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January 2007 Archives

More `Extra' for NBCU Station Group

January 29, 2007 12:00 AM

The NBC Universal-owned station group has picked up three more years of entertainment newsmagazine show "Extra," eliminating a potential programming hole in the stations' all-important prime access hour.

"Extra" producer Telepictures Productions has also renewed deals with "Extra" co-hosts Dayna Devon and Mark McGrath, as well as senior executive producer Lisa Gregorisch-Dempsey.

"We're thrilled to have Dayna Devon and Mark McGrath in place as the on-air leaders of `Extra' going forward, under the leadership of Lisa Gregorisch-Dempsey," said Telepictures President Hilary Estey McLoughlin. "In her seven years with the program, Dayna has established herself as one of the best interviewers and anchors in the entertainment news business. Mark has proven to be incredibly versatile, easily making the transformation from rock star to entertainment anchor."

So far this season, "Extra" is pulling a 2.2 rating, down a modest 4 percent from the 2.3 it had been averaging through the same point in the 2005-06 season.

The long-running half-hour newsmagazine is now sold in 95 percent of the country through the 2009-10 season. The deal with the NBC Universal owned-and-operated stations includes WNBC-TV in New York, KNBC-TV in Los Angeles and WMAQ-TV in Chicago. Additionally, the series has been renewed on the NBC television stations in Philadelphia (WCAU-TV), San Francisco/San Jose (KNTV), Dallas (KXAS-TV), Miami (WTVJ-TV) and Hartford, Conn. (WVIT-TV).

"For more than a dozen years, `Extra' has consistently provided first-rate entertainment journalism and compelling stories, along with impressive ratings," said Ken Werner, president of Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution, which syndicates the program.

The pending expiration of the current contract between "Extra" and the NBC Universal-owned station group had prompted widespread speculation throughout the syndication industry that NBC Universal would produce a half-hour of its own programming to pair with "Access Hollywood." The new deal, of course, would remove any likelihood of that happening until the next decade.

-Chris Pursell

The Swag Report

Item: Medieval Pen

Company: The History Channel

Promoting: The two-hour special "The Dark Ages" on March 4

Comment: Behold ye History Channel pen! Surely this noble wand will increase your penmanship rating by three points (but possibly cost you a few charisma points among your co-workers).

Alternate use: The pointy metal knight's head makes for a decent back scratcher, though Sir Blink wishes its reach were longer.

-James Hibberd

Prince vs. Five Drag Queens

Forget Prince. Howard Stern knows what guys want to see during the Super Bowl halftime. Subscribers to Howard TV on Demand will be able to watch "The Stupid Bowl III: The Boys vs. the Girls." The game pits five "Howard Stern Show" staffers and wack-packers against a group of drag queens, raising the eternal question: How fast can someone run in a pair of leather boots with six-inch stiletto heels? Blink fears the answer to that question might be unintelligible because the color commentator for the game will be Stern regular Crackhead Bob, whose predilection for the rock left him verbally impaired. And if all that isn't exciting enough, four Penthouse Pets will serve as cheerleaders.

-Jon Lafayette

Sony: The Floor or the Suite Life?

January 22, 2007 12:00 AM

Boasting among the plushest carpets and some of the finest food on the NATPE floor, Sony Pictures Television has long been a staunch supporter of the organization, with both company President Steve Mosko and President of Distribution John Weiser having served as chairmen of the organization. Sony was one of the few major studio distributors to remain on the conference floor when other syndicators defected to cheaper hotel suites for the industry's biggest rendezvous.

Needless to say, Blink blinked when it heard rumors flying during the convention that Sony could be pulling off of the floor and taking suites at next year's convention of the National Association of Television Program Executives. Mr. Weiser acknowledged that it is a possibility.

"This year's NATPE was absolutely terrific for us," said Mr. Weiser. "We had high foot traffic and packed schedules throughout our time here. But as we move forward, we are considering all the possibilities in terms of what is best for us. That includes what's best from a business standpoint as well as from a financial standpoint, and we will make a decision based on that."

Multiple sources from the major syndicators say the floor-versus-suite decision is driven by some pretty clear numbers: A booth can cost around $1 million or more, while a syndicator can get suites in the six-digit neighborhood. Benefits of staying on the NATPE floor include more foot traffic and visibility for an exhibitor, whereas suites are typically better suited for planned meetings.

NATPE President and CEO Rick Feldman wasn't available for comment Friday afternoon.

After Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution's Dick Robertson led syndicators including his own company, Twentieth Television and Buena Vista away from the floor and into nearby hotel suites in 2002, divisions quickly surfaced among distributors. Sony, CBS Television, and NBC Universal are among the major distributors that have been on the floor in recent years.

-Chris Pursell

CNN's Cooper Coup

CNN is feeling like the all-good-news network. Anderson Cooper has signed a new multiyear contract to stay at his home of the past five years into the next decade. Mr. Cooper has won or played a role in every major journalism award taken home by CNN in the past year: a DuPont-Columbia Award for tsunami coverage, a Peabody for Katrina coverage, not to mention two news Emmys and a business news Emmy for "360." Mr. Cooper's new contract will allow him to continue contributing a handful of stories per season to CBS News magazine "60 Minutes." The new contract also reportedly doubles Mr. Cooper's CNN salary to $4 million. Like "CBS Evening News" anchor Katie Couric, Mr. Cooper's show doesn't win its time slot but he earns his increased pay by improving its demographics. Some who may not be happy with Mr. Cooper's deal: The CBS News executives who had hopes of wooing him full time to the broadcast network, which is once again hoping to improve "The Early Show's" third-place position. The network had been eyeing Mr. Cooper and "Weekend Today" co-anchor Campbell Brown, who is well-regarded at NBC News. -Michele Greppi

Colbert vs. O'Reilly

In addition to inspiration, Steven Colbert drew about a half-million extra viewers last Thursday when Bill O'Reilly appeared on Comedy Central's "Colbert Report" for a record-setting episode. Mr. O'Reilly, the Fox News star, was returning a favor to Mr. Colbert, who appeared on Fox News earlier that night, pushing up viewership of "The O'Reilly Factor" by almost a million viewers. With tongue apparently in cheek, Mr. Colbert spent the segment complimenting the man he says he emulates. (If you imitate someone you owe them a royalty check, if you emulate them, you don't, he explained.) They took turns taking shots at Jon Stewart and Brian Williams, darlings of "left wing" critics. Those critics also love Mr. Colbert, but "They hate me," Mr. O'Reilly said. All in all, Mr. O'Reilly proved to be the bigger man, admitting an error in judgment: "This was a huge mistake, me coming on here," he told Mr. Colbert. -Jon Lafayette

Heating Up HBO's Globes Party

There was a record number of on-site Golden Globe Awards after-parties this year at the Beverly Hilton and at an adjacent Robinsons department store. HBO, Warner Bros., NBC Universal, 20th Century Fox, DreamWorks, Paramount and the Weinstein Co. all threw bashes, backing up traffic in every direction and causing logjams of media executives, celebrities, celebrity hangers-on and journalists in formal wear waiting for shuttle buses and elevators. For most partygoers, the biggest draw wasn't celebrities, but heat lamps. Due to cold weather, the indoor parties and warm tents were jammed. At the HBO event at the Beverly Hilton pool, the crowd crammed into the enclosed portion to avoid the chill. The hottest ticket was upstairs, however, where Prince performed, providing some heat. -James Hibberd

Steve Wilkos Jumping Off Springerboard

January 15, 2007 12:00 AM

Talk about development hell.

NBC Universal is finally set to sell a talk show hosted by "Jerry Springer" bodyguard Steve Wilkos to the Tribune and Sinclair station groups, a full 31/2 years after the project was first pitched, according to sources close to the deal.

The deal will finish "The Greg Behrendt Show's" run on Tribune, likely signaling a cancellation for the freshman series at the end of the season. An announcement regarding the agreement between Tribune and NBC Universal could come Wednesday at the National Association of Television Program Executives convention. The station groups are also expected to announce renewals for "The Jerry Springer Show" with NBC Universal, with the two series being eyed as companion shows on daytime lineups.

Blink fondly remembers when news of the Mr. Wilkos development deal broke-not last week, but in 2003, before Universal merged with NBC. Blink reported that Mr. Wilkos was developing a strip aimed at expanding "Springer's" audiences, but stations at the time were uninterested and the project fell by the wayside.

Flash forward to 2006, when a perfect storm opened the way for the Wilkos series to move forward. "Springer's" deal with the station group was up for renewal, and his public profile was hitting a new peak after he appeared on "Dancing With the Stars." Mr. Springer also inked a deal with VH1 for an unscripted series that will go behind the scenes of his daytime show.

Enter Mr. Wilkos. Tribune and Sinclair had been searching for a series to bolster troubled time periods on their stations. After seeing Mr. Wilkos fill in for Mr. Springer this past season, station group executives decided to pick up the show.

"The Tribune stations have had enormous success with counterprogramming daytime shows with `Springer' and `Maury,"' said Bill Carroll, VP and director of programming for Katz Media. "Given the fact that Steven Wilkos has been filling in for Jerry, the audience is already prepared to see him hosting a show." An NBC Universal spokesman declined to comment about the series.

-Chris Pursell

J. Lo-Maintenance?

Jennifer Lopez is famous for, among many things, diva-like demands when making public appearances. For her showings at the Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour in Pasadena in support of MTV's new reality series "Dance Life," the network was ready. MTV reserved for Ms. Lo the Ritz Carlton's "Tournament of Roses Suite," a two-story, $3,000-per-night accommodation complete with spiral staircase and a baby grand piano. Blink applauds MTV's thoughtfulness. Ms. Lo, however, did not avail herself of the fancy digs. Never ones to let money go to waste, the MTV Networks team descended on the suite and had a private party in Ms. Lo's room. The busman's holiday created a favorable impression of Ms. Lo, who has earned a reputation for fearsomeness in the past. One source said Ms. Lo was "low maintenance," in a "good mood" and "extremely professional."

-James Hibberd

The Hef Hosts The Donald

"The Apprentice" and "The Adam Carolla Show" are hooking up to host a party at the Playboy Mansion Thursday. You're not invited, unless you've won one of the 40 invitations for two given out on Mr. Carolla's radio show ... or unless you're a member of the team that won last night's task on "The Apprentice": designing swimwear for clothing designer Trina Turk ... or unless you're one of the leggy lovelies modeling Trina Turk swimwear at the mansion ... or unless you're Trump clan members Donald Jr., Ivanka and Melania, and, of course, The Donald (who will be making an appearance for NBC's Television Critics Association day) ... or unless you are among the former "Apprenti," including the infamous Omarosa Manigualt Stallworth ... or-well, you get the idea: everybody who's anybody "Apprentice"-related. What about "The View's" Rosie O'Donnell, whose feud with Mr. Trump got publicity for both shows? "It would be rude not to offer an invitation to Rosie," said Vince Manze, president and creative director of The NBC Agency. "And I guess Barbara as well." -Michele Greppi

The Other Sporty Spice

Television executives are hoping they'll enjoy the same kind of kick gossip rags get from soccer star David Beckham and his Spice Girl wife when the pair arrives in L.A. over the summer. Mr. Beckham signed a deal to play with the L.A. Galaxy of Major League Soccer, which signed $160 million worth of TV contracts with ESPN, Fox Soccer Channel, Univision and HDNet late last year. All of those networks hope Mr. Beckham will provide a reason for Americans to pay attention to soccer on the telly-a more likely prospect if other international stars follow him here. "There's going to be a lot more casual interest in MSL than before," said David Sternberg, executive VP and general manager of Fox Soccer Channel. "Hopefully we can turn some of those new viewers into fans." Fox Soccer Channel may not transform into all Beckham all the time, but Mr. Sternberg expects Mr. Beckham to be a focus of the channel's nightly news. Ms. Beckham is welcome too. "She's a very telegenic personality in her own right," he said. Then there's "Bend It Like Beckham," the popular soccer film released by Fox Searchlight Pictures in 2002. "We may have to look into getting the basic cable rights," Mr. Sternberg said. -Jon Lafayette

Buckle Up, Dick, Here Comes Saget

January 8, 2007 12:00 AM

We'll soon find how well Warner Bros. syndication legend Dick Robertson can take a joke. It turns out that Mr. Robertson, who is the guest of honor at a roast at the National Association of Television Program Executives conference this month, will be hoisted on the comedic petard of Bob Saget. Blink has often experienced cognitive dissonance with regard to Mr. Saget, whose treacly role on "Full House" (distributed in off-net syndication by Warner Bros.) is difficult to harmonize with his bluer-than-blue performance in "The Aristocrats" cinema raunchfest. If Mr. Saget pulls out the hard stuff, Mr. Robertson had better batten down the hatches. "I am very happy to roast Dick," Mr. Saget said. "That may not come off well in print. What I mean is, I have a long relationship with Warner Bros. Television that I hope I will not tarnish on Jan. 17." The dinner event is being co-produced by the Warner Bros. Television Group and NATPE and will feature friends and colleagues of Mr. Robertson paying tribute to his 40-year career in television, which established him as one of the most powerful and innovative executives in the industry. The roast will take place from 7:30-9:30 p.m. in Mandalay Bay Ballroom G. A portion of the proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the NATPE Educational Foundation and Virginia Commonwealth University's School of Mass Communication, where Mr. Robertson serves as chairman of the advisory board.

-Chris Pursell

Selleck Redux?

A&E, enjoying a ratings resurgence with reality programs starring characters such as bounty hunter Duane "Dog" Chapman and former Kiss rocker Gene Simmons, is gearing up to get back into the scripted-drama business. The network is expected to announce a slate of dramas in development at the Television Critics Association winter press tour this week, but one new show not likely to be announced is a project the network is discussing with Tom Selleck because details remain to be worked out. The former "Magnum P.I." star is a big figure in A&E history. He played President Dwight D. Eisenhower in "Ike: Countdown to D-Day," which was the channel's highest-rated show until last year's 9/11 movie "Flight 93."

-Jon Lafayette

With This Name ...

It may have taken eight years, but at last the stepchildren of the 1999 marriage of King World and Viacom will share the same name. Just weeks after announcing that series including King World's "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and CBS Paramount's "Judge Judy" and "Entertainment Tonight" would be credited to either King World or CBS Paramount Domestic Television, all series will now officially be branded under the umbrella moniker CBS Television Distribution. A spokesperson at the company issued a media alert Thursday that read, "We're finally officially changing all the credits to our company's name." Instead of changing names on checks and bills, the united company will have to harmonize press kits, logos and letterhead. Blink extends best wishes to the happy couple.

-Chris Pursell

Ah, (Relative) Youth

MSNBC knows that sometimes losing is a good thing-especially when what's being lost are its viewers' unsightly age lines. Those wrinkles can turn off advertisers or lower the price they are willing to pay for commercial time, and MSNBC is drawing more youthful viewers. At the end of 2006, the median age of MSNBC's prime-time and total-day audiences was 56, a year younger than the 57-year median age for both dayparts at the end of 2005. Demographic data from Nielsen Media Research showed that CNN's median age in prime time remained flat at 60, but went up one year, from 62 to 63, for total day. Meanwhile, Fox News Channel, which claims the title for largest of the Big 3 cable news audiences, also has the oldest audience. At the end of 2005, Fox's median age in prime time was 65. At the end of 2006, it was 65-plus (the data doesn't get any more specific after 65). For total day, the Fox audience aged two years, from 62 to 64.

-Michele Greppi

Belching It Out

If fans of the Washington Redskins or the New York Giants didn't already have reason to booze over their teams' disappointing seasons, the NFL Network may have inadvertently created a brand-new drinking game for them: "Take a shot whenever the network broadcasts a belch." With throngs of viewers paying attention to a key game between the teams in determining playoff matchups, viewers were treated to belching sounds throughout the broadcast. Announcers Bryant Gumbel and Cris Collinsworth, clearly embarrassed, eventually had to alert viewers that the noises were, in fact, not coming from them. Apparently a comic genius had found an open microphone somewhere in the stadium that the crew had trouble locating. The mystery belcher got away clean.

-Chris Pursell

You Can't Buy a Thrill

January 1, 2007 12:00 AM

The hottest ticket heading into the NATPE convention in Las Vegas is turning out once again to be CBS Television Distribution's annual market shindig. This year, Steely Dan is set up as the entertainment for the invitation-only affair, which in other years has offered up musical stylings from Elton John, Hall & Oates and the B-52s. While all the tickets for the bash are already spoken for, that doesn't mean there won't be other fun to be had, with parties and celebrity meet-and-greets thrown by the biggest players in the business, including NBC Universal International, Program Partners and several of the mobile companies attending the convention.

-Chris Pursell

Deck the Flight Deck

Maria Menounos and the rest of NBC Universal's "Access Hollywood" gang tore a page from President George W. Bush's playbook recently, visiting the troops on an aircraft carrier to help boost morale. "Access Hollywood" teamed up with the USO to stage a holiday concert for service members and their families on the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan on Dec. 19 in San Diego Bay. Fox's "American Idol" winner Taylor Hicks and his band performed along with NBC's "Last Comic Standing" winners Josh Blue and John Heffron. NBC's KNSD-TV secured sponsors to donate gifts including Subway sandwiches, Target gift cards and San Diego Zoo passes for attendees. Blink is willing to wager that Ms. Menounos did more to cheer the troops than did President Bush's landing on the U.S.S. Lincoln in 2003, when a banner on that aircraft carrier declared "Mission Accomplished."

-Greg Baumann

Presto Change-O

America may have talent, but a little investigation proves it to be decidedly lacking in taste. While scanning the most-viewed clips on YouTube, Blink discovered the top broadcast network clip of all time came from the NBC series "America's Got Talent." This two-minute gem features a married couple-David Michael Mass and Dania Kaseeva-who "magically" change costumes in a flash for the live audience. This kitschy, Vegas-like act drew an astounding 14 million-plus viewers on YouTube, and 11,000 users actually chose it as a favorite. (Really, America? Haven't you heard of "Dick in a Box"?) But wait, there's more: For those who can't get enough of this quick-changing duo, they have a Web site-cleverly named Costumechange.com-where fans can learn more about the art of rapidly changing costumes, watch footage and even book the duo for events. Now that's striking while the iron is hot.

-Stephanie Robbins

Impulse Buying

As early supporters of Fuse's "Pants Off Dance Off" and HBO's "Cathouse," TVWeek is always on the lookout for tawdry yet fascinating late-night cable fare. Last week our remote stumbled onto the Men's Outdoor Recreation Network and discovered the hypnotic yet hilarious "Shop Erotic," a home shopping program a la QVC, but for sex toys. Though the deals offered don't exactly seem like bargains (not that we'd, uh, know anything about adult toy pricing), you have not experienced the true power of the late-night multichannel universe until you've felt tempted to purchase a Tera's Wireless Heart-On at 1 a.m.

-James Hibberd

'Idol' vs. 'Idle'

While millions of viewers are getting ready to tune into Fox's "American Idol," Bravo is pitching "American Idle." That's the headline of the network's campaign for the second season of "The Real Housewives of Orange County," which, like "Idol," premieres Jan. 16. Jason Klarman, Bravo senior VP for marketing, said his team didn't know the shows would be starting on the same day when the network came up with the headline. The slogan and an "American Gothic"-style group shot of the wives are on posters being plastered all over New York and appear in publications, including Entertainment Weekly, Us and Star. "Idle" is a fun way of describing the housewives' lives, he said. "They're not as perfect as they would appear to be. They've got kids in trouble, they're having problems with their husbands, trouble at work. It's the real housewives, but they just happen to live in multimillion-dollar homes." Fortunately for Bravo, "Real Housewives" doesn't compete head-on with "Idol," as it starts after Simon, Ryan and the gang sign off at 10 p.m. "We're hoping that people go from one 'Idol' to another," Mr. Klarman said.

- Jon Lafayette