TelevisionWeek's Blink page is an industry must-read, taking a sardonic look at happenings across the television business. This wry coverage is extended online and updated throughout the week.



August 2005 Archives

Goodbye, Glasses . . . Hello, Hugs

August 29, 2005 12:00 AM

Bill Hemmer, after 10 years at CNN, joins the Fox News Channel today as an anchor and occasional correspondent. If he looks a bit different, it's because on CNN Mr. Hemmer usually wore glasses. After he left CNN June 17, he had LASIK surgery and now will appear without eyeglasses for the first time in a decade. Mr. Hemmer said he was immediately made to feel welcome at his new home. "They don't greet you here with handshakes. They greet you here with hugs," he said, adding that he got his first hug from Fox News and Fox Television Stations Chairman Roger Ailes. "This was during an editorial meeting," Mr. Hemmer said, adding that he was greeted in a similar fashion by correspondent Geraldo Rivera, judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano and "Fox & Friends'" Steve Doocy, who helped kick Mr. Hemmer's ratings butt by some 372,000 viewers per show when Mr. Hemmer was Soledad O'Brien's co-anchor on CNN's "American Morning." Mr. Hemmer said his Fox show is still undergoing fine-tuning, but he expects it to be fast-paced. "The whole mind-set of cable news viewers is that they are a quick and fickle bunch," he explained. "They want their information now. Don't make 'em wait, because they're going to find it somewhere else and fast-and on their own time, not on your time."-MICHELE GREPPI

Get Your Phil This Week

"Dr. Phil" fans in Los Angeles may want to tape some shows to rewatch during the first week of September. That's because "Dr. Phil" is moving from the NBC affiliate to the CBS station this fall. The last episode on KNBC-TV airs Sept. 2, but the new season won't begin on KCBS-TV until Sept. 12. KNBC will run "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" in "Dr. Phil's" old time slot starting Sept. 5. For those who just can't get enough, KCBS is expected to run several "news" items on Phil McGraw the week before he officially joins the lineup and give the new addition a major promo push. And if you really love Dr. Phil, beginning a week later you can rewatch his show when each episode repeats on KCBS sister station KCAL-TV in early evening. -CHRISTOPHER LISOTTA

The Scare Threshold

Networks try to come up with promotions for their new series that reflect the tone of the show. For its new science-fiction thriller "Threshold," CBS is relying on mystery-and a little fear-to help sell the Friday night drama. A few weeks ago the network sent out small envelopes marked "Confidential," with a hastily scribbled mailing address and no return address. In these troubled times, Blink thought twice about handling the envelope, which held nothing more than a puzzle piece. Three more mysterious envelopes followed to complete the puzzle, which touted "Threshold." According to a network spokeswoman, "Threshold" executive producers Brannon Braga and David Goyer first pitched the series using the analogy of a puzzle, which CBS incorporated into the show's marketing. The response has been mixed. "We got a lot of people saying, 'That was really clever,'" the spokeswoman said. "A couple people called and said, 'I made my assistant open it first.'" -CHRISTOPHER LISOTTA

Nickelodeon Phones Home for 'Diego' Promo

August 22, 2005 12:00 AM

In a first, Nickelodeon is using a branded phone card as part of a big marketing blitz behind its first prime-time preschool premiere this year, "Go Diego Go," which premieres Sept. 16. The phone card promotion demonstrates the network's need to find "unusual and unique" ways to reach the audience, said Karen Driscoll, VP of brand marketing for Nickelodeon. On Aug. 23 the network plans to begin distributing in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley about 25,000 phone cards geared to Hispanics. When Mom or Dad uses the card, Ms. Driscoll said, a tune-in message for the show's premiere will be heard. "It was a way to deepen the connection with the Hispanic audience," she said. The show is a spinoff from Nickelodeon's preschool hit "Dora the Explorer" and stars the bilingual animal adventurer Diego. Nickelodeon will also market the show on radio in the top five Hispanic markets. There will also be ads in Hispanic publications; a poster featuring Diego along with animal and rainforest facts to be distributed at zoos, aquariums and schools; and a sneak peek on broadband, video-on-demand and Verizon's V Cast service. -DAISY WHITNEY

The Real Deal

When an investigation heats up on Court TV's new show "Parco, P.I.," real-life detective Vinnie Parco and his family will be reaching for Coca-Cola's Dasani brand water and other Coke products to cool off. Under the seven-figure product placement deal, Coke products will appear in all 12 episodes of "Parco, P.I." Dasani will also be a sponsor of "Vinnie Picks Week," a stunt leading up to the "Parco" episode in which Mr. Parco will introduce his favorite episodes of other Court TV shows. Dasani and another sponsor, ConAgra's Homestyle Bakes meals, will also be featured in tune-in ads on TV and online and in print, vignettes and a sweepstakes. "Parco, P.I." is the first show to debut under Court TV's "Seriously Entertaining" banner. "We've had product placement before, but this is more significant because it's in a new tentpole show for us," said Susan Malfa, Court TV's senior VP of ad sales. Mr. Parco won't use a bottle to bring down a suspect. But Ms. Malfa said he will enjoy Dasani at his desk or over a meal with his family. -JON LAFAYETTE

Execs on Move

It must be tough to be a cable ad sales executive at broadcast-dominated NBC Universal. Mike Tedone, NBC Universal Cable's top ad sales executive during part of this year's upfront, has departed to join his old NBCU boss Jeff Lucas at Viacom's Comedy Central. Like Mr. Lucas, Mr. Tedone left NBC to work at Universal Television, only to wind up back at Rockefeller Center when NBC acquired Universal last year. After Mr. Lucas left, NBCU named former station group sales executive Mark Miller, rather than someone with a strong cable background, to the top job at NBC Universal Cable Entertainment Sales. Meanwhile, Hannah Gryncwajg, who left as head of ad sales at Bravo in April after NBCU consolidated its cable ad sales operations, has rejoined Rainbow Media as a senior VP in its ad sales team under Arlene Manos. -JON LAFAYETTE

Will ESPN Blink After Comcast Makes Play for NHL?

August 15, 2005 12:00 AM

The puck is in ESPN's court this week as it ponders whether or not to match Comcast's $100 million, two-year offer for the rights to carry National Hockey League contests on cable. ESPN executives have referred to the NHL as a "damaged" property after the extended lockout that iced the 2004-05 season. That view is reflected in the fact that the price Comcast has teed up is lower than the $60 million-per-year option ESPN did not pick up, which is what let Comcast into the rink in the first place. Comcast plans to put the NHL on its OLN network, even though professional hockey is rarely an outdoor sport. (Think Lance Armstrong would look good in skates?) And while Comcast CEO Brian Roberts has scoffed at suggestions that the cable company would use the NHL as a building block to create its own big-time sports network, the notion of NHL games and NFL games on OLN might be enough to convince ESPN to plunk down cold hard cash. -JON LAFAYETTE

The Answer Is 'Jeopardy!'

Answer: "Jeopardy!" Question: What game show swept the Game Show Congress' first-ever awards for outstanding achievements in the genre? King World's syndie stalwart is being recognized by the group this weekend in no fewer than five categories: best traditional game show, game show of the year, outstanding performance by a runner-up, producer of the year (Harry Friedman) and, of course, contestant of the year-the phenomenal Ken Jennings. The nonprofit Game Show Congress, dedicated to promoting the game and quiz biz, is holding the powwow-its fourth annual-Friday through Sunday in Glendale, Calif. Aside from bringing together game show producers, hosts, former contestants, wannabe contestants and just plain fans, GSC is out to raise funds for a game-show-glorifying library and museum to be built in-where else?-Truth or Consequences, N.M. The congress is honoring longtime game show hosts (and brothers) Jack Narz ("Dotto," "Concentration") and Tom Kennedy ("You Don't Say!" "Name That Tune") with Bill Cullen career achievement awards. The legendary Monty Hall ("Let's Make a Deal") will be recognized with the Ralph Edwards Award for career community service. For info: www.gameshowcongress.com. -TOM GILBERT

'Scene' Setters

The three "CSI" incarnations are all top-rated prime-time series. When it came time to promote them for Emmy consideration, however, the key was to determine how the shows differ. It was the job of the YesDesignGroup of Los Angeles to differentiate them for Emmy voters. "We try to treat them equal, but not the same," said Lori Posner, president of YDG, a marketing, branding and design firm that helmed nine "For your consideration" Emmy campaigns this year and garnered 15 nominations, including four for "CSI." To separate the procedurals YDG highlighted the distinct moods of the "CSI" cities on DVD mailer packaging: the noir Las Vegas setting of "CSI"; the South Beach hipness of "CSI: Miami"; and the city-as-character idea of "CSI: NY." The packaging for "CSI" is a cube printed with neon-colored words, such as "decipher" and "analyze," that unfolds to reveal two discs and a strip of crime scene tape. "CSI: Miami's" package includes a series of sleek white cards, each featuring a word taken from a review of the show. "CSI: NY's" box unfolds vertically to reveal a gritty cityscape. "[YDG] has a lot of fun, but the Emmy packaging is very serious business and we treat it that way," Ms. Posner said. "It's interesting to work on a franchise that has to have brand consistency and yet really convey specific and different messages."-NATALIE FINN

Don't Get Anything in Your Eye

August 8, 2005 12:00 AM

To prepare for his role as Col. Tom Parker in the CBS miniseries "Elvis," Randy Quaid worked with a dialect coach to perfect Col. Parker's combination Dutch-Southern accent and immersed himself in biographies of the man who held sway over Elvis Presley's career. "They had a very complex relationship, almost like [Elvis] made a deal with the devil," Mr. Quaid said. "It was father-son and love-hate." His efforts paid off with Mr. Quaid's third Emmy nomination, for best supporting actor in a miniseries or movie. The Emmy nom is his first since 1987's "LBJ: The Early Years"; he was also nominated for 1984's "A Streetcar Named Desire." Mr. Quaid is one of Hollywood's busiest actors. He has upcoming roles in three feature films and the CBS disaster miniseries "Stage 7: End of the World," scheduled to air in November, which is a sequel to last year's "Stage 6: Day of Destruction." He said he's had fun making big disaster epics. Even though they involve a lot of standing around and pretending against a blue screen, he said, "It's something you can't improvise" because of the exacting special effects. "You have to talk to the director a lot," he said. Then, "They turn the fans on and you hope you don't get anything in your eye." -NATALIE FINN

Brand Extenders

E! Entertainment Television has been revamping many of its offerings. Now it is also moving into brand spinoffs for the retail market. The network is introducing four show "extensions" this month: "The E! True Hollywood Story Book" and a bonus DVD, an "E! True Hollywood Story" daily calendar with celebrity facts, the "101 Reasons Why the '90s Ruled" book and a DVD celebrity trivia game called Pop-a-razzi. The products are based on the network's signature shows, "The E! True Hollywood Story" and its "101 Entertainment Countdown Series." E! is working on its next installment of merchandise for the holiday season and also intends to develop Style network-branded consumer products. "We really hope there is a drive and desire for people to have fun along with us outside of watching the shows," said Stephen Earley, VP of marketing solutions at E! Networks. And if you want to know why the 1990s ruled, according to E! the answer is "Seinfeld." -DAISY WHITNEY

Adopting Investors

Public television stations have always relied on financial support from viewers, but Boston's WGBH-TV is taking its search for viewer support to the next level. The station has launched the Web site adoptionfilm.org in the hopes of getting funds for a proposed documentary with the working title "Adoption: American Revolution." WGBH has secured partial funding for "Adoption" but has to have additional funding in place by the end of 2005, which prompted the Web site and a call to all interested viewers to "invest" in the project. Blink isn't sure what the tangible return on the investment will be for viewers, but the satisfaction of helping fund a documentary that looks at the impact of adoption in America is surely priceless. -CHRISTOPHER LISOTTA

He Doesn't Want the 9-to-5 Grind

August 1, 2005 12:00 AM

Rock star Jon Bon Jovi, who has appeared as an actor in a number of movies, was featured in nine episodes of the series "Ally McBeal" in 2002. Last week he also showed up at the CTAM conference in Philly, not far from his home in New Jersey, to lecture cable execs on how to reinvent themselves. Afterward, he said his own reinvention won't include more emoting for the small screen. The platinum-selling artist declared that acting on TV is "too similar to a day job." He will continue working in movies, while his real passions are personal philanthropy and his arena football team, the Philadelphia Soul. In a sign that the rock star hasn't abandoned TV entirely-and that he knows his audience-Mr. Bon Jovi said he's keen to take advantage of cable's push into high-definition television by having some of his concert performances shot in HD to be televised on cable. -JAY SHERMAN

Waiting for the Big Dog

It's one thing to talk about enhancing measurement data to determine how much an ad engages consumers, and quite another to write a check for it. Procter & Gamble says it's still high on Project Apollo, which is designed to do just that, but so far hasn't actually signed up as a client.

The joint venture plans to use Arbitron's Portable People Meters and AC Nielsen's Homescan to figure out whether consumers buy products after seeing ads. TV executives grumble that while P&G pushed to get other marketers and media organizations involved, it hasn't yet put its money where its mouth is, leading to the possibility the sun will set on the expensive project. Arbitron wouldn't comment on whether it has signed any subscribers, but says it's on track for a pilot panel by the end of the year.

"We're confident we'll have subscribers by the time we have that up and running," a spokesman said. As for P&G, a spokesperson said the company has every intention of signing up for the pilot, but getting the paperwork done is taking time. "This will be great for the industry in general, the P&G spokesperson said. "We think the benefits outweigh the costs." -JON LAFAYETTE

Mark of Distinction

In 1906 Mark Twain addressed an Associated Press convention in New York, declaring: "There are only two forces that can carry light to all the corners of the globe-only two. The sun in the heavens and the Associated Press down here." That quote has inspired the AP Television-Radio Association of California & Nevada to rename its annual honors the Mark Twain Awards as part of a complete revamp of the image, operation and judging of the annual contest, said APTRA President Hal Eisner, who is also a producer for KCOP-TV in L.A. "Trophies shouldn't just be a resume item," Mr. Eisner said. "They should be something you cherish, are proud of and would really like to have." The old trophy, an abstract glass statuette, is being replaced by an 11%BD;-inch pewter-finished bust of Mr. Twain on a black marble base. Voting will now be done by journalists across the country. APTRA also announced that it will present a Twain Award for special achievement to Peter Shaplen, a veteran TV news producer who managed the media pool feeds at both the Scott Peterson trial in Redwood City, Calif., and the Michael Jackson trial in Santa Maria, Calif.

"Instead of there being 10 or, ultimately, 860 credentialed journalists with discordant voices," Mr. Shaplen said, "there was a pool voice that represented everyone and never precluded anyone." The awards will be presented next March. -NATALIE FINN