BRICKBATS FLY ON EVE OF STRIKE DEADLINE

Suggesting that the march to the picket lines remains unretarded, two major studios warned contract writers that they may be subject to legal action if they comply with demands by the WGA to submit to the guild all unproduced material that they have written for their companies. Universal and New Line sent out their letters individually, but it's expected that other studios that are members of the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers will follow suit. Universal said that it would regard such disclosure to the guild as "misappropriation of corporate property;" New Line, as "a breach of your writing agreement." However, a WGA attorney said Monday that the WGA instituted a similar strike rule during the 1988 WGA strike, without objection from the studios. Meanwhile, the secretary-treasurer of Hollywood Teamsters Local 399 said that while the union can not stage a sympathy strike with the WGA, individual members can legitimately choose not to cross picket lines. Local secretary-treasurer Leo Reed said in a message to members, "As for me as an individual, I will not cross any picket line whether it is sanctioned or not because I firmly believe that Teamsters do not cross picket lines."

ZUCKER BITES APPLE

NBC Universal President and CEO Jeff Zucker took another swipe at Apple and its iTunes Store Monday, saying that they are preventing media companies from selling online content at profitable rates. "We know that Apple has destroyed the music business - in terms of pricing -- and if we don't take control, they'll do the same thing on the video side," Zucker maintained. NBC recently pulled its shows off the iTunes store, and on Monday made most of them available on Hulu, a website it is creating with Fox. He disclosed that although NBC programs accounted for 40 percent of the video sold on the iTunes site, the company had only earned about $15 million from the service. Although Hulu received much applause from analysts and online critics Monday, Hulu's own feedback page quickly filled up with angry complaints from users. Many were upset that the site's "streaming" content could not be uploaded onto their video iPods or iPhones and similar devices. Others complained that Hulu shows and movies could not be viewed overseas. Several remarked that they now intend to download NBC shows illegally, noting that they had willingly been paying for them on iTunes in the past. "You guys are pretty stupid," one writer concluded.

G.E. WON'T SELL NBC, ZUCKER INSISTS

NBC Universal chief Jeff Zucker attempted to knock down persistent rumors that parent General Electric is likely to sell NBC after the Summer 2008 Olympics. Zucker said that it would make little sense for GE to do so, given the company's strong growth recently and the likelihood that it would only accelerate in the months ahead. Speaking at a New York event arranged by Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Zucker also indicated that there are no changes in the network's plans to replace Jay Leno with Conan O'Brien on the Tonight show in 2009. He said that he hopes Leno will also remain with the network. "We are in those conversations now," he said, adding that he is "hopeful that Jay will be with us."

FCC MAY BAR EXCLUSIVE CABLE DEALS WITH APARTMENTS

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin is pushing to end exclusive contracts between cable providers and apartment-building owners. "People who live in apartment buildings deserve to have the same type of competition and choices as people who live in suburbs," Martin told today's (Tuesday) Los Angeles Times. "I'm optimistic that if you have additional competition, you'll have lower prices." But cable providers contend that they have invested millions of dollars to wire apartment buildings on the condition that they receive exclusive contracts. And the newspaper quoted representatives from some minority organizations as worrying that barring exclusive deals would result in some cable companies pulling out of low-income areas altogether.

HIGH DEFINITION COMES TO THE COMPUTER

Saying that "HD [high definition] on the Internet is not imminent: It has arrived," Akamai Technologies has launched TheHdWeb.com, to demonstrate its new system to deliver high-definition video to consumers reliably. Akamai indicated that its high-definition technology requires distribution by servers deployed within the networks of broadband providers so that the HD signal can be close to the end-user.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.