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The Insider

Nov 26, 2001  •  Post A Comment

To Mel, by Moonves, with rim shot
At the Center for Communication’s annual award luncheon at New York’s Plaza Hotel last week, Viacom President and Chief Operating Officer Mel Karmazin got singled out for leadership and received an affectionate toasting from CBS network chief Les Moonves.
Mr. Moonves began his toast by noting that in media and Wall Street circles his boss is a one-name star-like Elvis, Cher and Madonna. “How much is conveyed by that name,” mused Mr. Moonves. “How many ways it can be said.
“`Mel is on line one.’ What could that mean for the day ahead? So many things! Some of them good, even!” said Mr. Moonves, who said the same potential for “delight” is attached to the messages that “Mel’s gonna be at the meeting,” or “Mel wants an extra 20 percent.”
In the spirit of both David Letterman and budget-cutting, Mr. Moonves offered a Top Nine List of “the things that make Mel Mel.”
The Insider’s favorite: “Mel’s brain. It makes him the quickest study out there. When I met him back in the mid-`90s, he was the radio guy. `I’m just the radio guy,’ he would say. Then he added TV. `I’m just the stations guy,’ he would say. Then he was the corporate guy. `I’m just the corporate guy,’ he would say. And now he’s running the biggest ad-driven media company in the world, and he’s just as humble as he ever was. He told me this morning, `I’m just the biggest ad-driven-media-company-in-the-world guy.”’
Of `Potter,’ previews, muggles and media
AOL Time Warner executives Jerry Levin and Dick Parsons recently hosted two screenings of “Harry Potter.” Mr. Levin told students at the first screening there were certain ground rules: no playing quidditch in Radio City Music Hall and no casting spells on muggles (non-magic folk). Then Mr. Levin gave the youthful audience a choice: They could either watch the film or listen to him read aloud to them from the J.K. Rowling book on which the film was based. This drew a thunderous response from the thousands of New York City public school kids assembled.
The crowd at an Upper West Side screening the following night was more media-centric (Talk editrix Tina Brown with one child in her party who was dressed as a young wizard; Variety honcho Peter Bart, not dressed as a wizard), but Mr. Parsons, sans Mr. Levin, earned a nice hand by keeping his pre-viewing comments very short.
At MSNBC: Two step up as one steps out
Look for word this week that Ramon Escobar, who was on Electronic Media’s Hot List last June, is being promoted from executive producer at MSNBC to vice president of live news programming. In Mr. Escobar’s “spare time,” he and the team he oversees have doubled the number of hours they produce each day since Sept. 11. Mr. Escobar is also representing NBC News and the NBC-owned stations on the transition team working toward the completion of the network’s acquisition of Telemundo.
Meanwhile, MSNBC viewers who’ve gotten used to seeing Bob Kur as a correspondent and frequent substitute anchor on the network will be seeing the 28-year veteran of NBC News at the MSNBC anchor desk every weekday starting this week. Exactly when, however, may vary from day to day as the adjustments are made in the weekday lineup and number of hours assigned to the anchor teams. But there’s one personality we won’t see back on MSNBC’s weekday lineup: Mitch Albom, whose Detroit-based radio show had been simulcast on MSNBC in the afternoons until Sept. 10. His contract wasn’t up until January, but the peripatetic Mr. Albom knew he was facing continuing pre-emptions for news and is said to have helped pull the plug on MSNBC’s window into his studio.
HBO goes behind great sports photos
Looking for a warm-up act for the Winter Olympics and the Super Bowl? Mark Jan. 21 on your TV calendar. At 10 p.m. (ET) that night, HBO Sports will debut “Picture Perfect: The Stories Behind the Greatest Photographs in Sports.”
Like earlier installments in HBO’s “Sports of the 20th Century” series, it will be host-free and lightly narrated by actor Liev Schreiber. The great writer Frank Deford is penning the piece, and Ross Greenburg and Rick Bernstein are executive producers. Production has just begun on “Picture Perfect,” which will include never-before-seen color photos of Babe Ruth at Yankee Stadium, Ben Hogan at the 1950 U.S. Open and fight photos of then-Cassius Clay squaring off against Sonny Liston in 1965.
The final word
NBC celebrated its 75th anniversary Nov. 15, yet the only mention of the event The Insider could find on its air that day was from late-night personality Conan O’Brien in his opening monologue. “Big news here at the network: Today NBC is celebrating its 75th birthday,” he said. “Which means if NBC was a person, it would be watching CBS.”