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Hollywood Notes

Jul 29, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Conan’s Emmy gig sparks salary talk
NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker crowned late-night talk show host Conan O’Brien as host of NBC’s Sept. 22 telecast of the 54th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, Calif., last week. Mr. Zucker said that before approaching Mr. O’Brien about hosting the Emmys, he had gone to “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno to receive his blessings. “We wanted to go to Conan because it’s Conan’s turn to be seen by the biggest audience that will ever see Conan,” Mr. Zucker said, “and Jay was thrilled with that.”
The cue for Conan to host the Emmys ignited the general topic of late-night salaries among the critics, some of whom wondered how David Letterman’s new $30 million-per-year contract with CBS compares with Mr. Leno’s less public current contract with NBC. “With regard to Jay’s salary, Jay likes to refer to what he does as `great food at cheap prices,”’ Mr. Zucker said. “It’s all relative, of course. Jay has never once brought up the fact there’s a disparity between what he and Dave make. I think he’s incredibly well compensated and I think it’s fair and equitable.”
Mr. Leno last extended his contract in January 2001 and it expires in December 2005, with Forbes magazine estimating his previous salary at $17 million annually. However, talent agency sources estimate Jay’s pay was since boosted 40 percent to 60 percent, to about $24 million to $27 million per year under his current pact. By comparison, lead-out stable mate Mr. O’Brien signed a new four-year deal last February valued at $8 million annually.
ABC O&Os renew `Fortune,’ `Jeopardy!’
King World has added two more years to the run of its reigning game show tandem, “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!” The syndicated strips have been renewed on key ABC owned-and-operated stations for the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 seasons and have now pinned down the top five markets. The ABC stations, covering more than 21 percent of the country, include WABC-TV, New York; KABC-TV, Los Angeles; WLS-TV, Chicago; WPVI-TV, Philadelphia; KGO-TV, San Francisco; WTVD-TV, Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; and KFSN-TV, Fresno, Calif.
Fox revival in the offing?
Fox Entertainment President Gail Berman said at the TCA press tour last week that Fox has renewed “American Idol” with new episodes to air sometime in the first quarter of 2003. Since live Tuesday and Wednesday editions began airing three weeks ago, Fox has won three consecutive weeks in adults 18 to 49, Ms. Berman said, claiming “Idol” has helped improve female demo ratings by as much as 180 percent vs. year-ago levels.
Ms. Berman also announced that “24’s” season-opening episode Tuesday, Oct. 29, at 9 p.m. (ET) will be commercial-free and sponsored solely by Ford Motor Co. In addition, she confirmed that Counter Terrorist Unit agent Jack Bauer’s (played by Kiefer Sutherland) wife, Teri (Leslie Hope), did die in last May’s season finale.
Network age gap closing
The age gap among broadcast networks is narrowing, resulting in a “more competitive network landscape among several key demographic segments.” That’s the conclusion of “The Median Age Report,” written by Steve Sternberg, Magna Global USA’s audience-measurement guru. “Five years ago, ABC and NBC had median ages [the point at which half the audience is older and half is younger] about 12 years younger than CBS, while Fox and UPN were about 9 years older than WB,” Mr. Sternberg’s report said. “Today both of those gaps have been cut in half.” The report also notes that ABC, which grew older as a result of its reliance on multiple “Millionaire” airings, should “lower its average median age by at least a year” with its new fall schedule. NBC has been “aging by a few years” as a result of its one-hour dramas. CBS, still the oldest-skewing of the Big 4, “could move enticingly closer to that 50-year [median age] mark next season.” Fox’s “average median age should remain about where it is in the fall,” at around 36 years old. The WB “should continue to grow older next season, but will remain the youngest broadcast network,” at around 31 years old. UPN’s median age also is expected to remain the same this fall, at around 34 years.