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Jun 28, 2001  •  Post A Comment

CBS unveils ‘Big Brother 2’ contestants: CBS revealed the names of “Big Brother 2’s” 12 housemates who will be competing for a $500,000 grand prize when the show debuts at 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. (ET) Thursday, July 5.

Under the more Americanized reformatting of “Big Brother 2,” being overseen by Arnold Shapiro, the veteran reality producer said the dozen new houseguests (six women and six men) had the highest I.Q. test scores of any reality show with which he has been involved.

The female guests are Autumn, a 28-year-old accountant/singer from Irving, Texas; Krista, 28, a waitress from Opelousas, La.; Monica, 40, a candy store manager and adult literacy teacher from Brooklyn, N.Y.; Nicole, 31, a personal chef from Atlanta; Shannon, 29, a real estate agent and boat captain from San Antonio; and Sheryl, 43, an interior designer from Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. CBS declined to divulge the last names of the contestants.

On the men’s roster are Bunky, 36, a technical writer from Harrisburg, N.C.; Hardy, 31, an account executive from Philadelphia; Justin, 26, a bartender from Bayonne, N.J.; Kent, 46, a mortgage broker from Powell, Tenn.; Mike, 30, a bar owner from Los Angeles; and Will, 28, a physician from Miami. The age range appears somewhat younger than that of the first show, with an average age of 33 for the second go-round.

In a departure from last summer’s original version of the series, Mr. Shapiro’s production will be sequestering the housebound contestants in co-ed sleeping quarters, which has led to speculation in the media over the potential for sexual and romantic high jinks. However, in a conference call earlier this week, Mr. Shapiro said any nudity or risquÈ content will be either edited out or “blurred.”

Mr. Shapiro plans to have 38 cameras trained on the houseguests, who will be benefiting from all-new interior decor and furnishings. A CBS spokesman said the show plans to offer a 24-hour live video-streaming component through the CBS.com Web site, but there is no word yet on whether an ISP partner, like America Online last summer, will again provide a featured portal for the show.

“Big Brother 2” is expected to run for 11 weeks, but no specific final date has been set, according to a CBS spokeswoman. CBS News reporter Julie Chen will return as host of the Thursday live show, which will have a new set in front of the “Big Brother” house and will not include a studio audience. In addition to the Thursday airing, “Big Brother 2” will run at 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Senate subcommittee backs FCC funding request: A Senate appropriations subcommittee headed by Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., supports the Federal Communications Commission’s $248.5 million fiscal year 2002 funding request.

“I think the committee wants to make sure you have the entire amount requested,” the lawmaker said at a hearing Thursday. By contrast, House appropriators want to scale back the request by almost $10 million.

Testifying before the panel, FCC Chairman Michael Powell reiterated his concern that agency engineers are retiring at a faster rate than they can be replaced, partly because the agency cannot match higher salaries in the private sector. He said the situation is at a “crisis stage.” But he noted that his funding request, an 8 percent increase over fiscal year 2001 appropriations, would help the agency tackle the problem by hiring and training more engineers.

Mr. Powell said the FCC will need increased funding during the next several years to keep pace with its technology and personnel goals.

Meanwhile, responding to concerns raised by Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., Mr. Powell said retailers and manufacturers have taken longer than expected to make cable set-top boxes available in stores because they differ over whether retailers should have a stake in the revenues. Customers currently pay monthly fees to their cable providers to rent the boxes.

NBC sells only 68 percent of inventory: NBC has sold just 68 percent of its prime-time inventory in the upfront, according to Randy Falco, president of NBC Television Network.

Furthermore, in a startlingly frank accusation, Mr. Falco said, “CBS foolhardily held out too long and paid the price in the marketplace. … They lost share. I think they will lose a lot of share.”

Mr. Falco predicted CBS will “write about $1.4 billion in this upfront. Last year they wrote $1.6 [billion]. Remember, they are the ones going around telling everybody that they have all the momentum — increased ratings, ‘Survivor,’ ‘CSI.’ It’s a pretty big story to say they’re down $200 million — 12.5 percent.”

CBS finally broke down earlier this week and began selling prime-time inventory at cost-per-thousand decreases averaging 3 percent to 4 percent, according to a number of buyers. Prior to that, operating under a mandate from Mel Karmazin, president and CEO of network parent Viacom, CBS was only offering deals with either flat CPMs or CPMs at negative 1 percent, and most buyers were not biting, according to both buyers and CBS insiders.

“We haven’t made price concessions,” said a CBS spokesman. “We said from the beginning that our strategy is about pricing, not about volume. Our competitors have clearly underestimated the impact of ‘Survivor’ and ‘CSI’ in the market.”

Mr. Falco said of his own network, NBC: “We came away with a much bigger share in a smaller market. In prime time we’ll have $2 billion for this upfront, vs. last year’s $2.2 [billion]. That represents a bigger share of the overall pie, which we think is in the area of $6.9 billion for the entire six-network market. That equates to about a 29 percent share vs. last year, when we wrote $2.2 [billion] against a $7.8 billion total, which is 28.3 percent.”

That share accounts for about 68 percent of the network’s inventory, Mr. Falco said.

That means both CBS and NBC, at least, are gambling that a robust scatter marketplace will develop.

To those who contend that discounting for share was a sign of weakness, Mr. Falco said, “We read the market the right way. We read it early. We understood that the marketplace was actually going to be down. We made modest price concessions, we think, to the right people at the right time, and we created a momentum for ourselves, which quickly made it clear to the entire marketplace that we were after share, and that’s what we got.”

Johnson retiring as CNN chairman: Tom Johnson messaged the staff of CNN late Thursday that he is retiring as chairman and CEO of CNN.

Phil Kent, the president and chief operating officer of CNN News Group, and Eason Jordan, the chief news executive of the CNN News Group, will report directly to Jamie Kellner, chairman and CEO of TBS Inc.

Mr. Kellner announced that Mr. Johnson will be “an advisor and consultant on a multi-year basis” to Mr. Kellner.

Although many outsiders had expected plummeting ratings to take Mr. Johnson down with them last year, the chairman had boasted last winter-when CNN was in the midst of widespread layoffs and he was viewed as being increasingly marginalized in CNN’s attempts to reinvigorate itself-that he’d been offered a new contract but hadn’t decided whether to sign it.

In his internal memo Thursday, Mr. Johnson waxed almost lyrical about why he is leaving as he nears age 60. The reasons centered on spending more time with his children and a granddaughter in California and traveling with his wife.

“It is time for a workaholic to escape the stress of work before stress gets me,” he wrote.

“I do so as an excellent new executive leadership team is now in place at TBS and CNN,” he said, asking the CNN staff to “provide Jamie Kellner, Garth Ancier, Phil Kent, Eason Jordan and all the new leaders with your strongest support as CNN enters a dynamic new chapter in its already incredible history.”

“I am personally pleased that Tom will be with us at CNN during this transition period,” said Mr. Kellner.

Mr. Johnson took over CNN a decade ago after a career that included politics and publishing, including a last stop at the Los Angeles Times.

ABC News issues pink slips: As the downsizing deadline set by parent The Walt Disney Co. neared, p
ink slips quietly went to some 30 employees of ABC News this week. The recipients, a number of them in jobs that have little or nothing to do with the news or television products themselves, were given what one insider described as “appropriate” severance benefits.

Disney had set a goal of lopping 4,000 jobs off its payroll of 120,000 worldwide by July. Three thousand of those job cuts were achieved through voluntary separations. That left 1,000 separations to be accomplished with offers of less appealing severance benefits.

A spokeswoman was unable to say how many involuntary layoffs had been made through this week throughout the network, but an insider said it was lower than originally predicted because there had been so many voluntary exits.

‘Survivor’ applications sought: CBS has begun taking application forms for the fourth installment of “Survivor,” available through its CBS.com Internet site. A CBS spokeswoman said that the network and “Survivor” Executive Producer Mark Burnett have yet to choose a location or a date of broadcast for the fourth incarnation, although the rep said it is still tentatively set for winter or spring 2002.

As previously reported (EM, May 21), CBS President Leslie Moonves has been floating the idea of putting up the fourth “Survivor” as counterprogramming to NBC’s broadcast of the Winter 2002 Olympic Games from Salt Lake City in February 2002, but the CBS representative stressed that scheduling remains tentative. The third edition, “Survivor: Africa,” has already been slated for a September debut.

The auditioning of ordinary people for the fourth “Survivor” seems to put in limbo the idea of offering a celebrity version of the hit reality competition, which was reported in numerous media outlets. Earlier this month, Mr. Moonves floated the idea on Howard Stern’s radio show that Mr. Stern and other celebrities such as Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant might participate as contestants on a future celebrity version of “Survivor.” The current audition plans for versions three and four of “Survivor,” it would appear, have delayed a celebrity “Survivor” to either the summer of 2002 or the 2002-03 season.

CBS is accepting online applications for “Survivor 4” through July 27. In a new spin, open casting calls will be conducted at participating CBS-owned stations across the country. Additional details will be announced at a later date.’Link’ segment with Harbert ex-wife to air: The show must go on: An NBC spokeswoman said the network is moving ahead with plans to air an episode of “Weakest Link” in which NBC Studios President Ted Harbert’s ex-wife won $92,000 as a contestant on the in-house-produced game show. NBC had withheld the episode from airing June 25, as first reported by Inside.com. An NBC rep said Mr. Harbert had no prior knowledge that his ex-wife, from whom he has been divorced for 15 years, was accepted as a contestant on the show. The rep added that, given the length of time the two had not had contact, the network decided her participation on the show did not violate the game’s rules.

‘Inside Politics’ loses a half-hour: Starting July 2, “Inside Politics” will be trimmed by a half-hour per day and Bill Hemmer will take on double duty, anchoring a half-hour newscast at 6 p.m. (ET) weekdays in addition to the 10 p.m.-to-10:30 p.m. “CNN Tonight” over which he has presided since CNN revamped its prime-time lineup earlier this year. “Politics” had grown from an hour to 90 minutes to accommodate last year’s heavy campaign coverage. Judy Woodruff has been anchoring the show solo since Bernard Shaw retired in February.

In other news, Jaime FlorCruz, Time magazine’s man in Beijing for almost 20 years, has joined CNN as its Beijing bureau chief. A native of the Philippines, Mr. FlorCruz was forced into exile in China in 1971 by then-Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos. When his passport expired in 1972, he became “stranded” in China for 12 years. Rebecca MacKinnon, the former bureau chief in Beijing, will become the news network’s bureau chief and correspondent in Tokyo.

ABC’s ‘Jack’ stays strong: ABC’s summer game show “You Don’t Know Jack” continued its winning ways on Wednesday night, though it did drop slightly week to week. The Paul Reubens-hosted game show posted a 3.2 rating/11 share in the key adults 18 to 49 demographic, off 6 percent from its week-ago premiere average (3.4/12) in the 8:30 p.m. time period, according to Nielsen Media Research fast national data.

On a positive note, “Jack” improved 23 percent on an 8 p.m. repeat of “The Drew Carey Show” (2.6/10) and beat CBS’s original episode of “Ladies Man” (1.6/6) by a 100 percent margin at 8:30 p.m. Overall, “Jack” posted a 4.7/9 household average, representing 6.8 million total viewers.

Bernstein new Lions Gate president: Ira Bernstein has been named president of Lions Gate Television Distribution, overseeing worldwide sales of the company’s television product.

Mr. Bernstein, who has been handling syndication for Lions Gate’s upcoming action hour “Tracker,” was previously president of Mercury Entertainment, a company he founded in 1999 after serving as president of Domestic Television Distribution for Rysher Entertainment.

In addition, the company has announced that “Tracker” has cleared 90 percent of the country, including WWOR in New York, KCOP in Los Angeles and WPWR in Chicago.

Lowell to develop for NBC: NBC Studios has signed Jeff Lowell, a writer-producer for ABC’s “Spin City,” to a two-year development agreement in which he will create and develop comedy series for the network’s in-house production arm beginning this fall.

In a deal sealed by NBC Studios President Ted Harbert, Mr. Lowell will also serve concurrently as co-executive producer on NBC’s new comedy “Inside Schwartz,” which will debut in the 8:30 p.m.-to-9 p.m. Thursday lead-out position from “Friends.”

Teen NBC rollout set: NBC will begin a staggered rollout of its new lineup of Saturday-morning tNBC (otherwise known as Teen NBC) programming in August.

Beginning Aug. 4, the 10 a.m.-to-1 p.m. (ET) tNBC rotation will consist entirely of repeats, with the exception of original episodes of the all-girl comedy “All About Us” at 10:30 a.m. and “NBA Inside Stuff” at 12:30 p.m. to 1 p.m. As for the remaining tNBC August lineup, “City Guys” will get repeat exposures (10 a.m. and noon), in addition to repeat episodes of “Just Deal” airing at 11 a.m. and “One World” at 11:30 a.m. From there, new episodes of the shows will roll out Sept. 8.

Then, on Oct. 6, “Skate,” a coming-of-age skateboard dramedy from veteran kids series producer Thomas Lynch, will debut in the 11:30 a.m. slot, taking the place of “One World.” “Skate,” which will be taped on mini-high-definition television (HDTV) cameras mounted on skateboards, is scheduled to begin shooting in August in Vancouver, Canada.

Equity buys Arkansas stations: Equity Broadcasting Corp. purchased the low-powered Fox affiliate KPBI-LP and UPN affiliate KFDF-LP, both serving the Fort Smith, Ark., market, from Fort Smith-based Pharis Broadcasting. The deal also includes KWBF-TV, which is the WB cable affiliate in the market, a partnership with the WB 100+ Station Group. KPBI will continue to produce the popular noon sports call-in show “The Huddle” and the stations will continue the tradition of broadcasting high school football and basketball games on weekends. They will also air Arkansas Razorbacks, St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers games.

Johansen named ‘Kilborn’ producer: Worldwide Pants has made it official: Peter Johansen is the new producer of “The Late Late Show With Craig Kilborn.” He succeeds Mary Connelly, the executive producer who left several weeks ago to return to writing for sitcoms. Mr. Johansen, a former NBC page and producer on “Today,” has worked as a field director for “Entertainment Tonight” (he played an agent in “The Brothers McMullen,” which was made by former “ET” colleague Ed Burns), a producer on “The Rosie O’Donnell Show” and supervising producer on the defunct “The Martin Short Show.”

Esiason, Jones to ‘NFL This Morning’: Former NFL stars Boomer Esiason
and Deacon Jones will be analysts on Fox Sports Net’s “NFL This Morning,” when the live Sunday pregame show enters its third season. Mr. Esiason, a former NFL MVP, also does commentary for Westwood One’s “Monday Night Football” radio broadcasts. Mr. Jones, known as “The Minister of Defense” in the days he was a member of the Los Angeles Rams’ “Fearsome Foursome,” is credited with having coined the term “sack.”

WNBC sets 60th anniversary special: WNBC-TV in New York will take note of its considerable history July 1 with a three-hour special marking the 60th anniversary of its launch as the country’s first commercial station at 1:29 p.m. on July 1, 1941.

Birmingham’s WVTM elevates Miley: Yvette Miley has been named vice president of news at WVTM-TV, the NBC owned-and-operated station in Birmingham, Ala. Ms. Miley began her career with overlapping jobs as a sportswriter at the Palm Beach Post and a news producer at WPTV in West Palm Beach, Fla., in the mid-’80s, and by 1991 she had joined NBC-owned WTVJ-TV in Miami as producer of the 11 p.m. news. She has been assistant news director at WTVJ since 1999.

WHO IS NEWS

Kathy Connors to NBC Sports publicist, from NBC Sports communications coordinator.