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January 2008 Archives

Desperate to Help Ailing Women

January 27, 2008 9:01 PM

Marcia Cross wasn’t playing her traditional “Desperate Housewives” character on Capitol Hill last week. Instead, she took on the role of advocate for legislation to stop “drive-through” mastectomies. Ms. Cross joined with Lifetime’s “Every Woman Counts” effort to deliver 20 million signatures on petitions urging Congress to act on legislation that would allow women to stay in a hospital up to 48 hours after a mastectomy. At a National Press Club appearance Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., praised the actress, saying she would help to bring more attention to the cause. Ms. Cross said she didn’t understand why the legislation was taking so long to pass Congress. “I think it’s time to put a fire under it, get it done, put it behind us and have it be one less thing for women to have to think about,” she said.

—Ira Teinowitz

Mary Hart’s Show Still Has Legs

January 27, 2008 9:00 PM

CBS Television Distribution’s “Entertainment Tonight” celebrated a new milestone for the syndicated newsmagazine strip last week, scoring the show’s 600th straight week as the top-rated newsmagazine. “Reaching this landmark is a testament to the hard work of a dedicated staff over many years,” said Linda Bell Blue, executive producer of “Entertainment Tonight.” “We are thrilled to be noted in syndication history and will continue to challenge ourselves each day to produce the No. 1 entertainment newsmagazine.” The series is currently the longest-running first-run syndicated strip on the air, is averaging a 4.8 rating this season and spawned spinoff newsmagazine “The Insider” during its run. Both “Entertainment Tonight” and “The Insider” are sold into the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Mary Hart and Mark Steines co-anchor “ET.”

—Chris Pursell

National Geo Turns Up Heat on Promos

January 20, 2008 9:01 PM

Realistic-looking news bulletins from the future reporting flooding in New York and water emergencies in Southern California are part of a multifaceted campaign for an upcoming National Geographic Channel special on global warming. The “bulletins” don’t mention the special, “Six Degrees Could Change the World,” or the channel. Instead, they direct viewers to isthisourfuture.com, a micro-site for the show. In addition to airing on NatGeo, the spots are on Web sites including YouTube.com, LiveVideo.com and MySpace.com, where the network hopes they will be distributed virally. While the spots bring a sense of urgency by using the format of a newscast, the network wasn’t aiming to have viewers mistake the ads for a real live report. “It’s real, but not real enough,” said Kiera Hynninen, senior VP of marketing for National Geographic Channel. But it should be enough to pique viewer interest in the show. National Geographic is running more traditional tune-in spots for the Feb. 10 special on the channel as well as Fox-owned networks including FX, Fuel and Fox Sports. Web site ngcsixdegrees.com offers an interactive feature that allows users to zoom in on different parts of the globe to see how they’d be affected by temperature change.

—Jon Lafayette

Another Kind of Caucus

January 20, 2008 9:00 PM

Veteran producer Dennis Doty, in his first duty as the new chairman of the Caucus for Television Producers, Writers & Directors, last week expanded the organization to embrace those toiling in the area of new media (for many writers, the only place they’re toiling these days). He even tacked on “An Alliance of Television & New Media Content Creators” to the Caucus’ official name. “With this expansion, the Caucus now welcomes membership applications from a wider group of younger executives who are increasingly gaining attention for creative new approaches for product creation and dissemination throughout the industry,” Mr. Doty explained at the time. Blink read that to mean it was high time for some new blood. Mr. Doty succeeds two-term chairman Vin Di Bona and joins the ranks of recently elected officers Bill Blinn, Lionel Chetwynd and Mr. Di Bona, all co-chairs; John Moffitt, treasurer; and Herman Rush, secretary. Mr. Doty is currently producing ABC’s “Oscar’s Red Carpet With Regis Philbin,” the official pre-show for the 80th annual Academy Awards presentation.

—Tom Gilbert

After the Fall

January 20, 2008 9:00 PM

For tonight’s History Channel documentary “Life Without People,” Eden FX co-founder and visual effects producer John Gross was charged with creating some pretty amazing scenes of aging and disintegrating world landmarks. With the aid of engineers, Mr. Gross had to envision what condition cities would be in as their infrastructures crumbled hundreds of years after the last human walked the earth. “It’s not every day you get to topple the Seattle Space Needle, burst the Hoover Dam or age the Lincoln Memorial,” says Mr. Gross, whose company created the aged Chicago and the collapse of the deteriorated Sears Tower pictured here.

—Tom Gilbert

A Change for Baker

January 20, 2008 9:00 PM

WNET-TV’s outgoing CEO William F. Baker is trading titles and changing his focus from the world of high-brow couch potatoes to the great outdoors. Mr. Baker has been named chairman of the National Park System Advisory Board, a 12-person panel he’s been a member of for several years. That’s not Mr. Baker’s only qualification for his appointment by NPS Director Mary A. Bomar to the advisory role. The longtime public TV executive has visited both the North and South Poles. In 1992 he purchased an island off the coast of Nova Scotia that’s home to a lighthouse and a Baker family retreat as well as the subject of the book “Lighthouse Island: Our Family Escape.” “Like most Americans, I have a love of our national parks. America’s national parks are irreplaceable treasures. They are sources of beauty, inspiration, history and life. Many Americans don’t fully comprehend the wonders of our parks, and in this new role I am thrilled to be able to have the opportunity to help the public understand and appreciate the National Park Service to its fullest,” Mr. Baker said in a statement that resonates of his long public broadcasting career, which moves into emeritus mode in February.

—Michele Greppi

Cable Consorts

January 20, 2008 9:00 PM

The top leadership of Cablevision Systems—Chairman Chuck Dolan, President-CEO James Dolan and Chief Operating Officer Tom Rutledge—was seen leaving the Manhattan headquarters of Time Warner last week, Blink’s spies report. Was a big deal brewing between the media giant and the cable company? Was it routine business? A courtesy call on new Time Warner CEO Jeffrey Bewkes? Time Warner’s spokesman declined to say who they saw or what they discussed. Time Warner and Cablevision have myriad business relationships, of course. “In this industry people get together all the time,” the TW spokesman said. A spokesman for Cablevision declined to comment.

—Jon Lafayette

A Worsening Case of Nerves for Oscar Advertisers

January 13, 2008 9:01 PM

The writers’ strike takedown of the Golden Globes last week has those who participate in the $300 million Oscar economy shaking in their red-soled Louboutins. The ongoing action by the Writers Guild of America helped scotch the Golden Globes broadcast on NBC because the Globes’ producer, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, couldn’t negotiate an interim deal with the striking scribes.

Now all eyes are on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ much bigger annual award ceremony, set to air on ABC Feb. 24.

“If you’re [an advertiser] in the Oscars now, you’re getting very, very nervous,” said Tim Calkins, clinical professor of marketing at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

For now, the Academy and ABC are operating on the premise that the show will go on as scheduled, although media buyers report ABC has made early contact with some marketers to discuss potential what-if scenarios. While nothing is finalized, some early ideas that have been mentioned involve pushing the Oscarcast back or running a diminished event on air, according to one person familiar with some of the discussions.

“There are no contingency plans at this point, and it’s premature to discuss that,” said an ABC representative. An Academy spokeswoman said the group is “moving forward” with its original plans for the event.

—Brian Steinberg and Claude Brodesser-Akner, Advertising Age

Democrats Make Time for Fox News Channel

January 13, 2008 9:00 PM

Democratic presidential candidates may have skipped an Aug. 12 Nevada debate co-sponsored by Fox News Channel and a subsequent one in Michigan for the channel, but neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama minds appearing on FNC as the Jan. 19 Nevada caucuses approach.

On the day after the New Hampshire primary, both Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama guested on the channel to discuss their positions. The Aug. 12 FNC debate was to have been sponsored by the Nevada Democratic Party, but MoveOn.org and some liberal Democrat activists and bloggers complained about the Fox connection and urged Democrats not to attend.

The debate eventually was canceled, with Democrats attributing the cancellation to a poorly received joke that mentioned Sen. Obama delivered by Fox News President Roger Ailes at an awards show.

A second Fox-sponsored debate, scheduled to be held before the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, also was canceled after some of the candidates declined to participate.

—Ira Teinowitz

Leno’s Bookkeeping

January 13, 2008 9:00 PM

Jay Leno might want to consider writing a book of personal financial and career advice. On his exchange visit to ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” last week, the famously hard-working Mr. Leno said he always tries to live on what he brings in from his many standup comedy appearances each year, while saving up his salary for hosting “The Tonight Show” and donating to charities what he makes from books and movies.

“It seems like sort of an easy way to do it,” Mr. Leno said, not addressing the fact that none of his jobs is easy.

Making a quick comparison of his two main sources of income, Mr. Leno said, “As a standup comic, OK, I can go out by myself. I need 160 people to do a [television] show, but I only need me to do a standup show.”

Plus, the striking Writers Guild of America can’t complain about who is or isn’t writing his jokes when he’s doing standup.

—Michele Greppi

Marriage Broker

January 13, 2008 9:00 PM

Online video star Hayden Black has got a touch of Cupid in him. The leading man in the Web series “Abigail’s X-Rated Teen Diary” managed to engineer a marriage proposal for one of the show’s viewers in late December.

Mr. Black, who plays the 13-year-old “Abigail” in his show, answered a “Dear Abi” question in a recent episode from a viewer named MaryBeth. The viewer wanted Abigail’s input on how to get her boyfriend to pop the question before Christmas.

Abigail’s advice: “Get him to propose to you as soon as humanly possible so you don’t get stuck with a life that’s worse than a Dickensian nightmare with shades of the Elephant Man.”

The unconventional approach evidently worked: Mr. Black said MaryBeth contacted him two days after the episode aired to say she was happily engaged. On the show’s message board, MaryBeth credited the star of the series: “Abigail Hannon played the most crucial role in my engagement. ... Because of her ... I found the words ... well Abi found the words ... to tell him how I felt.”

—Daisy Whitney

Times Square Traffic Jam

January 13, 2008 9:00 PM

Being told to strip in the freezing cold and put on summer clothes in New York’s Times Square wasn’t a shock only for the aspiring models on last week’s “Make Me a Supermodel.”

When Bravo shot the first challenge for its new show, hosts Niki Taylor and Tyson Beckford also caused a commotion.

One postal worker stopped her truck in the middle of the street to get a better look at Mr. Beckford, calling out that she loved him. As traffic backed up behind her, Mr. Beckford kept his cool, telling the woman, “Lady, you’ve got to drive.”

—Jon Lafayette

WB Throws Its Weight Behind Blu-Ray

January 6, 2008 9:00 PM

If you received an HD DVD player for Christmas, at this point you might want to ask for the receipt. Warner Bros., the only studio that has maintained staunch bipartisanship in the high-definition home video format battle, has decided to exclusively back the Sony Blu-ray camp. The studio cited “consumer demand” for its alliance with Sony and expressed weariness with the format war. “A two-format landscape has led to consumer confusion and indifference toward high definition, which has kept the technology from reaching mass adoption and becoming the important revenue stream that it can be for the industry,” said Kevin Tsujihara, president of the Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group. “Consumers have clearly chosen Blu-ray, and we believe that recognizing this preference is the right step in making this great home entertainment experience accessible to the widest possible audience.” The decision means two major studios (Universal and Paramount) exclusively support Toshiba’s HD DVD compared with five (Sony, Disney, 20th Century Fox and MGM) that support Sony’s Blu-ray.

—James Hibberd

Hockey Pulls Big New Year’s Numbers

January 6, 2008 9:00 PM

After scoring the best regular-season rating in more than a decade for National Hockey League programming with the AMP Energy/NHL Winter Classic, hockey executives already are mulling another round for next year. The outdoor game, which was broadcast New Year’s Day on NBC domestically, earned a 2.6/5 overnight Nielsen rating and drew an NHL-record crowd of 71,217 to Ralph Wilson Stadium to see the Pittsburgh Penguins take on the Buffalo Sabres. Hockey towns in particular drew big local audiences, led by the two teams’ home towns: a 38.2 rating/58 share in Buffalo and a 17.7/30 in Pittsburgh. “The best regular-season rating in more than a decade is a result of the tremendous efforts of the NHL, and we’re delighted by the success of this historic event,” said NBC Sports President Ken Schanzer. “Sam Flood, his production team and our broadcasters also deserve credit for conveying the great atmosphere in Buffalo and producing a memorable broadcast. The Winter Classic exposed hockey to a larger audience and definitely made new fans of the game.”

—Chris Pursell

Surprise Dish

January 6, 2008 9:00 PM

Anthony Bourdain, bad-boy chef and host of “No Reservations” on the Travel Channel, got a surprise that left a bad taste in his mouth while shooting in Waikiki. On his blog last week, he said he found out that Food Network was bringing his old show, “A Cook’s Tour,” back to prime time after a four-year absence. After almost spitting up his mai-tai, Mr. Bourdain said he wondered, “Why? Why that old show? And why now?” The antipathy was hardly a surprise to Bob Tuschman, senior VP of programming and production for Food Network. “We’re always amused by his writing,” said Mr. Tuschman, who noted that since “A Cook’s Tour” last aired in prime time, Food Network had added young viewers unfamiliar with that show. “The series remains popular and Bourdain is a provocative tour guide,” Mr. Tuschman said, adding he’s not concerned viewers will follow Mr. Bourdain to the Travel Channel. “We have a wide range of programming here,” he said.

—Jon Lafayette

Taking It to the Streets

January 6, 2008 9:00 PM

It’s odd to see women in bathrobes on the streets of New York—particularly during a January cold snap, such as the one that hit the city last week. But that didn’t stop Lifetime from sending 160 be-robed women (with parkas underneath) into Times Square as part of a promotion for its new Carson Kressley-hosted “How to Look Good Naked.” In advance of the show’s debut last Friday, Mr. Kressley braved the cold as well, handing out “Happy Nude Year” cards to passersby. The crowd seeking autographs was almost entirely female, so Mr. Kressley got very excited when a lone man came up to get his signature, Blink’s spies report. To further promote the show, the network also put up funhouse mirrors in New York, Los Angeles and Miami, and handed out “Nude Year” cards in 11 malls nationwide. n
—Jon Lafayette