March 2014

ABC Pulls the Plug on Another Drama Series

One day after ABC canceled one drama series, the cancellation ax fell on another ABC drama. B&C reports that the network confirmed today that it has canceled "Once Upon a Time in Wonderland."

The cancellation comes one day after ABC canceled the midseason drama "Mind Games," which had aired only five episodes.

"Once Upon a Time in Wonderland" -- a freshman spinoff of "Once Upon a Time" -- will wrap with its April 3 episode, the report notes.

"It will be replaced in the 8 p.m. Thursday time slot April 10 by a new episode of reality competition 'Shark Tank.' ABC plans to air reruns of 'Grey’s Anatomy' in the time slot on subsequent Thursdays," the story reports.

After hitting a season low with a 0.8 average rating in the key 18-49 demo a week earlier, "Once Upon a Time in Wonderland" ticked up one-tenth Thursday night to a 0.9.

The report adds: "ABC Entertainment Group President Paul Lee told reporters at the TCA winter press tour in January that he had originally planned to schedule 'Wonderland' as a midseason program to bridge seasons of the original 'Once Upon a Time.' 'I should have done that, because I think that would have been a natural audience to go through there,' Lee said. 'And, you know, that Thursday slot is difficult.'”

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'March Madness' Has Its Highest Viewership in 21 Years

The "March Madness" NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship, being televised across CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV, is setting a blistering pace in viewership. Turner Sports reports that the combined coverage up to this point is delivering the tournament's highest viewership since 1993.

"Through last night (Thursday, March 27), the NCAA Tournament is averaging 9.3 million total viewers, up 3% through the same period last year (9.0 million total viewers), based on Nielsen Fast Nationals," Turner reports. "The tournament is averaging a 6.0 U.S. HH rating, up 2% over a 5.9 U.S. HH rating to date in 2013. The 6.0 U.S. HH rating is the highest rating to date for the tournament in 16 years (6.1 rating in 1998)."

Regional semifinals take place tonight, with the games being televised on CBS and TBS. TBS coverage tips off with a pregame show at 6 p.m. ET.

"TBS will exclusively televise Saturday’s Regional Final coverage (March 29) -- Florida vs. Dayton at 6:09 p.m. followed by Arizona vs. Wisconsin at 8:49 p.m. -- the first time the Elite Eight will be aired on cable," the company notes. "CBS will exclusively broadcast Sunday’s Regional Final coverage with game coverage beginning at 2 p.m."

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Layoffs Hit CNN

CNN has been hit with a round of job cuts. TVNewser reports that the cable news channel cut employees Thursday at its Atlanta headquarters.

"TVNewser has learned the network has cut 16 employees from the Image and Sound unit," the story reports. "This includes video editors and photojournalists. The division employs 450 people."

The report adds: "An insider tells us at least 160 positions are set to change in some way due to new technologies."

TheWrap.com notes that the latest round of layoffs at CNN "comes at a time when viewers have been flocking to the cable network for non-stop coverage of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370."

TheWrap adds: "On Tuesday, 'Anderson Cooper 360' beat out Fox News Channel's 'The O'Reilly Factor' in the key 25-54 news demographic in the 8 p.m. hour. During the hour 'Anderson Cooper 360' scored 452,000 viewers in the demo, edging out the 448,000 demo viewers that 'The O'Reilly Factor' had."

TheWrap also notes that CNN topped Fox News over the weekend in adults 25-54, winning Saturday and Sunday in total day and in prime time.

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Syfy Announces Return of Series

Just ahead of the airing of its season finale, Syfy has announced that it will bring back a drama series for another season. Deadline.com reports that the freshman drama "Helix" received an order from the cable channel for a 13-episode second season.

The Sony TV series is aiming for a winter 2015 premiere date for season two, with production set to begin later this year, the report notes. The series stars Billy Campbell, Hiroyuki Sanada, Kyra Zagorsky and Mark Ghanime.

"The thriller, about a team of scientists battling a mankind-threatening outbreak, debuted Jan. 10 to 1.82 million Live+SD total viewers," the story reports. "The premiere broke Syfy L+3 records by gaining 64% in 18-49 to 1.2 million and 53% in total viewers. Since then, the series has averaged 2.1 million total viewers, 1.1 million adults 25-54 and 1 million adults 18-49."

Said Bill McGoldrick, exec VP of Original Content for Syfy: "Helix has built one of our most loyal and consistent audiences in its first season on Syfy. The incredibly talented writing and producing team have crafted a thriller that consistently delivered suspense, twists and high-quality drama."

Helix is executive produced by Moore Steven Maeda who is also showrunner, and Lynda Obst. The series is produced by Tall Ship Prods, Kaji Prods, and Lynda Obst Prods in association with Sony Pictures Television.

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CBS Wins Thursday Prime as NCAA Tourney Continues to Post Gains; New Fox Series Debuts Low

CBS had the winning formula in Thursday's prime-time ratings, as its coverage of the "March Madness" NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament continued to post gains over last year's numbers, based on Nielsen overnights for the key 18-49 demo.

TVbytheNumbers.com reports that CBS pulled a preliminary 2.5 average rating in 18-49 for prime time, up two-tenths of a point from last year. The report notes that the network's results are subject to more than the usual adjustments due to the nature of live programming.

Second-place ABC saw its entire prime-time lineup improve from a week ago. "Scandal" led the way with a 3.1 average in viewers 18-49 -- the best number for any program Thursday night on broadcast prime, and an improvement of two-tenths over last week.

ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" delivered a 2.5 in the 18-49 demo, ticking up one-tenth from a week ago, while "Once Upon a Time in Wonderland" bounced back slightly after hitting a series low last week, rising one-tenth to a 0.9.

Fox saw "American Idol" shrink a bit in its new half-hour format, slipping one-tenth from its series low a week ago to an even lower 1.9 average in adults 18-49. Leading out from "Idol" the new series "Surviving Jack" got off to a soft launch with a 1.3.

Fox's "Hell's Kitchen" pulled a 1.8 in viewers 18-49, the same as last week.

Fourth-place NBC aired mostly repeats, with a fresh installment of "Parenthood" managing a 1.4 average in 18-49, up one-tenth from a week ago.

For prime time overall, CBS's 2.5 average led the way in the 18-49 demo, followed by ABC (2.2 average), Fox (1.7), NBC (1.2) and Univision (1.0). CBS also led total viewers, averaging 7.8 million to rank ahead of ABC (6.8 million), Fox (5.9 million), NBC (4.3 million) and Univision (2.6 million).

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'Nightline' Gets a New Anchor After ABC News Veteran Jumps to NBC

A familiar face at ABC News is pulling the plug on a two-decade career at the network and making the move to NBC News. According to The Hollywood Reporter, "Nightline" anchor Cynthia McFadden is exiting to become a senior legal and investigative correspondent at NBC.

Replacing her will be Juju Chang, who has been with the program but will now serve as co-anchor, joining Dan Harris and Dan Abrams. According to TVNewser, Chang has worked at ABC News for her entire career, starting as a desk assistant. She is married to Neal Shapiro, the former NBC News chief, who is now WNET’s president and CEO.

“After 20 incredible years at ABC News I’ve decided to take on new challenges at NBC News,” McFadden said. “While it is not easy leaving the ‘Nightline’ anchor chair, the opportunity NBC offered to make a deep dive into the kind of reporting I am most passionate about -- legal and investigative -- was just too appealing to resist. I’m grateful to everyone at ABC for a marvelous journey and very much looking forward to joining my new colleagues at NBC.”

Her departure comes soon after her boss, Ben Sherwood, was tapped to replace Anne Sweeney as president of the Disney-ABC Television Group. McFadden had served as an anchor on “Nightline” for nine years.

TVNewser notes: "McFadden was one of the original anchors when 'Nightline' went to a three-anchor format in 2005, along with Martin Bashir and Terry Moran. Bashir left for MSNBC in 2010, replaced by Bill Weir. Last year, Dan Abrams replaced Moran, who is now a foreign correspondent for ABC News. And when Weir left for CNN in October, Dan Harris took his spot."

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One Down, One to Go for 'GMA' as the ABC Morning Show Tries to Lock In Its On-Air Lineup

ABC's "Good Morning America" is down to one holdout as it moves to lock in on-air personalities whose contracts are running out.

Writing on Deadline.com, Lisa de Moraes reports that the last holdout is Josh Elliott, after Lara Spencer signed a new contract to remain with the top-ranked morning show.

Elliott has less than four weeks left on his current contract, the story notes. “GMA” has been beating NBC’s “Today” in the ratings, and it’s said that Elliott is in talks with NBC about becoming a “sort of next-generation Bob Costas,” with a focus on both news and sports, de Moraes notes.

“Poaching members of the team credited with ending ‘Today’s' 16-year ratings winning streak is only one of the ways in which NBC is going after its rival as it tries to return its morning infotainment show to the top spot,” she adds.

NBC is also trying to streamline booking of big “gets,” combining plans to showcase interviews across several properties, including “Tonight” and “Today,” the story notes.

The report notes: “‘GMA’ and ‘Today’ both have music concert series in late spring and summer, and booking for the two series is fierce.”

lara spencer-gma.jpgLara Spencer

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No 'Girls' Allowed: Why the HBO Show Was Denied Permission to Film on a College Campus

The University of Iowa told HBO’s “Girls” that it wasn’t welcome to film on its campus, reports the Press-Citizen. The show wanted to tape Hannah Horvath, played by “Girls” creator Lena Dunham, attending the prestigious Iowa Writers' Workshop, but the university declined.

"University of Iowa’s Vice President of Strategic Communication Joe Brennan said this morning he made the decision to turn down HBO’s request to film 'Girls' on the UI campus because, after reviewing the script, he felt the storyline would tarnish the reputation of the university," the story reports.

In a text, Brennan said: “After reviewing the script, I felt the storyline placed the city and university in an unfavorable light, and considering the potential for disruption, I made the decision to deny the request. I won’t share details as I don’t think it fair to reveal the plot in advance. I understand this is a popular show, but it’s my job to safeguard the reputation of the university.”

University of Iowa spokesman Tom Moore said earlier in a statement: “While we are pleased that the Iowa Writers’ Workshop is receiving national attention and that our graduate is doing well in her career, our general practice is to not allow filming, due to potential disruption to campus.”

"Iowa City’s role in the hit show emerged Sunday in a plot twist in the season three finale, which saw the show’s main character Hannah Horvath -- played by show creator Lena Dunham -- accepted to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the university," the report notes, adding: “'Girls' and UI are connected through one of show’s writers, Sarah Heyward, who attended the workshop before moving to the West Coast to become a screenwriter."

Thumbnail image for lena dunham.pngLena Dunham

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'Colbert Report' Online Joke Sparks Accusations of Racial Insensitivity

A Twitter campaign called #CancelColbert began trending Thursday after the “Colbert Report” account sent out a joke that some felt was racially insensitive toward Asians. But Stephen Colbert, who hosts the Comedy Central program, said he didn’t write the tweet, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The tweet read, “I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.”

The joke referred to a section of Wednesday’s show in which Colbert made fun of Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder for establishing the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation. The move was part of efforts to counter complaints about the team’s name, which is considered racist and distasteful by some.

Colbert has used the “Ching-Chong Ding-Dong” phrase as a caricature going back to at least 2011, the story notes.

But the tweet, taken out of context, upset some Twitter users, who started the #CancelColbert campaign. The tweet was later deleted by Comedy Central, although screen saves had already captured it.

The story notes, “In the early hours of Friday, Colbert had caught wind of the imbroglio and took to his personal account @StephenAtHome to clarify that his Comedy Central show's verified Twitter account is not written by him. He also suggested that [he] doesn't even know who writes it. ‘The Colbert Show’ Twitter account also tweeted a series of messages saying its host had nothing to do with the joke gone wrong.”

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