outcome, saying, "This decisive vote gets our members back to work with immediate pay raises and puts SAG in a strong position for the future." On the other hand, SAG President Alan Rosenberg, who led the opposition to the contract, observed tartly that the membership had "decided to work under the terms of this contract that many of us ... believe to be devastatingly unsatisfactory." Both sides said that talks ought to begin at once with sister unions in the industry to prepare a strategy for 2011 negotiations. (However, some commentators have warned that in two years the issue of new media residuals, the primary issue dividing the union members, is likely to remain moot as new media continue to fracture the network audience and the industry's conglomerates are forced to exchange "new media dimes for broadcast dollars." Some have warned that far from becoming a source of new riches, the Internet could wreak the same devastation to broadcasting that it already has to newspapers.) Despite the outcome of the SAG vote, Rosenberg surprisingly used the occasion to announce that he would seek a third term this fall. On his blog, entertainment attorney Jonathan Handel commented that Rosenberg is likely to face "an uphill climb, especially if the moderates/independents put forward a high-profile candidate, such as James Cromwell, who has been rumored to be considering a run."
ABC TASTES VICTORY WITH NBA FINALS
It was not your typical week in the Nielsen ratings for last week -- not by an NBA long shot. ABC's coverage of the first two games of the NBA Finals between the Orlando Magic and the Los Angeles Lakers captured the first two spots on the ratings list, with Game 1 attracting 14.06 million viewers and Game 2 attracting 13.04 million. (In a ratings anomaly, Game 2 actually came out on top.) It was also a good week for NBC, which rarely places any program at all in the top ten, and often not even in the top 20. This week, however, it wound up with four shows on the select list, with the season finale of Law and Order: SVU placing third with 11.6 million viewers and its original Law and Order coming in at No. 7. A two-part NBC News special, "Inside the Obama White House," tied for eighth on the list. (Both documentary specials were rebroadcast on Friday and produced the highest ratings of the night.)
The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:
1. NBA Finals - Game 2, ABC, 8.2/14; 2. NBA Finals - Game 1, ABC, 7.8/14; 3. Law and Order: SVU, NBC, 7.7/13; 4. NCIS, CBS, 7.4/13; 5. The Mentalist, CBS, 7/11; 6. Two and a Half Men, CBS, 6.3/10; 7. Law and Order, NBC, 6/11; 8. Inside the Obama White House - Pt. 1, NBC, 6/10; 8. (Tie) Inside the Obama White House - Pt. 2, NBC, 6/10; 10. 60 Minutes, CBS, 5.9/12.
COURIC DRAWS SMALLEST AUDIENCE YET
Among the nightly newscasts, NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams took a strong lead, capturing an average of 8 million viewers a night, far better than most primetime programs on any network. ABC's World News with Charles Gibson placed second with 7.2 million. But the CBS Evening News With Katie Couric produced its lowest viewership yet, and indeed, the worst ratings for the CBS newscast since the modern ratings system began. It drew a 3.6 rating and an 8 share, translating to just 5.2 million viewers.
WILL DAVE OVERTAKE CONAN?
Ratings for Conan O'Brien's Tonight show have declined each night since O'Brien took over the show last week. By Monday, only a tenth of a ratings point separated the Tonight Show from David Letterman's The Late Show. Meanwhile, the Hollywood Reporter has reported that Letterman's Worldwide Pants company has reached an agreement with CBS on a new contract that calls for a significant reduction in the fee the company receives for the program (although, as the New York Times pointed out today, "the reduced fee does not necessarily mean that Mr. Letterman himself will take a reduced salary." He reportedly earns about $32 million a year.) In the meantime, NBC said Tuesday that it plans to promote its upcoming The Jay Leno Show during its 10:00 p.m. programs every night throughout the summer. "From the moment he left The Tonight Show until the moment his new show starts, there won't be a day where Jay doesn't appear on NBC," NBC Universal TV Group Chief Marketing Officer John Miller told Daily Variety.
2.8 MILLION UNPREPARED FOR FRIDAY'S SWITCH TO DIGITAL
Two days before the government-ordered transition to digital television takes place, there are still 2.8 million homes which will be unable to receive any programs when the switch is thrown, according to a survey by Nielsen Media Research. "Since February, when the U.S. government postponed the transition for three months, the number of households that are completely unready has been cut in half -- from 5.8 million to 2.8 million homes," said Sara Erichson, Nielsen's president of media client services. Most homes where TV sets will simply show "snow" are in African-American and Hispanic areas. Younger adults are also disproportionately unready for the switch, Nielsen said, while the elderly are the most ready.