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Mar 25, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Chung leaves CNN

Connie Chung and CNN have parted ways. Told that her show, “Connie Chung Tonight,” would not be returning to the CNN lineup after war coverage subsided and the schedule returned to normal, Ms. Chung reportedly decided Tuesday to leave CNN.

She had appeared only a couple of times since the U.S. attacked Iraq, reading headlines from CNN’s headquarters in Atlanta, which reportedly had moved her to express concerns to CNN head Jim Walton, a conversation that precipitated the sudden notice of her dramatic change of fortunes.

Ms. Chung had worked for CBS News, NBC News and ABC News before becoming one of the broadcast network stars hired by outgoing CNN Chairman Walter Isaacson in 2001. She had, despite doing precisely the sort of show sources say Mr. Isaacson and CNN/U.S. President Teya Ryan had requested, become a lightning rod that most marked the divide between the old, sober CNN and the new CNN that was trying to recapture dominance from the fast-rising upstart Fox News Channel.

A spokesman for CNN said the decision to cancel Ms. Chung’s show was about CNN returning to its roots and distinguishing itself from the cable news competition.

There was no word about the next assignment for Ms. Chung’s executive producer, Bruce Perlmutter.

One source familiar with the thought process at CNN cautioned against reading the abrupt development with Ms. Chung as as an indication that CNN might also retreat from New York or the other new-CNN hires, “American Morning” anchor Paula Zahn and “NewsNight” anchor Aaron Brown.

Ms. Chung was not available for comment.

‘NBC Nightly News’ audience bigger than ABC, CBS: “NBC Nightly News” averaged 13,189 million viewers for the first week of the war on Iraq. That’s an 24 percent advantage over “ABC World News Tonight” (10,645 million viewers, an average that includes being cleared at the unusual time of 3:30 p.m. in the Pacific time zone Friday, and that is minus Thursday, when there was continuing coverage but not “World News”) and 69 percent over CBS Evening News (8.383 million, which includes some disruptions because of NCAA coverage).

For “Nightly” it was the biggest weekly audience for the newscast with commercials since Nov. 6, 2000, when the presidential election gridlock was the big story. The week of Sept. 11, 2001, was sustaining, or commercial-free coverage, said a “Nightly” spokesperson.

WB Renews Six Series: The WB picked up six series for at least another season. “7th Heaven” was granted a two-year pickup, which will take it through nine seasons. Its Monday night companion, the freshman series “Everwood,” was picked up for another year. Dramas “Smallville,” “Charmed” and “Gilmore Girls” and the sitcom “Reba” also were renewed for next year.

‘Are You Hot?’ Finale Rescheduled: ABC has rescheduled the finale of “Are You Hot? The Search for America’s Sexiest People” to Saturday, April 5, in a special two-hour presentation. The semifinals will air from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. (ET), followed by the finals from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Fox Pick’s Up ‘Afterlife’ Series: Fox picked up a pilot presentation for an animated sitcom called “The Afterlife” from Threshold Digital Research Labs. The series will revolve around the Franklin family, whose members were killed in a freak accident and ended up stuck in purgatory awaiting their ultimate fate.

Barry Bostwick has signed on to voice the dad Stan; Kerri Kenney will voice wife Flo; Alexandra Holden will play daughter Bree and Danny Strong will be son Zach. The series will be executive produced by Larry Kasanoff and co-executive produced and written by David Schneiderman and Derek Guiley.

Lippin Names Eisner Executive VP: Respected TV vet Les Eisner has been promoted to executive VP of The Lippin Group, one of the world’s leading independent entertainment and media public relations firms, effective immediately.

Based in The Lippin Group’s Los Angeles headquarters, Eisner will continue to represent corporate communications campaigns for a number of prominent domestic and global television organizations and associations on the company’s roster. He will continue to report to Dick Lippin, chairman and chief executive of The Lippin Group.

Most recently Mr. Eisner was senior VP. He joined The Lippin Group in 1994. Throughout his tenure with the company, he has been involved with a number of its television, association and new media/technology clientele, including, among others, NATPE, Carlton America, Crown Media Holdings, Tribune Entertainment and TV5-United States.

NBC Crowned Monday Night Winner: The unlikely combo of “Fear Factor” and the “Miss USA Pageant” powered NBC to a nightly win in adults 18 to 49 with a 5.0 rating and 12 share, according to Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate data.

“Fear Factor,” which featured several Miss USA contestants participating in stunts, won its time period in the demo with a 6.2/16 and total viewers with 14.6 million. From 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. (ET), ABC — the only network to schedule war coverage during prime time last night — fell to fourth place in the demo with its news coverage with a 2.5/7 and third place in total viewers with 8.8 million viewers.

Fox’s “Married By America” from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. continues to prove it’s no “Joe Millionaire” with a fourth-place time-slot finish with a 3.2/8 demo rating and 6.4 million viewers. ABC ran back-to-back episodes of “The Practice,” which scored its best numbers in its new Monday time slot but was still down considerably from its Sunday night average. “The Practice” scored a 3.5/8 in adults 18 to 49 and 10.9 million viewers from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. and a 3.2/8 in the demo and 9.6 million viewers from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m.

For the night NBC won in adults 18 to 49 (5.0/12), followed by CBS (4.5/11), Fox (3.4/8) and ABC (3.1/8). In total viewers, NBC (12.8 million viewers) edged out CBS (12.6 million viewers). ABC was third (9.8 million viewers), followed by Fox (7.4 million viewers).

Rodgers to Head New Urban Network: Johnathan Rodgers, former president of Discovery Networks U.S., has been named president and CEO of a new cable television network targeting adult African American and urban viewers that will be launched later this year by Comcast Corp. and Radio One.

Comcast is the nation’s largest multiple-system cable operator, and Radio One, the nation’s seventh-largest radio company, is the largest radio broadcaster targeting African American and urban listeners. Radio One operates 66 radio stations in 22 markets. The new network will feature both original and existing programming, including scripted and unscripted dramas, sitcoms, game shows, movies, plays, newsmagazines and news documentaries.

ABC Reforms Ad Division: ABC Family and ABC Cable Networks Group are restructuring their ABC Family and Kids ad sales division to form two dedicated ad sales units, one targeting adults, the other for kids. The unit dedicated to ABC Family’s adult prime-time programming and early-fringe teen programming with be headed by Laura Nathanson, executive VP, ABC Family Sales.

Kerry Sheldon-Hughes, who has been named VP, kids advertising sales and marketing, will oversee advertising across Disney’s ad-supported children’s television platforms, including the ABC Television Network’s Saturday morning block, the cable outlet Toon Disney and ABC Family’s daily kids action/adventure block as well as sponsorship opportunities on the nonad-supported Disney Channel.

Ms. Nathanson will continue to handle ABC Family’s adult-targeted prime-time programming as well as the teen-focused programming.

ZDF, Discovery Extend Joint Production: German television network ZDF, its ZDF Enterprises subsidiary, and Discovery Communications have extended their programming and production joint venture through 2005.Under the terms of the agreement, the Discovery Channel programming block, which has aired on ZDF since 1998, will continue. During the renewal period, ZDF will acquire a total of 200 hours from Discovery.

In turn, Discovery will license 60 hours of ZDF programming for transmission on the Discovery Channel’s pay TV service in Germany as well as on Discov
ery’s various international program services. In addition, the two companies will collaborate on eight productions per year.

Ostrow’s Tenure Extended at CAB: Joe Ostrow, who was slated to step down as president and CEO of the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau on March 31, has agreed to stay on in that position for an additional two months at the request of CAB’s board of directors.

The extension, said Kim Kelly, CAB board chair and president and chief operating officer of Insight Communications, will allow CAB to operate at full capacity during the critical upfront planning season while the selection process for Mr. Ostrow’s successor is concluded. The board, in conjunction with search firm Korn/Ferry International, is considering several candidates for the slot that Mr. Ostrow has held since 1994. Mr. Ostrow has a multiyear consulting arrangement with CAB that will begin immediately after he turns over the reins to his successor.