Mar 6, 2015
12:37 pm

NBC Pulls Plug on Drama Series, Reinvents Thursday Nights (USA Today, TVWeek)

NBC has given up on a low-rated drama series and announced a programming move that combines the resources of the news and entertainment divisions. The network canceled “Allegiance” and will fill two hours on Thursday nights with “Blacklist”-related programming, USA Today reports.

In an announcement, the network said: “NBC will air ‘Dateline: The Real Blacklist’ at 8 p.m. Thursdays beginning March 12, leading into ‘The Blacklist’ at 9 p.m. ‘The Slap,’ which currently airs at 8 p.m., will shift to the 10 p.m. timeslot.”

Veteran reporter Richard Engel will host “Dateline: The Real Blacklist,” which will focus on conspiracy-oriented investigations and crimes involving “larger-than-life perpetrators and circumstances,” the network said.

“For the March 12 ‘Dateline: The Real Blacklist,’ Engel has more on the murder case that is currently the subject of a new official inquiry in Great Britain. He investigates the 2006 poisoning death of former Russian spy and businessman Alexander Litvinenko,” NBC said. “Engel traveled to London, Moscow and Rome to take a deeper look into Litvinenko’s death, the murder investigation and the players involved in the case. He also spoke with the former Russian security agent, who’s now a chief suspect in the case.”

A future installment of the show will focus on John McAfee, “the former antivirus pioneer who has remained a Person Of Interest to police in their investigation into the murder of Gregory Faull in Belize,” NBC said in its announcement.



Mar 6, 2015
12:31 pm

CNN Breaks Ground in Use of Drone News Footage — Here’s the Video (Multichannel News, CNN)

CNN announced that it has achieved a breakthrough in newsgathering by airing what a CNN spokesperson calls “the first-ever FAA-authorized use of UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone] video for news-gathering,” Multichannel News reports.

The footage aired today on CNN’s morning news show “New Day.” The network said the footage provides a bird’s-eye view of Selma, Alabama’s Edmund Pettus Bridge, which was a focal point of the events of Bloody Sunday during the civil rights movement.

“TV news operations had been testing drones for news gathering and, last fall, the FAA approved exemptions to drone regulations that allow TV and film production teams to use the small, unmanned aircraft to get killer shots without endangering any humans,” the story reports.

Here’s the video as posted by CNN:

Mar 6, 2015
12:27 pm

Filmmaker Known for Work With Beatles, Stones Dead at 88 (Rolling Stone)

A pioneering filmmaker who created some of the most iconic documents of the 1960s has died. Rolling Stone reports that Albert Maysles died Thursday night after battling pancreatic cancer. He was 88.

Along with his brother David, Maysles revolutionized documentary filmmaking as a pioneer of the use of cinema verite.

“Gimme Shelter,” the Maysles brothers’ account of the Rolling Stones’ disastrous 1969 concert at Altamont, is considered one of the greatest rock documentaries of all time.

“The brothers began their career in the early 1960s helming films about movie executive Joe Levine (‘Showman’) and Orson Welles (‘Orson Welles in Spain’) before documenting the Beatles’ debut trip to the United States in ‘The Beatles: The First U.S. Visit,’” Rolling Stone reports.

“But it was … 1968′s ‘Salesman,’ the story of door-to-door Bible salesmen canvassing Boston and Florida, that gave the duo their first classic. Building off the cinematic style of Jean Rouch and Dziga Vertov, ‘Salesman’ pioneered cinema verite, the observational strain of documentary filmmaking that eschews narrative voiceover in favor of fly-on-the-wall, non-judgmental spectating.”

“Gimme Shelter” documented the Stones’ free concert at the Altamont Speedway, and when things went bad, caught the killing of a teenage fan, Meredith Hunter, by the Hells Angels. The movie “became an epitaph for the optimistic, late-Sixties movement,” Rolling Stone notes.

Here’s an interview with Albert Maysles by Christina Haskin:

Mar 6, 2015
12:21 pm

Viacom Restructuring Brings Layoffs (LA Times)

Layoffs have hit one of the Viacom cable channels as a result of the company’s latest restructuring efforts.

The Los Angeles Times reports: “At least 20 people on Thursday were let go at TV Land, according to three people familiar with the situation who asked not to be identified discussing sensitive personnel matters.”

As we reported yesterday, Viacom has begun restructuring, including putting together a consolidated ad sales unit under Jeff Lucas.

“An unknown number of advertising sales executives also were cut as the company consolidated two units into a single sales force that will be run by Jeff Lucas,” the Times reports. “Ad sales for Viacom’s BET channel will remain independent.”

The report notes that Lucas’ responsibilities, which previously included sales for MTV, VH-1, Comedy Central and Spike, have been expanded to include Nickelodeon and other kids’ channels.

“Top Viacom executives warned of the downsizing more than a month ago, as the company contends with lower ratings and seismic shifts in viewing behavior,” the Times reports. “Viacom has been particularly challenged in the ratings because so many of its channels target younger viewers who increasingly get their entertainment from digital outlets like YouTube and Netflix.”


Mar 6, 2015
11:47 am

Cable Net Touts Ratings Achievement: No. 1 in Prime Time in Key Demos (TVWeek)

A cable network announced that it accomplished something in February that it has never done before in the month. Citing Nielsen live/same day ratings, AMC said it came in at No. 1 for the month in prime time in adults 18-49, men 18-49 and men 18-34 for the first time in a February.

AMC also was No. 1 in adults 18-34.

The cable net cited strong performances by “The Walking Dead,” “Better Call Saul” and “Talking Dead.”

“The network’s new series and returning hits also generated significant buzz across social and digital media throughout the month, ranking among the most digitally engaging programs on television,” AMC reported. “‘The Walking Dead’ garnered 19.8 million engagements across Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Wikipedia and Google+ — more than any other non-sports program.”

“The Walking Dead” ranks as the No. 1 show on television in the key 18-49 demo for “going on three years,” the network announced, adding: “The series returned for the second half of its fifth season on February 8th and has continued to grow year over year.”

The new “Breaking Bad” spinoff “Better Call Saul” has been another success story for AMC. The series “debuted on February 8th as the biggest series premiere in cable history among adults 18-49 based on Nielsen live/same day ratings. The show is also the #1 series premiere in cable history among adults 18-49 and adults 25-54 in live+3 ratings,” AMC announced.

better call saul-title

Mar 6, 2015
11:31 am

Questions Finally Answered About the Bizarre Finale of ‘Ellen’s Design Challenge,’ and What Ellen Needs to Do if the Series Is Renewed (TVWeek)

Not only was the disqualified contestant on Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show yesterday, but the president of  Ellen’s production company answers other questions posed to him by TVWeek Open Mic blogger Chuck Ross. Please click here to read Chuck’s insightful essay.

Mar 6, 2015
11:19 am

Will Neil Patrick Harris Host the Oscars Again? Here’s His Surprisingly Candid Response to the Question (Variety, Huffington Post)

After hosting the Academy Awards on Feb. 22, TV fixture Neil Patrick Harris was asked the obvious question: Will he do it again?

Variety reports that Harris responded to the question in an interview with The Huffington Post by saying: “I don’t know that my family nor my soul could take it. It’s a beast. It was fun to check off the list, but for the amount of time spent and the understandable opinionated response, I don’t know that it’s a delightful balance to do every year or even again.”

The report adds: “The ‘How I Met Your Mother’ star says that every laugh was planned meticulously for the show, despite criticism that the show seemed too improvised and featured an abundance of unnecessary jokes on race. The jests ranged from Harris’ kick-off joke, ‘Today, we honor the best and whitest. Sorry, brightest’ to Sean Penn later questioning how ‘Birdman’ director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu got his green card.”

Harris adds: “It’s so difficult for one who’s simply watching the show to realize just how much time and concession and compromise and explanation has gone into almost every single thing. And I’m not saying that to defend everything I said as if it was the absolute best choice, but it’s also an award show, and you’re powering through 14 acts filled with 20 plus awards. So, my job was to try and keep things as light and specific to this year’s set of films as possible. And if people are critical of that, it’s a big giant platform, so I would assume that they would be.”

The report notes that viewership for the ceremony fell 16% from last year’s Oscars, to the lowest total in six years.

neil-patrick-harris-oscars-10152014-140425Neil Patrick Harris

Mar 6, 2015
11:11 am

Former CBS and CNBC Personality Joins Fox Business Network (Fox Business)

Fox Business Network has signed an anchor and markets reporter who is a veteran of a number of TV news jobs. Trish Regan joins the cable network from Bloomberg News, where she landed after stints at CBS News and CNBC.

Bill Shine, Senior Executive Vice President of Programming for FBN and Fox News Channel made the announcement.

“We’re excited to welcome Trish to the FBN team and look forward to utilizing her broad industry contacts, along with her expertise in international economies,” Shine said in his announcement.

Fox Business reports: “Beginning on April 6th, Regan will serve as a markets reporter and business anchor for FBN. She will also provide financial commentary across FNC programs and on”

Said Regan: “FBN has an all-star lineup of business anchors and I am beyond thrilled to join the team and help further strengthen the brand.”

The Fox Business report notes: “At Bloomberg, Regan served as anchor of the market-close program ‘Street Smart,’ which aired weekdays from 3-5pm/ET. She also anchored a series of the network’s prime-time specials as well as the 2012 Presidential campaign coverage.”

Regan joined Bloomberg in 2011 after a stay at CNBC that began in 2007. Her “Marijuana, Inc.” special for CNBC is one of the network’s top-rated documentaries.

She has also worked as a contributor to “NBC Nightly News” and the “Today” show.

She earned an Emmy nomination for her work as a financial correspondent for “CBS Evening News.”

trish reganTrish Regan

Mar 6, 2015
11:01 am

Another ‘Daily Show’ Regular Moves On (NY Daily News)

A “Daily Show” fixture who has been talked about as a possible replacement for Jon Stewart is no longer in the running.

The New York Daily News reports that Samantha Bee will exit the Comedy Central show to launch her own TBS series.

TBS confirmed the move in an announcement, saying the new show “is being planned as a platform for Bee to apply her smart and satirical point of view to current and relevant issues.”

The report adds: “Details about the show were still being hammered out, but network execs said Bee would serve as both host and executive producer, alongside her husband, former ‘Daily Show’ correspondent Jason Jones.”

In a statement, TBS VP Brett Weitz said: “Like her fans around the country, we absolutely adore everything about Sam, from her straight-faced sarcasm and ruthless wit to her uncanny ability to mine comedy gold from just about any awkward situation.”

samantha bee-daily show

Mar 6, 2015
10:39 am

NBC News Officially Names Andy Lack Chairman (Washington Post)

NBCUniversal confirmed today that it has hired Andy Lack, the former president of NBC News, as chairman of NBC News and MSNBC, The Washington Post reports.

NBCU CEO Steve Burke made the official announcement this morning.

As we reported earlier this week, Lack stepped down two days ago from his post with the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the federal agency that runs Voice of America and other U.S. media operations. The move was widely thought to signal Lack’s return to NBC.

Lack was president of NBC News from 1993-2001.

In his announcement, Burke says of Lack: “While at NBC, he presided over the News division’s unprecedented rise to number one, led by ‘Today,’ ‘Nightly News,’ ‘Dateline’ and ‘Meet the Press.’”

The Post adds: “The move bumps current NBCUniversal chairwoman Patricia Fili-Krushel to a ‘new corporate role’ on Burke’s executive team. And NBC News President Deborah Turness will remain in her position, reporting up to Lack.”

The announcement should come as good news for Brian Williams, currently serving a six-month suspension from his anchor job on “NBC Nightly News.” As we reported previously, Lack is considered to be a Williams ally.

The Post report notes: “There’s lots to fix at the NBC News group, including the standing of the ‘Today’ show, once the preeminent morning news program and now an also-ran. MSNBC keeps tinkering with its lineup in hopes of lifting its own dismal ratings. And the Sunday morning franchise ‘Meet the Press’ has gone through years of underperformance and mismanagement, though it has made recent strides under host Chuck Todd.”

Those issues, however, are likely to take a back seat to the Brian Williams situation.

“Much has been made of the close connection between Lack and Williams — who worked closely together during Lack’s first run at NBC — fueling speculation that the new chairman will simply re-install the credibility-challenged anchor to his beloved chair,” The Post reports. “Yet that call will default to Burke, the CEO of NBCUniversal.”

andy lackAndy Lack

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