REPORTS: COMCAST-GE DEAL FOR NBC CLOSEMoving another step closer toward a deal that would turn over control of NBC Universal to Comcast, General Electric and Comcast have agreed to value the entertainment company at $30 billion, Reuters reported on Sunday, citing a source familiar with the matter. Setting a value on the company is particularly important as the two sides determine exit provisions for GE, which is likely to face continued pressure from shareholders to dispose of its interests in NBC Universal altogether. The report suggested that Vivendi, which holds a 20-percent stake in the entertainment company, had not assented to the valuation, which would set a price of $6 billion on its holdings. That matter, the report said, was "still being discussed." Vivendi is expected to disclose within the next week whether it will agree to sell its stake to GE and thereby clear the way for the joint venture. Today's (Monday) Financial Times said that the Comcast/GE deal could be wrapped up by next Monday.
GOSSIP GIRL PROTEST MAY BACKFIRE
Efforts by the Parents Television Council and other religious and family groups to persuade affiliates of the CW to refuse to carry tonight's (Monday) episode of Gossip Girl have apparently fallen on deaf ears. The Los Angeles Times reported today that not a single affiliate has agreed to drop the episode (nor has any advertiser done so) and that in fact the protest by the PTC will likely have the effect of boosting ratings for the show, which has seen a major decline this season. According to the newspaper the protest has drawn more attention than usual to the episode, which has strongly hinted that it will involve a threesome among major characters. "This story is organic to the characters and it's handled in a responsible way," Dawn Ostroff, the CW's entertainment president, told the Times. Executive producer Josh Schwartz promised more controversial material before the end of the season. "We're not going to pull back," he said. "If anything, we'll be accelerating because we've gotten our footing with these characters being out of high school. The PTC may be writing a lot of letters this year."
SAWYER INTERVIEW DRAWS 8.2 MILLION VIEWERS
Diane Sawyer's interview with Rhianna, in which the pop singer spoke for the first time about being assaulted by her ex-boyfriend, Chris Brown, drew over 8.2 million viewers Friday night, making it the second-highest-rated show of the night, behind NBC's Law & Order, according to Nielsen Research -- a significant achievement for any primetime news program. The strong ratings were also regarded as a good sign that Sawyer will be able to compete effectively against NBC's Brian Williams when the two go head-to-head in the evening news wars early next year.
AMPTP'S CHIEF NEGOTIATOR NICK COUNTER DEAD AT 69
Nick Counter, who served as president of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers for 27 years and negotiated nearly 400 labor contracts with broadcast and film actors, directors, technicians and musicians, died Friday night at a hospital in the West Hills area of Los Angeles at age 69. His family did not disclose the cause of death. During his tenure, Counter, a tough negotiator and a controversial figure, had only twice failed to avert a strike -- in 1988 and 2008 -- when the industry was rocked by walkouts by the Writers Guild of America. In a terse statement on Saturday, the WGA said, "The Writers Guilds of America, West and East mark the passing of Nick Counter ... and convey their deepest sympathy to his family." In a comment appearing on Nikki Finke's "Dateline Hollywood" blog over the weekend, one writer noted that the WGA saw fit to use the word "mark," not the standard "mourn," in its statement. However, Directors Guild of America leaders Gil Cates and Jay Roth praised Counter for his "resolute sense of fair play and an earnest desire that everyone come out a winner." Similar tributes were voiced by the leaders of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.