CBS ONLY IN "SECOND INNING" WITH COURIC
On the one-year anniversary of Katie Couric's ascension to the anchor's desk on the CBS Evening News,CBS News chief Sean McManus has indicated that there will be many more anniversaries -- regardless of how well Couric performs in the ratings. "I look at us right now being in the top of the second inning at the latest," McManus told the Hollywood Reporter. "This is a long, long process, and I'm extremely pleased at the quality of our show. I put our show up against any national newscast. I'm very proud of it." McManus acknowledged that he was disappointed with the ratings slide since Couric came aboard, but, he insisted, We have the right show, the right anchor, the right team in place. ... I don't think anyone is hanging their head discouraged or saying this is a disaster."
NBC DROPS ITUNES; TAKES UP WITH AMAZON
NBC, which has said that it will yank its television shows off Apple's iTunes Music Store at the end of the year, announced Monday that it would begin selling them immediately on Amazon's Unbox website (www.unbox.amazon.com). NBC said that it will offer a variety of packages but did not disclose pricing, except to say that an entire season of any series will be available at a 30-percent discount. While Apple has said it will not include any of NBC's new programming on the iTunes site, Amazon said Tuesday that pilot episodes of such new shows as Bionic Woman, Chuck, Journeyman, and Life can now be viewed for free and that new episodes will be available on the Amazon site the day after they air.
CBS ANNOUNCES STOCK BUYBACK, INCREASED DIVIDEND
CBS on Tuesday boosted its quarterly dividend 14 percent to 25 cents and said it would buy back $1.6 billion worth of its stock. The move was seen as an effort by the media giant to move the company's stock out of its current rut. In January 2006, Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone split the company into two separate entities, CBS Corp. and Viacom, in the hopes of uncovering their true value. For a time, CBS shares did indeed rise in value, but it has been flat since the beginning of this year. Yesterday's news of the buyback and dividend increase didn't change matters. CBS shares closed unchanged Tuesday at $31.50.
GERALDO SURVEYS FOX'S DEN
Geraldo Rivera clearly has mixed feelings about his co-workers at Fox News. Of Bill O'Reilly, with whom he famously clashed over the immigration issue, he told the Boston Globe: "O'Reilly came from the same blue-collar, public-school background that I did. I get him. ... And he's good. There's no such thing as a longtime successful accident." He also expressed admiration for Fox News chief Roger Ailes, saying that he respects Ailes, even if he doesn't always agree with him. However, he called Fox commentator Michelle Malkin, "the most vile, hateful commentator I've ever met in my life. ... It's good she's in D.C. and I'm in New York. ... I'd spit on her if I saw her."
LIBERAL FILMMAKER OLIVER STONE SUPPORTS CONSERVATIVE FILMMAKER
Liberal filmmaker Oliver Stone has expressed anger over the decision by ABC not to release on DVD a controversial miniseries, The Path to 9/11, which was condemned by fellow liberals as right-wing propaganda directed at the Clinton administration's allegedly feeble efforts to capture Osama bin Laden. "This is a shame; it's censorship in the most blatant way," Stone told today's (Wednesday) Los Angeles Times. "I'm not vouching for its accuracy -- it's a dramatization -- but it's an important work and needs to be seen." When the $40-million TV series was released last year, critics pointed to the earlier critical writings of its conservative producer, Cyrus Nowrasteh, who intimated that supporters of Senator Hillary Clinton may be behind ABC's decision to shelve the DVD release of the Emmy-nominated miniseries. "Whatever anyone may think about me or this movie, this is a bad precedent, a dangerous precedent, to allow a movie to be buried," he told the Times. An ABC spokesperson said only that the company "has no release date at this time" for the DVD.
EMPTY SEATS FOR IDOL CONCERT TOUR
The American Idols Live Tour, a solid road-show attraction in previous years, is playing to many empty seats this year, with not a single sold-out performance during the first 30 of the 57 shows scheduled, USA Today reported today (Wednesday), citing figures from Billboard magazine. According to the report, 14 percent of the shows were below 60 percent capacity, with the lowest in Birmingham, AL where only 38.9 percent of the seats were filled. A lack of sufficiently compelling talent was being blamed for slow ticket sales, but at least two experts cited a hefty boost in ticket prices to an average $60.45 for the current tour. The figure is 13 percent above last year's and a whopping 35.9 percent above 2005's.
BRITISH P.M. FAVORS CRACKDOWN ON VIOLENCE, SEX ON TV, INTERNET
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has indicated that his government plans to tighten restrictions on television programming before the 9:00 p.m. "watershed" hour and to launch a "review" to examine "routine violence" on children's programs and pornographic and violent content on the Internet, television, and in commercials. At a news conference, Brown said that the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport will join in a study to examine "the malign influences that are trying to operate through" television and the Internet.