MAY SWEEPS SWOOP

Network television is not recovering at the expected pace from the effects of the writers' strike, ratings during the May sweeps reveal. According to TVWeek, overall ratings for the crucial period, which ends on Wednesday, are down 10 percent -- but, more importantly, ratings for adults 18-49, the demographic targeted by advertisers, is down a whopping 17 percent, with several shows performing near or at their all-time lows. TVWeek commented that the situation is not likely to improve during the summer months. "Viewers out of the habit of watching broadcast TV might not return until fall," it said, "and the threat of an actors strike may have networks seeing deja vu all over again this summer."

KING TO REMAIN AT CNN

CNN President Jonathan Klein has dismissed speculation that Larry King could step down and be replaced by Ryan Seacrest or Katie Couric. In an interview with Saturday's New York Times, Klein said that King would remain in his 9:00 p.m. slot "as long as he continues to get the great bookings and the great ratings and maintains his passion for doing it." Klein said that although he hoped Seacrest would continue as a fill-in host for King, he had given no thought to using him in an expanded role at the cable news network. As for Couric, Klein said, "She's got a job at CBS. She's got a contract over there. That's all there is to say." During an interview with Seacrest on Friday, King noted that "there were even rumors you were going to join CNN, which we can tell viewers, there's nothing to that."

CORPORATIONS CUTTING BACK PBS FUNDING

With corporations cutting back on sponsorships of public television broadcasts, NewsHour With Jim Lehrer is facing a possible funding crisis, the New York Times reported today (Monday). The recent loss of Archer Daniels Midland as a corporate sponsor removed $4 million from the show's budget, which varies from $26-28 million per year, the newspaper observed. Moreover, it added, other PBS programs may face similar funding challenges as corporations cut back on all forms of advertising and no longer make endowments to public TV. Recently, the Times reported, NewsHour sought and received four international reporting grants. Executive producer Linda Winslow insisted that the grants had been "a great success story," allowing the program to extend its overseas reporting. However, she conceded, "I would not pooh-pooh the fear that it becomes something that steers you to something you wouldn't already do."

SCHIEFFER WON'T RETIRE AFTER ALL

CBS News President Sean McManus has apparently persuaded Bob Schieffer to put his retirement plans on indefinite hold. Schieffer had originally said that he planned to retire after the presidential inauguration in January. Then he said he would continue to host Face the Nation but "reduce my schedule a little bit." Today (Monday) the Washington Post reported that Schieffer had signed a new long-term deal with the network. The newspaper said that with Katie Couric's future as host of the CBS Evening News in doubt, McManus wants Schieffer to be ready to fill in for her as an interim anchor. Schieffer has played that role before, following Dan Rather's departure from the program. In fact, he boosted the ratings of the program during his brief tenure. They have since plummeted following Couric's arrival.

AFTRA-AMPTP TALKS RESUME

The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists resumed bargaining talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers today (Monday), amid continued speculation that a deal is imminent. The AMPTP has said it expects to resume talks with the Screen Actors Guild by May 28, but those talks are expected to be more difficult as the guild holds fast to its position that actors must give their permission before a movie or TV clip in which they appear is posted online. The AMPTP maintains that the costs of gathering permissions would be greater than what they could hope to earn from the clips. SAG also insists that actors should have the right not to participate in product-placement scenes in TV shows.

REPORT: O'REILLY WAS "UNLEASHED" AGAINST NBC, GE

Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes phoned NBC chief Jeff Zucker last summer and threatened to "unleash" Bill O'Reilly against NBC and its parent, General Electric, unless Zucker reigned in MSNBC host Keith Olberman, who was regularly attacking O'Reilly (as "the worst person in the world") and Ailes himself, the Washington Post reported today (Monday). The complaints were later echoed in phone calls to Zucker from Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corp, which owns Fox News, the Post said. After the appeals failed, O'Reilly began an assault on GE chief Jeffrey Immelt, accusing him and his company of supporting the Iranian government. "If my child were killed in Iraq, I would blame the likes of Jeffrey Immelt," O'Reilly said during one broadcast. GE spokesman Gary Sheffer insisted that "nothing we supply ... to Iran is in any way endangering U.S. troops." He said that News Corp execs "tell us if the attacks on O'Reilly end, the attacks on GE will end."

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.