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June 2006 Archives

Spike Sharpens 'Blade' Campaign

June 26, 2006 12:00 AM

Spike TV's first scripted series, "Blade," will receive the most expensive marketing campaign in the channel's three-year history. The plan includes joining forces with "Blade" production company New Line to take advantage of the distributor's experience promoting feature films. Buying advertising through New Line gained Spike TV some rate discounts to help bombard viewers via print, online and on-air ads. "We're definitely leveraging their power out there," said Dario Spina, senior VP of marketing for Spike. "We want to launch it in a big way. It's analogous to our summer tentpole movie release." The two-hour June 28 premiere will be exclusively sponsored by Alltel and Harley-Davidson, which is providing the title character's new vehicle of choice for vampire hunting.

-James Hibberd

Salma Hayek: Telenovela Star

Executive producers have to work hard to get their pilots picked up to series. For Salma Hayek, one of the executive producers behind ABC's upcoming fall drama "Betty the Ugly," duties included a cameo role in the pilot. The Oscar-nominated Ms. Hayek appears as a passionate nurse, complete with a tight, low-cut blouse, in the "show-within-the-show" Spanish-language soap opera that runs in the background during several scenes. Besides the comedic value of Ms. Hayek's over-the-top acting, her scenes may allude to "Betty's" origins: The pilot is an adaptation of the wildly successful Argentinian telenovela "Betty la Fea." Preparing for the cameo was not a problem for Ms. Hayek, either-she began her acting career on a Mexican telenovela.

-Christopher Lisotta

Katie Taking Time to Listen

Before she makes her Sept. 5 debut as anchor of the "CBS Evening News," Katie Couric is going on a "listening tour" of six cities in which 100 so-called regular folks will be able to talk to her-no press coverage allowed-about what they are interested in seeing on the revamped newscast. Ms. Couric also will headline a charity event in each city; Denver and San Diego were known stops as of last week. CBS News says the tour was Ms. Couric's idea. (It's perhaps worth noting that the news star's outside publicist Matthew Hiltzik helped coordinate a 1999 "listening tour" that helped transform Hillary Clinton from a former first lady into New York's junior senator.) Asked how much a 22-minute broadcast truly could be impacted by feedback gathered on such a tour, "Evening News" executive producer Rome Hartman said: "We are not going to furiously scribble down everything that everybody says and then turn around and remake the newscast in the image of this. But it is a genuine effort to hear people out, and I think we're going to come to the end of it and be able to compare notes and say, 'You know what struck me? There were some really interesting, consistent threads.'" Nor does Mr. Hartman have a problem with the no-press-allowed rule, because "The idea is, 'What can we do to make sure that these are as comfortable and as natural as possible? Where people will really feel they're not performing, they're not on stage, they're not being asked to make sound bites?' If you have cameras and lights, it changes the conversation. … We're not banning anybody. I don't think there's any issue about freedom of the press."

-Michele Greppi

Deadwood Chic

Last week HBO announced a licensing deal for a line of clothing inspired by David Milch's gritty Western drama "Deadwood." Or, put another way, last week HBO announced a line of clothing inspired by a ratings-challenged and recently canceled show that takes place 130 years ago and whose characters sometimes wear tattered garments smeared with mud, blood and horse manure. Western wear retailer Billy Martin's USA Inc. will design the clothing using "some of the Western industry's finest artisans, silversmiths and designers," according to the press release. Billy Martin's will roll out the line in August, just in time for the last episode of the show's final full season.

-James Hibberd

No Experience Possible

Google's been looking for a product manager for interactive TV since at least the end of March. Maybe that's because it is basically looking for someone who has experience doing something that no one has done before. The job posting reads: "As product manager, you will provide leadership on product vision and execution strategies that enhance the user's experience when watching television and using Google's search and advertising technologies." Of course, Google hasn't "officially" penetrated the TV ad market yet-wink, wink-but the job opening is further evidence that Google isn't just interested in organizing TV schedules online.

-Daisy Whitney

There Goes 'Team Couric'

June 19, 2006 12:00 AM

The Katie Couric era is officially under way now at CBS News, where Ms. Couric is to begin her new life as anchor of "CBS Evening News" and contributor to "60 Minutes" this fall. Her team from NBC News, where she was co-anchor of "Today" for 15 years, already is being installed at CBS News. CBS News and Sports President Sean McManus last week announced that Bob Peterson, an award-winning editor and producer and 22-year veteran of NBC News, is now creative director of CBS News. He will oversee the creation of a new and more unified look for all CBS News broadcasts, especially "CBS Evening News With Katie Couric." Mr. Peterson spent 13 years with NBC News in Washington, where Ms. Couric worked before joining "Today." In the past nine years he has been in New York, where he has worked extensively with Ms. Couric on her prime-time specials, "Dateline NBC" contributions and on "Today." Last week also brought an internal written introduction from "Evening News" executive producer Rome Hartman of "four new CBS News colleagues" who are making the switch from NBC News with Ms. Couric. They are producer Lori Beecher, who started at NBC News in 1993 as an associate producer on "NOW With Tom Brokaw and Katie Couric"; longtime "Today" producer Nicolla Hewitt; and producer Matt Lombardi, who started at NBC in 1989 as an intern on "Today"; and last but not least, Lauren Mitchell, Ms. Couric's assistant since 2002. Ms. Hewitt clearly is a glutton for change; she's also getting married in a couple of weeks, Mr. Hartman wrote. -Michele Greppi

When Ozwald Met Miller

When Miller Genuine Draft wanted a more upscale image, it was up to brand strategy firm Conductor to obtain it. Conductor, the company behind Axe cologne's award-winning, male-skewing "Evan and Gareth" Web site, was already in business with production company Reveille on developing an "Evan and Gareth" TV show, and as we know, it's all about being in the right place at the right time. In a meeting with Conductor executives, including President Tom Cotton, Reveille's Ben Silverman spoke enthusiastically about his upcoming Sundance reality series "House of Boateng," which profiles British luxury menswear designer Ozwald Boateng, shown at left, as he brings his line to the U.S. It was then that Mr. Cotton had a "Eureka!" moment: Wed MGD to the high-end Mr. Boateng. "We realized there is this commonality," Mr. Cotton said. Reveille filmed an episode in which Mr. Boateng visits the Miller brewing plant in Milwaukee and later agrees to design a bottle for the beer brand. "It's a very natural marriage," Mr. Cotton said. "House of Boateng" premieres Thursday.

-Christopher Lisotta

'It's A New Day' At 'Today'

It is indeed a new day at "Today," and that fact has been put to music in a new song that is airing on the network as part of promos heralding Meredith Viera's arrival as co-anchor this fall. Dressed especially for the occasion (or a photo op-ya think?) are "It's a New Day" songwriter Greg Barnhill, left, and 615 Music President Randy Wachtler, flanking NBC Agency Senior VP Frank Radice at the 615 Studios in Nashville. Mr. Wachtler was Emmy-nominated for the last tune he produced for the morning show, "Live for Today." -Tom Gilbert

'Shield': Magnet For Directors

"The Shield" showrunner Shawn Ryan landed a publicity and artistic coup a few seasons back when famed writer-director David Mamet offered to direct a third-season episode of the FX cop drama. Now, for 2007's penultimate sixth season, Mr. Ryan's show has attracted another big name: Frank Darabont, the writer-director of "The Shawshank Redemption," "The Green Mile" and the upcoming remake of Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451." Last week Mr. Darabont shot a pivotal episode of the show, of which FX recently ordered a final 13-episode seventh season. But even with heavy-hitting Hollywood screenwriting credentials, figures such as Mr. Darabont and Mr. Mamet are welcome only in the director's chair, FX sources said. The scripts remain the turf of Mr. Ryan and his writing team. -James Hibberd

Networks, Labels Hook Up

With networks diving into the digital media space, some are joining forces with fellow online content providers-record labels-in new cross-promotional partnerships. Last week Cartoon Network's Adult Swim announced it will team with music label Chocolate Industries to create "Chocolate Swim," a free six-song music collection available for download on the network's Web site. Also last week, USA announced a more linear partnership with Virgin Records for the label to be the exclusive provider of music for its advertising and promotions. "We saw this as an opportunity to provide music to our viewers that we, as Adult Swim employees, like," said Jason DeMarco, head of music for Adult Swim. "I can't quite say if it will become a trend. I think USA could only do an exclusive deal with a label the size of Virgin. For us, it was trying to dip our toe in and provide some content for our site." -James Hibberd

Bernsen Helps Trader Parlay Snow Globe Into Acting Gig

June 12, 2006 12:00 AM

Corbin Bernsen, who stars in USA Network's new original series "Psych," debuting July 7, collects snow globes, a hobby he told Blink he picked up while traveling the country to promote his hit '80s series "L.A. Law." And now he stands to be the greatest snow globe collector of all time-thanks to 26-year-old Montreal resident Kyle MacDonald. Mr. MacDonald has become something of an Internet legend for his blog site trading scheme (at oneredpaperclip .blogspot.com), where he began with a single red paperclip and traded it for a pen shaped like a fish. He then traded the pen for something else and after acquiring and then trading various items, including a Coleman stove, he ended up with a KISS snow globe. On Thursday, he officially swapped the snow globe with Mr. Bernsen for a speaking role in the latter's new movie "Donna on Demand." Mr. MacDonald's goal is to eventually trade up for a house, so he now is looking to swap the movie role for something else. In the meantime, Mr. MacDonald is promising an autographed photo of himself and Mr. Bernsen with the KISS globe to all those who send a snow globe to Mr. Bernsen's Van Nuys, Calif., address. So far, Mr. Bernsen says, he has received only one globe, but plenty of room is being made in the storage unit housing his 6,500-strong collection. Stay tuned: Mr. Bernsen and Mr. MacDonald have been taped for an upcoming segment of ABC's "20/20." -Tom Gilbert

Pure and 'Simple' Sense

Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie's much-publicized feud recently hit the one-year mark, but it hasn't stopped their representatives from talking to E! about reuniting them for another round of "The Simple Life," industry sources said. E! snatched up the fourth season of the show after Fox canceled the series in mid-production last year. Some assumed it would mark the final outing for Paris and Nicole, who have not spoken publicly to each other since, according to Ms. Hilton, her ex-friend committed an unspecified offense. The format for "'Til Death Do Us Part" keeps the girls separated for all but the first and final episodes. But E! has a fifth-season option on the show, and the June 4 premiere drew 1.3 million viewers-more than three times E!'s prime-time average-according to Nielsen Media Research. An E! spokesperson said it was "premature" to discuss such matters, and a Bunim-Murray Productions rep had no comment. -James Hibberd

Rich Like `Rockefellar'

Speaking of Corbin Bernsen and "Psych," sometimes even the most basic things are overlooked when networks put together press kits. USA sent out an almost copy-free folder containing DVDs hyping the new series-only to spell the name of its landmark New York address wrong. Granted, "Rockefeller" is a tricky word, but staffers were still shocked to learn the kit went out with the typo. And yes, Blink double-checked the debut date. -Christopher Lisotta

Boys vs. Girls AT TCA Awards

The Television Critics Association is biased toward male nominees and male-skewing shows when it comes to its annual awards, or so says Tom O'Neil, author of the blog Gold Derby, which tracks various entertainment award lists. "Their kudos, over all, are drowning in testosterone," Mr. O'Neil wrote in a June 4 posting, pointing out that out of the 20 lifetime achievement awards that the 200-plus-member TCA (which he mistakenly called the Television Critics of America) has given out over the past two decades, only two women-Lucille Ball and Angela Lansbury-have received the award. The gender-neutral TCA categories are also dominated by men, usually with only one female nominee per category, Mr. O'Neil wrote. Dave Walker, the TCA's VP, said the awards "are one of the most democratic award processes there can be, which is not to say it is perfect in every category, every year." But for Mr. Walker, the TCA Awards' record of picking quality shows and performers speaks for itself. "I don't think there is any arguing that it honors the best of television," he said. The 22nd Annual TCA Awards will be presented July 23 in Pasadena, Calif. -Christopher Lisotta

Versus Puts Up Its Dukes

First a name change, then the NHL, then Arena Football and then another name change. So what's next for Outdoor ... um ... OLN ... er ... the Versus network? Boxing. Sources said OLN, which flips the switch to become Versus in September, is in final negotiations for a weekly boxing series. Further details are not yet available, but the move would give OLN one of the few basic cable boxing shows at a time when several networks are rushing to add mixed-martial-arts fighting to their slates. -James Hibberd

How Do You Like Them Cookies?

June 5, 2006 12:00 AM

Gearing up for the June 4 launch of "The Simple Life-'Til Death Do Us Part," E!'s promotional push has included designing a "Simple Life"-themed house in Atlanta complete with a wrecked kitchen and pink facade. "We wanted to do something that reinforced the idea that Paris [Hilton] and Nicole [Richie] are taking over the suburbs," said Suzanne Kolb, senior VP of marketing for E! The network will also sponsor a Bling Your Dog contest at the house and is sending "Good Luck, Bitch" cookies to media outlets. In this fourth and final installment of the show, ex-best friends Ms. Hilton and Ms. Richie travel the country filling in for a variety of suburban moms.

-James Hibberd

Inside the Women's Locker Room

Andrea Berry, Janice Casazza, Sandy Gong and Cathy Perow are among the "coaches" Fox Sports wants on its team. The network has set up a new program, Women Working in Sports, that will let some of the few women in the sports business act as mentors to female newcomers at the network, sharing their insights from working in locker rooms, control rooms and broadcast boosts. Ms. Berry is Fox Sports' senior VP of broadcast and field operations, Ms. Casazza is senior producer and Ms. Gong is senior VP of finance. Ms. Perow is VP of production for FSN/Fox Sports Graphics. The initiative kicks off with a party this week in Los Angeles. "While there's been much positive change, we still have a long way to go," said Tony Vinciquerra, president and CEO of Fox Networks Group, who is implementing the program with Senior VP of Human Resources Adrienne Gary. The initiative "will give young women the opportunity to meet, work with and become inspired by other female executives who have chosen sports as a career," Mr. Vinciquerra said. 

-Jon Lafayette

Here's the Online 'Deal'

NBC's "Deal or No Deal" has been a hit with viewers since it debuted on TV in December, but who knew it also would become an interactive hit with game players? Since the show premiered, viewers have made more than 57 million entries via cellphone and the Internet playing the "Lucky Case Game," which allows them to select among six special briefcases held by "Deal" models during a given episode. Viewers who choose the one lucky case are entered into a random drawing for cash prizes. So far, $1 million in prizes has been given away in the promotion. Since "Deal" junkies will have to do without the show over the summer-it will be back on NBC on Mondays and Thursdays in the fall-the show's producer, Endemol USA, has taken its online ventures one step further: An online "Deal or No Deal" game that more closely mimics the TV show, offered in conjunction with Web site King.com. Timed to launch with "Deal's" season finale June 5, the online version of "Deal" gives users a chance to share in a $30,000 tournament prize.

-Christopher Lisotta