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Oct 7, 2001  •  Post A Comment

‘Danny’ canceled in first ‘wreck’ of new season

“Danny,” CBS’s new Daniel Stern sitcom — formerly under the development title “American Wreck” — became the first cancellation of the young 2001-02 season. A CBS spokesman confirmed that “Danny” had its last airing in the 8:30 p.m.-to-9 p.m. (ET) Friday slot Oct. 5, with a repeat of “Yes, Dear” being called on to temporarily fill the time slot Oct. 12.

Other sources said the Eye Network is mulling further repeat insertions of “Everybody Loves Raymond” or “King of Queens,” possibly looking to swap time slots to help bolster current 8 p.m.-to-8:30 p.m. freshman sitcom “The Ellen Show,” starring Ellen DeGeneres.

In just two airings (premiering Sept. 28), “Danny” averaged a 2.0 rating/6 share average in adults 18 to 49, a 3.8/7 in households and 5.45 million total viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research national data. Last Friday’s airing (Oct. 5) had “Danny’s” adults 18 to 49 (1.8/6) and household (3.4/6) numbers dropping 18 percent and 17 percent week to week, respectively. “Danny,” which was produced by Viacom’s Big Ticket Television and Acme Productions, also fell off 18 percent from its “Ellen” lead-in among adults 18 to 49 (2.2/8).

TV critics responding to Electronic Media’s 2001 Spring Critics Poll were torn between picking “Danny” and NBC’s new “Emeril” and “Inside Schwartz” sitcoms as the most likely to be first to be shown the door. However, to date, “Emeril” is holding at a 3.3/10 average for its first two weeks, while “Schwartz” was the fourth-ranked show in the first week of the new season in adults 18 to 49 and has averaged 10.9/28 in the demo during its first two weeks — although the latter has dropped 29 percent of its “Friends” lead-in (15.3/42).

CNN competitors under fire for using Al-Jazeera video: The saber-rattling over use of video from Al-Jazeera, the Middle Eastern TV news service that has a direct relationship with the Taliban government and Osama bin Laden, continued Monday.

CNN struck a new deal that superseded other networks’ agreements and gave the Atlanta-based news organization a six-hour exclusive head start on use of Al-Jazeera footage. However, the new deal, which had only become known on Saturday, didn’t stop other networks from using the Qatar-based TV service’s video after word Sunday that the much-awaited retaliatory strikes against Afghanistan and bin Laden had begun.

The networks claimed they were within fair-use precedent since the air strikes led by the U.S. military constituted a national emergency on Sunday. CNN seemed to retreat to a stance that boiled down to no legal action.

CNN’s legal department followed up Monday by touching base with the other networks “to remind them that we do have these rights.” But a spokesperson said, “At moments of national emergency, we are not going to press our rights.”

However, Al-Jazeera managing director Mohammed Jasim Al-Ali faxed a letter to CNN’s competitors Monday that said such usage “is considered an act of piracy.”

“This note shall serve as a notice to all Al-Jazeera clients and affiliates that the CNN-Al-Jazeera exclusive agreement is still in place and, if we have to, we will enforce it through our legal departments,” said the new communique. “Any party that uses the Al-Jazeera footage without prior written consent of Al-Jazeera shall be in violation of this special agreement and shall face the legal consequences of its acts.”

CNN spokespeople were unable to explain why Al-Jazeera was speaking on behalf of CNN’s legal department.

CBS News, which lists Al-Jazeera as a subscriber to its Newspath affiliate service, issued a statement saying, “CBS News has been consistent in its belief that with America at war, some of the normal rules of broadcast competition should give way to a broader perspective of what is in the national interest. It is clearly not in the national interest to arbitrarily restrict access to material generated by an Arabic broadcaster that may provide a unique viewpoint on this story. If there is material that is of vital importance, CBS News will give strong consideration to broadcasting it despite attempts by a competitor to keep it from parts of the American public.”

Late Monday, CNN Chairman Walter Isaacson called his network counterparts in an attempt to quell the professional squabbling. A spokesman translated CNN’s stance as: “Yes, we have an exclusive. Yes, we believe it’s enforceable. But we are not going to enforce it, in this unique circumstance. because of the compelling national interest, we think it’s the right thing to do.”

“We are gratified, in fact, CNN has changed its position,” said CBS News.

Clear Channel to acquire Ackerley Group: Clear Channel Communications announced plans Monday to acquire The Ackerley Group and its $294 million in debt in an all-stock transaction that puts Ackerley’s value at some $800 million.

Each share of Ackerley’s common stock and Class B common will be converted into the right to receive 0.35 of a share of Clear Channel common stock under the deal, which is scheduled to be completed in the first half of 2002, subject to regulatory and Ackerley stockholder approvals.

Ackerley owns 16 TV stations and has local marketing agreements for two more, owns four radio stations (and provides sales and other services to another) in its hometown, owns Internet portals for three TV stations and has outdoor advertising assets that would give Clear Channel entry into Boston, Seattle and Portland, Ore.

The holdings of Clear Channel, which is headquartered in San Antonio, include some 1,220 radio stations and 19 TV stations domestically and equity stakes in more than 240 international radio stations and some 770,000 outdoor advertising displays.

Any divestitures of Ackerley assets will come after Clear Channel takes control.

In a conference call Monday, Ackerley Chairman Barry Ackerley said Clear Channel had made an unsolicited offer in July and that the deal was essentially done later that month and signed last week.

Ackerley principals will not join the Clear Channel board and will sign one-year non-compete agreements.

Mr. Ackerley, whose Class B common stock holdings represent approximately 82 percent of the outstanding voting power of the company, said, “There’s a lot of big players that can do things we can’t do. The media business is consolidating. We’re not that big a business. It was time for us to consolidate.”

Ackerley President Chris Ackerley said corporate overhead has been reduced from last year’s $24 million to an estimated $17 million through the end of this year.

NBC looking hard at possible Telemundo acquisition: NBC is in “heated” negotiations to buy Telemundo, the No. 2 Spanish-language broadcaster in the United States, according to people familiar with the situation who are cited in a Wall Street Journal report.

The General Electric unit’s offer, according to the report, is $2 billion in cash and GE stock, plus assumption of nearly $700 million in debt. Privately held Telemundo’s owners, Sony Corp. and Liberty Media Corp., are said to be asking $3 billion for the network, its production facilities and its eight television stations.

Spanish-language television is one of the few TV advertising categories to have improved its performance over the previous year in the recently concluded dismal upfront, with Telemundo tallying increases of between 15 percent and 20 percent.

Nonetheless, Telemundo is expected to lay off as many as 150 employees, according to a recent report in the Miami Herald. That report attributed the cuts, which will include the cessation of early-morning newscasts at several affiliates, to the cost of commercial-free news coverage in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

James McNamara, Telemundo’s president, earlier this year confirmed to Electronic Media that almost every large media entity had expressed interest in purchasing Telemundo, which has been surging in the ratings. At the time, he specifically included both GE/NBC and Viacom, another suitor mentioned in the Journal report. He also said that Telemundo’s owners were listening to the suitors but
were not actively seeking to sell the network. At press time, Mr. McNamara had not responded to requests for comment about these recent developments, including the prospect of layoffs.

Emmys called off as America strikes back: The 53rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards show scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 7, was called off just hours before the live CBS broadcast as American and British missiles and planes struck at Osama bin Laden’s terrorist organization and Afghanistan’s Taliban government.

The awards were originally scheduled for presentation in a three-hour nationally televised program Sept. 16 but were delayed for three weeks in recognition of the national mourning over terrorists attacks on the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon five days earlier. Sunday’s second postponement came even as final rehearsals were under way inside the Shrine Auditorium in downtown Los Angeles.

Susan Marks, a CBS spokeswoman, simply told Reuters, “The [Emmy] event is canceled.” At a press conference shortly after the initial announcement, Les Moonves, president and CEO of CBS Network Television, and Bryce Zabel, chairman of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, clarified Ms. Marks’ initial statement, with Mr. Zabel saying that the award show’s ultimate fate was yet to be decided.

Mr. Zabel said that the security of stars and other Emmy attendees was a major factor in canceling the awards show, though he also emphasized that the military action had not increased the security concerns. He and Mr. Moonves said there was no immediate discussion about whether to reschedule the awards or simply drop the idea at all this year.

“We don’t think there is any burning need to keep the Emmys on in order to keep America going, which it will do fine itself,” said Mr. Zabel, who was elected as ATAS’s new head last August. “There are a lot of options to look at,” he added, noting that ATAS could simply opt out of a telecast and “drive up” and deliver the Emmy statuettes to winning stars and creative talent.

Mr. Moonves said the decision to call off the Emmy telecast resulted from a whirlwind of “hundreds” of phone calls he exchanged Sunday morning with the other broadcast networks and Hollywood studio executives.

“They all felt it was wrong for everyone to come together, given the military events unfolding this morning,” Mr. Moonves said. He also said that 95 percent of people he talked to were in support of canceling the awards. “Honestly, it is going to take further consultation with ATAS” to see if the 2001 Emmy Awards are broadcast at all this season, he added.

However, Don Mischer, executive producer of the Emmy telecast, said there were some series casts that did not want to attend Sunday’s aborted broadcast — even before the military events unfolded.

“Without mentioning the shows, there were some high-profile casts that did not want to come on … it was something that we felt was totally appropriate and understandable,” said Mr. Mischer, who had planned on bicoastal televised presentations from New York and Los Angeles.

Mr. Mischer said that Emmy host Ellen DeGeneres had been “devastated” by the news of the show’s cancellation, having been at the Shrine Auditorium early in the morning for rehearsals. He also said Ms. DeGeneres, star of CBS’s “The Ellen Show,” had planned to introduce six or seven special pre-produced vignettes offering tribute to the heroes and victims of the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, and Shanksburg, Pa.

Additionally, longtime CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite had been prepared to deliver an opening address, but after discussing the cancellation with Mr. Zabel, he relayed word that it seemed like an appropriate decision. Mr. Cronkite instead appeared on a special two-hour edition of CBS’s “60 Minutes.”

Mr. Zabel said the level of security for the aborted awards show had been on par with a “presidential appearance.” He estimated that ATAS and CBS would stand to lose “millions of dollars” from show’s cancellation but stressed that money taking a back to seat to security concerns was “in the spirit of the country” at the time of U.S. military actions in Afghanistan.

After the initial postponement of the Emmy telecast last month, there had been some talk within TV industry circles about handing out the statuettes without a televised ceremony. Instead, ATAS had opted to institute increased security measures and a businesslike dress code for the event.

Mr. Zabel said specifically at the press conference that there were no additional security concerns following the beginning of the British and American air attacks Sunday and that the Emmy telecast’s security officials, including the FBI, had said it was safe to go ahead with the ceremony.

“I want to make something very clear,” Mr. Zabel said. “The decision to postpone the telecast tonight is not based on any specific threats. … The show was good to go from a security point of view.”

However, top U.S. government officials, including U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, had warned that terrorists could attempt reprisal attacks on American soil.

Emmy-free Sunday attracts news, football viewers: The cancellation Sunday of the “53rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards” cost CBS the night in the ratings and ad revenue but also gained the network praise from the Hollywood creative community for putting safety and security first.

Despite the loss of the Emmys, CBS saw its expanded two-hour version of “60 Minutes,” dealing with America’s first day of military assaults on Afghanistan, win the 7 p.m.-to-9 p.m. (ET) frame in households (8.1 rating/13 share) and adults 18 to 49 (3.2/8) among the Big 3 networks scrambling with special news coverage. All told, CBS’s drew 11.8 million total viewers over the two-hour frame, according to Nielsen Media Research fast national data.

CBS also held 29 percent and 3 percent advantages over NBC’s two hours of news coverage in both households (6.3/10) and adults 18 to 49 scores (3.1/8), respectively. ABC News’ special coverage came in third in both households (6.0/10) and adults 18 to 49 (2.7/7).

Benefiting from a football runover of the Green Bay Packers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers game, Fox won adults 18 to 49 (5.9/17) at 7 p.m.-to-7:30 p.m. and averaged a top-ranked 4.1/10 in the demo for its 7:30 p.m.-to-10 p.m. movie presentation of “There’s Something About Mary.” Fox won the evening with a 4.4/11 average in adults 18 to 49 — the only network to post growth (10 percent) on a week-to-week basis in prime time.

For ABC, the second weekly outing of freshman drama “Alias” in adults 18 to 49 (4.4/9) dropped 28 percent from its premiere-week bow (6.1/14) but still managed an impressive 63 percent increase over the two-hour news lead-in. The third new episode of the season for 10 p.m. stalwart “The Practice” was also down 28 percent week to week but improved 32 percent of its lead-in by winning adults 18 to 49 (5.8/14) for the hour.

NBC also found it tough sledding for the 9 p.m.-to-11 p.m. outings of “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” (3.4/7) and “UC: Undercover” (3.4/8) down 23 percent and 26 percent from their previous week’s scores in adults 18 to 49. NBC finished the night third in adults 18 to 49, down 15 percent week to week.

CBS, plugging in repeats of “Everybody Loves Raymond” (2.9/8), “King of Queens” (2.5/5) and “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” (2.8/7) finished last in adults 18 to 49 (2.8//7, dropping 18 percent week to week) and tied for fourth with Fox in households (both at 6.2/10 scores).

Two games with Jordan … and rest of Wizards … come to NBC: NBC Sports has added two Washington Wizards games to its lineup, including the Nov. 3 home opener against the Philadelphia 76ers that will mark the return of Michael Jordan as a player. The Wizards’ Dec. 1 home game against the Orlando Magic also has been added to the schedule.

Warner Bros., Telepictures shuffle sales execs: In what is being billed as a reorganization of the executives ranks, Rick Meril and Bill Marcus have been named senior vice president of sales for Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution and Telepictures Distribu
tion, respectively.

Mr. Marcus and Mr. Meril, who previously both served as senior vice president and general sales manager of their respective Warner Bros. syndie sales divisions, had reported to Dan Greenblatt, who retired last month from his post as executive vice president of sales for both divisions. They will now report directly to Dick Robertson, president of Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution. Mr. Meril and Mr. Marcus will be responsible for the distribution sales activities for first-run and off-network properties for their divisions, as well as overseeing the sales and administration staffs and working with WBDTD’s research and marketing groups.

Mr. Meril joined WBDTD in 1999 after spending 16 years at Cox Broadcasting, most recently as executive vice president and general sales manager of television syndication for Cox’s defunct Rysher Television division. Before that, he served as vice president and general sales manager of TV syndication at Cox’s former Television Program Enterprises.

Mr. Marcus returned to traditional television sales last year as senior vice president and general sales manager of Warner Bros.’ Telepictures Distribution unit, following a brief stint as head of distribution for Fusient, a content incubator for Internet sites. Prior to that, he served for a year as senior vice president of Miramax, responsible for the sales and distribution of feature films to selected parts of Europe, Latin America and Asia. Before that, Marcus was vice president of Eastern sales of Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution for three years, where he was involved with the sales of such high-profile programming as “The Rosie O’Donnell Show” and the off-net run of “Friends.” Prior to that, he served as division manager of domestic syndication at Twentieth Television and held account executive posts at both Viacom and Qintex.

Van Allen to oversee Fox stations’ publicity efforts: On the heels of the Fox Television Stations group completing its acquisition of the Chris-Craft Industries/United Television station group last summer, Ivey Van Allen, vice president of media relations for syndication division Twentieth Television, has taken over publicity duties for the combined station groups.

In an announcement made jointly by Mitchell Stern, chairman and CEO of Fox Television Stations, and Bob Cook, president and chief operating officer of Twentieth Television, Ms. Van Allen will oversee publicity efforts for 33 stations — 23 Fox affiliates, 8 UPN affiliates and two independents — under the Fox Television Stations banner. She will represent both corporate and local market publicity efforts with both consumer and trade press.

Ms. Van Allen will also continue to be responsible for all corporate and entertainment publicity efforts for Twentieth Television, including its current roster of first-run strips (such as “Power of Attorney” and “Divorce Court”) as well as this fall’s new court series “Texas Justice.” Off-network properties going into the station or cable network pipeline include “King of the Hill,” “The Practice,” “Ally McBeal,” and “Dharma and Greg.”

Prior to her promotion last year, Ms. Van Allen served as executive director of media relations for Twentieth Television.

KEYE-TV to air preseason Houston Texans football: KEYE-TV, the CBS-owned station in Austin, Texas, has locked up the rights to broadcast the preseason games of the Houston Texans, the NFL’s new AFC team that will debut in 2002.

Film Roman gets ‘Chelsea Boys’ TV rights: Film Roman, the Los Angeles-based animation company behind Fox hits “The Simpsons” and “King of the Hill,” has acquired the TV rights to the ground-breaking syndicated comic strip “Chelsea Boys,” which deals with the lives and loves of three gay roommates in New York’s Chelsea district.

Created by Glen Hanson and Allan Neuwirth, Film Roman’s intent is to develop “Chelsea Boys” as a half-hour animated series for future licensing to the broadcast or cable networks. Peter Schankowitz, Film Roman’s president of television programming and development, and Sidney Clifton, Film Roman’s vice president of development, will be developing the property along with the creators.

“Not since ‘All in the Family’ have we seen a comedy with the types of textured characters and stories featured in ‘Chelsea Boys,” Mr. Schankowitz said in a prepared statement. “Here’s a family you’ve never seen before — and storytelling that speaks the truth rather than playing to stereotypes. “We’re excited to work with Glen and Allan in bringing these rich stories to the small screen.”

Mr. Hanson is a designer, illustrator, writer and art director whose credits include “Spy Groove,” “Beetlejuice” and Nicklodeon’s “Daria.” Mr. Neuwirth is an award-winning author of screenplays and books and a designer of toys, games and CD-ROM projects whose credits include “Courage the Cowardly Dog,” “Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss” and “Big Bag.”

(c) Copyright 2001 by Crain Communications