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November 2007 Archives

A Rock and a Hard Place for Ellen

November 15, 2007 1:01 PM

I sure wouldn’t want to be Ellen DeGeneres, a member of the Writers Guild of America, who has the support of AFTRA, the union for performers.

DeGeneres is not honoring the writers’ strike, for a variety of reasons, according to a host of published reports. Unlike late-night talk show hosts David Letterman and Jay Leno, who are honoring the strike and airing repeats, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” is syndicated with contractual obligations.

While her writers are honoring the strike, DeGeneres chooses to wear her performer’s hat and doesn’t want to put the rest of her staff out of work. AFTRA is siding with her, but she’s taking a lot of heat for not honoring the writers strike as she resumed taping of her show after not doing it the first day of the strike.

So did she make the honorable decision? Probably, but under duress.

Meanwhile, I’m blowing out of here for a couple of weeks of vacation, so behave yourselves. Your moderator will not be watching every day!

More Layoffs Hit Court TV

November 14, 2007 1:09 PM

Or maybe I should say what will be left of it as it morphs into truTV, a moniker that still doesn’t resonate with me at all.

As part of the ongoing repositioning of Court TV to truTV come January, the net has laid off 16 of the 31 staffers in New York who had worked on the Court TV Web site.

The site, too, will be rebranded truTV.com, but the trial coverage now there will move to a new section of CNN.com, called CNN.com/crime, and will be handled out of Atlanta, according to published reports.

If any of this makes any sense to you, let me know. I liked Court TV just the way it was. Sure, I get that you can’t program a network day in and day out unless there are headlines grabbing trials like OJ Simpson. And sure all of the cable news networks, including Court TV sibling CNN cover the big trials during the daytime.

Court TV’s rabid core base of trial junkies will likely again feel shortchanged with less emphasis on trials on the cable network and now, online.

Cable Advertising’s Perfect Storm

November 13, 2007 1:15 PM

Advertisers worried about the impact of the writers strike—now in week two—on commercial avails have cause for pause, at least regarding broadcast shows that are scripted. For cable, the strike has not made much of a difference for advertisers and probably will not.

But Cable Television Advertising Bureau President-CEO Sean Cunningham sees the makings of a so-called perfect storm brewing as a number of factors are putting pressure on the supply of time.

Inventory was already tight because of the 2008 Olympic Games and the presidential election. And with the past upfront selling season, about 85 percent of the time sold was based on commercial ratings that gobbled up more inventory to meet ratings guarantees.

Now make-goods for scripted shows in reruns are gobbling up more commercial units.

Bottom line: Expect to see more advertisers turn to cable and online media to get their messages out to viewers during the fourth-quarter holiday season. Make sense?

History Channel’s Soldier-Generated Content

November 12, 2007 12:25 PM

In honor of Veterans Day, take a sobering look at www.History.com and click on “Band of Bloggers: War Through a Soldier’s Eyes.” The content that went up online Friday coincided with the History Channel’s one-hour televised program that night.

The content is uncensored and gripping. A History Channel spokesman said the online content is a mix of videos and text blogs from soldier-generated content that is aggregated from other Web sites.

In addition, “Band of Bloggers” is reaching out to ask soldiers to share their own videos and their war experiences. You’ll be surprised at the candor here, and how they think this war is going. A lot of the young men and women say they had no idea what they were getting into and discuss how poorly prepared some of them were.

So forward this to your congressman if he told you the war would last only one year.

Media Buyers Get Jitters About Possible Recession

November 9, 2007 12:59 PM

Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke spooked everyone yesterday when he said he expects U.S. economic growth to slow noticeably over the next several months as more bad news emerged from housing, energy, the weakening dollar and low retail sales.

And despite all the bad news Bernanke said that the Federal Reserve does not expect to cut interest rates again during its December 11 policy meeting. The Fed had already cut rates twice in September and October.

The jitters are now spreading from Wall Street to Madison Avenue after agency media buying firms witnessed yet another tumultuous day in the stock market today. In other words, the dip in retail for this holiday season could result in an unexpected drop in TV ad spending.

Chew a Maalox over this nugget: This past October retail posted its lowest sales in 12 years, an ominous sign of things to come. So should the Fed drop rates again? I say yes.

Rosie's 48 Hours in the News

November 8, 2007 1:15 PM

Within 48 hours of NBC acknowledging that it was talking with Rosie O’Donnell about having a show on MSNBC, the deal hit a speed bump, according to several published reports and Rosie herself on her blog, rosie.com.

One report said that, like her deal with ABC’s “The View,” Rosie wanted to commit to only a one-year deal, but NBC wanted a longer contract. Why that stipulation became a show-stopper is a stumper to me. Rosie said she didn’t want to limit her options, although there have been no recent reports of anyone other than MSNBC knocking at her door.

But she does have talent. Before “The View” she had her own daytime talk show from 1996 to 2002, produced a Broadway musical and started the magazine Rosie, which ceased publishing early in the game.

But I don’t see her doing well in the glaring headlights of prime-time TV, and I still think she belongs in daytime with her own show, given her penchant for not playing well with others.

Some TV critics think she might do better in late night, but I don’t think so—too much competition.

So is there a place at all on TV for Rosie? Maybe not, if she remains so bull-headed.

Enquirer Still Chasing ‘Dog’s’ Tail

November 7, 2007 1:04 PM

A&E’s “Dog the Bounty Hunter” continues to dominate the news. Series star Duane Chapman appeared Tuesday night in an hourlong special on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity & Colmes.”

A&E suspended the series last week after the National Enquirer got hold of a taped phone conversation where Chapman used the N-word in a conversation with his son about the son’s girlfriend.

The Fox special showed a very down-in-the-jowls Chapman who apologized profusely. It was an odd insight into the actor who said, in way of atonement, that he wants to be buried in Mount Vernon Cemetery, among the slaves who had no markers on their graves. OK.

Today, the Enquirer gave Chapman’s fans more news to gnaw over, including interviews with other family members who were quoted as saying his use of the N-word was not at all unusual but that he did it all the time.

More important, perhaps, to the show’s future is that the Enquirer also confirmed several of the show’s sponsors—Yum! Brands, which owns Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC, along with SiCap Industries, makers of Sinus Buster—and yet another advertiser, Dr. Frank’s Pain Relief, had pulled out of the series. All quotes from those advertisers were attributed.

If you’ve had enough of Dog’s escapades, it’s not over, although the series sure is a goner. Tonight Chapman appears on CNN’s Larry King talk show in another special. It’s looking more and more like this dog can’t hunt. Agree?

MSNBC Chats Up Rosie

November 6, 2007 1:51 PM

Oh great. It might be time to turn down the volume in primetime on your TV set if what I read plays out. Today’s New York Times reports that NBC executives have acknowledged they’re in talks with Rosie O’Donnell to host a show in primetime on MSNBC.

One scenario has her occupying the 9 p.m. (ET) slot where she would be competing with CNN’s “Larry King Live.”

Good luck.

That same article quoted an NBC executive who admitted that “Tucker” an MSNBC show with Tucker Carlton that airs at 6 p.m., is in “real danger of being canceled.”

Whether that shuffling of the MSNBC prime-time deck ever happens is another story. Remember, Rosie only lasted nine months on ABC’s “The View,” often usurping the spotlight.

Frankly this blogger doesn’t think Rosie is ready for primetime at all.

Do you think she’s really in the same league as the other MSNBC hosts, Chris Matthews, Keith Olberman, Dan Abrams, Tucker Carlson, or Joe Scarborough?

Many Americans Oppose Media Concentration

November 2, 2007 1:26 PM

The Media and Democracy Coalition released its survey today finding that 57%of responders favored laws prohibiting a company to own a newspaper and television station in the same market. The survey was timely, coming out as the Federal Communications Commission was to hold a public meeting about that topic.

For now, FCC rules prohibit a company owing a newspaper and TV station in the same market without a FCC waiver. But the FCC is holding yet another meeting in mid-December to possibly ease that existing limitation.

The findings of the survey somewhat puzzled me. For starters if you’re not in the business, I suspect the normal Joe wouldn’t know which company owned what. So who are the people being surveyed here, a bunch of hand -picked gadflys?

I doubt it, but I raise the question because I’m skeptical. Rather, I think there’s a halo effect going on here. After witnessing consolidation in so many industries including banking, healthcare, insurance, to name but a few, and the job losses that ensued, the almost innate, knee-jerk reaction is to say no to further consolidation. So I take the survey findings here with a grain of salt. Do you?

A&E Suspends Production of ‘Dog The Bounty Hunter’

November 1, 2007 1:20 PM

Cable net A&E put a halt on production of its hit series “Dog the Bounty Hunter” after The National Enquirer posted a clip of Duane Chapman using the N-Word during a private telephone conversation with his son, who his dating a black woman.

Apparently, someone had taped the call and sent it to the Enquirer. In a statement, Chapman apologized profusely and said that his conversation was taken out of context. But A&E suspended production of the series until it had time to do its own investigation, said a network spokesman today.

I guess that was the responsible thing for A&E to decide, given the story about Chapman’s use of the N-Word subsequently appeared on every media outlet.

But this was hardly a Don Imus incident. Chapman made his remarks during a private telephone call, not knowing it was being taped. He didn’t say the N-Word in a public forum.

So here’s the question of the day: If you were handling this media crisis, would you have halted production of the series over a private remark Chapman made? Tough call.