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April 2007 Archives

A Piece of Cake for Regis

April 30, 2007 12:00 AM

Enzo Cutaia has been into Regis Philbin's popular syndicated show far longer than the month he's been into sugar-free baking. But it was his Fleetwood Pastry Shop in Mount Vernon, N.Y., that whipped up 40 pounds of "heart- healthy," heart-shaped chocolate cake iced in pink and white to celebrate the return of Mr. Philbin to "Live With Regis and Kelly" April 26. "I am a fan, and I've been to his show plenty of times. I watch his show every morning," said Mr. Cutaia, whose mother, Josephine, was in the "Live" studio audience for the return of Reeeege and even handed out a Fleetwood Pastry card in response to a couple of queries. Mr. Cutaia's chief business connection is a cousin who dates "Live" production assistant Laurie Ciaffaglione. It was through his cousin that Mr. Cutaia heard "Live" staffers were still "raving" about the cake late Thursday. Blink asked for the recipe. It wasn't that Mr. Cutaia wouldn't share it. He couldn't. It's a dry commercial mix. "All we do is add water," he said. (H2)Oh, well.

-Michele Greppi

Mountains of Programming

Tennis Channel founder Steve Bellamy has a cool new idea: He's launching the Ski Channel, and it's already got an impressive base. Time Warner Cable-one of the first to play ball with the Tennis Channel-has agreed to carry the Ski Channel's video-on-demand programming. Ski Channel content also will be available on other multimedia platforms. Already in the chalet are four charter advertisers: Panasonic, Mirage Resorts, Marquis Jets and Fender Guitars. The channel will carry programming about skiing, snowboarding, hiking, climbing and other mountain activities, Mr. Bellamy said. Spending on resort and travel spending by skiers is pegged at $10 billion annually and growing, and enthusiasts represent a very upscale audience. "I don't think you could do better if you made the Investment Banker Channel," Mr. Bellamy said. He expects that audience to grow as baby boomers age and spend more of their time and money on leisure activities. "People, money and infrastructure have been migrating to the mountains at an astounding pace," he said. Unlike the Tennis Channel, he added, mountain activities might not make a compelling linear channel because snowboarders wouldn't want to sit through programming about rock climbing. Mr. Bellamy plans to launch the channel as early as the first quarter of 2008. The start-up is self-funded and built on Mr. Bellamy's Atonal Sports & Entertainment, which includes a television studio. He seems to be making the most of his personal interests: "Besides my family, my favorite things are tennis, skiing and movies," he said.

-Jon Lafayette

Derby Goes Red-Carpet

The Kentucky Derby is joining the ranks of the Oscars and Emmys with a red-carpet show of its own. NBC Sports is teaming up with "Access Hollywood" on the half-hour special, which is sponsored by Olay Regenerist, and will precede the regular 90 minutes of coverage of what's billed as the most exciting two minutes in sports. "Access Hollywood" reporter Shaun Robinson will comment on what the human celebrities are wearing at Churchill Downs. Expected to be in attendance are Jerry O'Connell, Kid Rock, Apolo Anton Ohno and Peyton Manning with some of his teammates from the world champion Indianapolis Colts. As far as the horses are concerned, they're all likely to be wearing their best shoes, but only the fastest will be wearing a garland of roses at the end of the race.

-Jon Lafayette

Save the Diploma

April 23, 2007 12:00 AM

How about this for an alma mater: the hallowed halls of the "Heroes" set.

During the NBC hit show's first-season wrap party at the Cabana Club in Hollywood Tuesday, 17-year-old Hayden Panettiere, who plays cheerleader Claire Bennet on the show, received her high school diploma from "Heroes" creator Tim Kring.

A private tutor guided Ms. Panettiere through her senior year between takes.

A Tale of Two Pizzerias

April 23, 2007 12:00 AM

CBS Television Distribution's "The Rachael Ray Show" is airing a New York-vs.-Chicago "Pizza Throwdown" Wednesday with TV's Judge Joe Brown, Judge Alex Kozinski and Judge Lynn Toler on hand to decide once and for all which town makes the best pie.

The competition began back in March with a "Pizza Challenge" on rachael rayshow.com, where visitors were invited to vote for their favorite Chicago and New York pizzerias. Once winners in each city were selected, the Chicago pizzeria owner, along with his family and friends, were flown to New York to participate in the throwdown with the New York winner.

And in order for the in-studio rooting to be better balanced during the March 27 taping, the show also flew in half of the audience from Chicago, where guests were selected via a giveaway on CBS-owned WBBM-TV's Web site. Blink doubts the judges' decision will change many minds, however.

'Veronica Mars' Fans Soft on Heroine

April 23, 2007 12:00 AM

The CW has been flooded with bags of marshmallows as part of an online campaign to save the ailing series "Veronica Mars." The bags are accompanied by notes reading, "Veronica Mars. She's a marshmallow ... and we want s'more."

Rumors of the show's demise have continued unabated; sources said "Smallville" is one CW show that's likely to return.

The CW reps maintain a sphinx-like silence on the matter, saying only that they'll announce series pickups at their May 17 upfront.

Hostile 'High Stakes Poker' Hosting

April 16, 2007 12:00 AM

The rivalries between poker professionals jousting over hundreds of thousands of dollars on GSN's "High Stakes Poker" is nothing compared to the mounting tension between co-hosts/commentators Gabe ("Welcome Back Kotter") Kaplan and A.J. (former gossip columnist and E! host) Benza.

Throughout the show's three seasons, the insightful yet smug Kaplan has mocked his amicable yet poker-dim counterpart during their on-camera segments with increasing hostility. But last week's season finale hit a new level of squirmy discomfort when Benza, after yet another Kaplan put-down, protested, "You can't be nice? We're this close to being over for the season," and Kaplan replied, "Let me say what I feel honestly, ... I don't think you know anything about poker. I don't think you belong on this show."

Insiders say the hostility is somewhat disingenuous, and that Kaplan has lobbied the network in the past for Benza to stay on the show. And GSN said it doesn't mind the duo's random animosity.

"Gabe brings his successful professional poker-playing experience and background as a comedian to 'High Stakes Poker,'" said GSN President-CEO Rich Cronin. "Along with his co-host, A.J. Benza, they mirror the good-natured ribbing that occurs between the players on the telecasts."

Enough 'Springer' for All

April 16, 2007 12:00 AM

The spawning has begun. The first of two spinoffs was scheduled to launch Sunday. After 17 years on the air, NBC Universal's long-running strip "The Jerry Springer Show" has bred not one but two new spinoff series for its hardcore fans.

"The Springer Hustle" was scheduled to pop up first on VH1 at 11:30 p.m. ET Sunday. "Springer Hustle" will shift to a regular 11 p.m. Sunday slot on April 22. The backstage series follows the team of "Springer" producers putting together and attempting to control the circus-like atmosphere of the talk show. Among the personalities featured on the series will be Mr. Springer, as well as executive producer Richard Dominick and his team. (In addition, this summer Mr. Springer will host "America's Got Talent" on NBC.)

The other spinoff, of course, is the talk show starring "Springer's" security heavyweight Steve Wilkos, debuting this fall. That strip is cleared on the Tribune station group and in more than 90 percent of the country.

"Going into the 17th season of 'The Jerry Springer Show,' Jerry's popularity continues to grow, which gives me a chance to create new and exciting shows like 'The Springer Hustle' and the upcoming talk show with Steve Wilkos," says Dominick, executive producer for all three shows. "Next season I am planning 'The Bill O'Springer Factor.'"

Making Lemonade Out of Life's Lemons

April 16, 2007 12:00 AM

Former "Nightline" executive producer Leroy Sievers was treated for colon cancer six years ago. In late 2005, cancer returned in the form of a brain tumor, which was successfully removed with surgery.

Mr. Sievers has been articulately chronicling his treatments and his ups and downs via commentaries on National Public Radio's "Morning Edition," podcasts and the blog "My Cancer" (NPR.org/mycancer).

Today, at 2 p.m. ET in a special edition of "Talk of the Nation" on NPR stations, Mr. Sievers will take part in a broadcast version of the Web exchanges provoked by "My Cancer," which has averaged nearly 30,000 monthly unique visitors (the podcast has been downloaded more than 73,000 times).

Now tumor-free and an executive producer at Discovery Channel, Mr. Sievers also talks with longtime colleague Ted Koppel in "Living With Cancer," a documentary/town meeting to be telecast May 6 on Discovery.

His multimedia diary was named an official honoree by the Webby Awards, signifying "an outstanding caliber of work."

'King' Goes All Out

April 16, 2007 12:00 AM

With the countdown ticking until the finale of "The King of Queens," Sony Pictures Television is asking fans to decide which episode in the show's nine-season history ranks as best.

Beginning this week, clips from 12 "'The King of Queens' Viewers Choice" episodes will be posted on Yahoo TV, with fans' votes to determine which five most-adored installments of will air during the primary syndication run the week of May 7, leading up to the hourlong network series finale on May 14.

Prizes for voters include a $4,500 shopping spree.

Dan Rather Gets Down and 'Dirty'

April 9, 2007 12:00 AM

Dan Rather will be back on network TV come fall if ABC picks up "Dirty Sexy Money," and if Mr. Rather's cameo at a posh New York charity event (shot at the Frick Museum) doesn't end up on the cutting-room floor.

The former "CBS Evening News" anchor, now anchor and correspondent for HDNet's "Dan Rather Reports," told Blink he was invited to play himself and to give tips on how he might try to pry out of a potential Senate candidate (William Baldwin) his plans over dinner.

Yes, he assured the producers, he would call the potential candidate's wife "ma'am" in real life.

Mr. Rather worked from 6:30 p.m. to midnight but, he said, "It was fun."

"Dirty" is the Touchstone TV drama about a powerful New York family with Jell-O for ethics and the idealistic lawyer who inherits the chore of representing them. The talent behind the scenes includes executive producers Craig Wright ("Brothers and Sisters," "Lost," "Six Feet Under"), Greg Berlanti ("Brothers and Sisters," "Everwood," "Dawson's Creek") and Bryan Singer ("House," "Superman Returns"). Peter Krause plays the lawyer handling the family, whose patriarch is played by Donald Sutherland.

'Stargate: Continuum' - The Cold Facts

April 9, 2007 12:00 AM

We hope fans of the "Stargate" duo of series from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer will give the cast of direct-to-video release "Stargate: Continuum" a warmer reception than they got while filming the project.

The cast, which includes Ben Browder and Amanda Tapping, traveled to the subzero climate of the Arctic to shoot at the Navy's Applied Physics Laboratory Ice Station from March 23-29.

"We are excited to be working with the U.S. Navy on filming these epic scenes in the arduous conditions of the Arctic. 'SG-1' fans will certainly enjoy these action-packed sequences, as the 'Stargate' franchise has a rich history of unique and compelling action-adventures," said Charles Cohen, senior executive VP of finance and corporate development at MGM.

The project is being co-financed by MGM and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. Highlights of the shoot include scenes on location in the Arctic ice, located approximately 200 nautical miles north of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, amid temperatures that hovered around 50 degrees below zero.

In addition to the frigid outdoor environments, the filming involved U.S. Navy submarine USS Alexandria.

So Many, So Few

April 9, 2007 12:00 AM

By Abbey Klaassen

When it comes to online-advertising riches, the short tail is getting shorter. The latest issue of Advertising Age reports that a recent numbers-crunch from consultancy group Marketspace indicates the 10 biggest Internet players nabbed a whopping 99 percent of gross online-ad revenue last year.

If that's not enough to startle you, consider: That's up from 95 percent in 2005.

The growth is notable by any standard in any business, but particularly surprising in a medium whose potential for fragmentation, at least audience-wise, is seemingly limitless.

It means the majority of the sites on the Web are left fighting over the remaining 1 percent of online-ad revenue.

Marketspace Chairman Jeffrey Rayport presented the research to a gathering of online publishers in London in mid-March. For online publishers, he said it's a best of times/worst of times scenario, in which the medium is growing at a 30 percent clip, but "when you look under the hood to where the ad dollars are going, it's not such a beautiful thing."

Worst Episodes Ever

April 9, 2007 12:00 AM

Blame last month's early arrival of Daylight Saving Time. Or blame the networks for running so many repeats. Or blame the increasing use of DVRs, or online viewing, or even the quality of the shows themselves. Whatever is to blame, there's no question prime-time shows had a terrible week in the Nielsen ratings.

Wednesday's "American Idol"? Lowest rating in nearly a year. "Dancing With the Stars"? Lowest rating in more than a year. "NCIS"? Worst in two years. "24"? Lowest in three years. "Law & Order: SVU"? Worst since 1999. "Lost"? Lowest rating ever (yet again!). And the list goes on. Even The CW's "Pussycat Dolls Present" hit a season low.

Dontcha wish your ratings were better than this? Yes, everybody does.

NAB Boost for Sander?

April 9, 2007 12:00 AM

Former Belo Vice Chairman Jack Sander is the only person in the running to become the next chairman of the National Association of Broadcasters Joint Committee in June.

Unless someone mounts a last-minute campaign, which other NAB members say seems unlikely, Mr. Sander seems a shoo-in to succeed Bruce Reese, chairman-CEO of Salt Lake City-based Bonneville International.

The well-regarded Mr. Sander, long active in industry and affiliate organizations, retired as a full-time executive at the end of 2006 and became senior adviser at Belo after a 40-year career in the broadcasting business, the last decade with Belo.

BET-ting on Virtual Billboards

April 2, 2007 12:00 AM

The BET Awards in June will showcase a more sophisticated brand of virtual advertising. Working with PVI, the company behind the virtual first-down marker on NFL football broadcasts, BET will be able to sell in-venue billboards that screen movie clips, music videos and other animated content without really having to put up giant video monitors in the auditorium.

Even live video can be shown on the virtual screens, said Sam McCleery, executive VP of sales and marketing for PVI Virtual Media Services.

The virtual ads will be layered on top of a normal commercial load during the awards show broadcast, said Louis Carr, president of broadcast media sales at BET.

"It's great for categories like movies, video games and music that have great, great, great billboard creative," said Mr. Carr. "It's new and exciting. If you haven't been buying sports, you're not familiar with it."

For His Consideration

April 2, 2007 12:00 AM

Overheard recently at 30 Rock: Meredith Vieira teaching Grammy-winning singer-songwriter John Mayer the post-Katie Couric era "Today" show jingle, "It's a New Day, 'Today'" -- in an elevator.

Perhaps it was merely a bit of campaigning on the "Today" co-host's part: The tune, which was written by composers/lyricists Randy Wachtler and Greg Barnhill of Nashville's 615 Music and NBC's Frank Radice, has been nominated for a Daytime Emmy in the outstanding original song category.

Fleshing Out 'Bones' With MySpace Clues

April 2, 2007 12:00 AM

MySpace isn't just for social networking anymore. Apparently, the No. 1 Web destination can help solve crimes too. OK, maybe TV crimes, but still.

The producers of News Corp. sibling Fox's "Bones" will post MySpace pages for 18 characters on the show, one of whom will be killed in the May 9 episode. Fans can comb those pages for clues about the killer and the victim. Those MySpace profiles will then figure into how the show's leads solve the murder on the penultimate episode of this season.

"What we are trying to do is to integrate MySpace into the show, so that essentially the episode will start four to five weeks before it airs," said Stephen Nathan, executive producer for the show.

Fox will also promote the MySpace pages on air in advance of the May 9 airing. How's that for a little bit of corporate synergy?

Country Cutups

April 2, 2007 12:00 AM

The folks at CMT are having a little bit of fun with their Nashville rivals, Great American Country. For April Fool's Day, CMT will alter its logo so that it's more in the style of GAC, using the GAC typeface and star design.

CMT says it's a good-natured prank thought up by some of its good old boys in creative services who have been noticing a lot of similarities between designs they come up with and those that end up on GAC.

Of course, for upstart GAC, which is in just 46 million homes compared with 84 million for CMT, it's something of an honor just to be noticed.

"We are proud that they are recognizing the branding elements that have been a positive contribution to GAC's taking over the leadership role in the country music television genre," said Ed Hardy, president of GAC.

Live From Washington: Verizon, the Channel

April 2, 2007 12:00 AM

Verizon, which is marketing its FiOS fiber optics broadband as an alternative to cable service, debuted its first original-content channel in the country on its Washington-area FiOS system March 30.

FiOS1, as the channel is being called, will include screen graphics of weather, traffic and headlines during the morning rush hour, then, keeping up to a third of the screen on weather and traffic, will add news stories from Gannett's WUSA-TV, original shows and sports programming during the day and evening. One program will include a local auction.

Verizon also is planning to carry Georgetown and George Mason sports teams and will carry some Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles games.

Michelle Webb, the former ABC producer who is now Verizon's product management and product development director, said the new channel is an attempt to answer viewers' demands for more local content. She said similar ad-supported channels are likely to launch in two more cities by year's end.

In the Washington area the new channel will face competition not only from local TV, but from Allbritton Communications' News Channel 8, an all-news local cable channel that is carried on Verizon's system.

Verizon says it had 207,000 customers on FiOS at the close of 2006, but has been moving quickly to expand the service's availability.