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Aug 26, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Garrett to Return to ‘Raymond’

Actor Brad Garrett is expected to return to work on the set of CBS comedy series “Everybody Loves Raymond” on Wednesday, after reaching a new compensation agreement Tuesday. As part of his new deal, Mr. Garrett, who portrays Robert Barone on the hit comedy, will get both a pay hike and participation in the back end, sources said.

“We’ve been told Brad is returning to work tomorrow and we look forward to welcoming him back,” CBS spokesman Chris Ender said. He declined to discuss the amount of Mr. Garrett’s new salary or the estimated value of the syndication stake.

Until this week, series star and namesake Ray Romano was the only actor on the show with participation in the back-end profits. This week, Mr. Romano and the other profit participants-creator Phil Rosenthal, CBS, Worldwide Pants and HBO Independent Productions-collectively shaved off a small portion of their take to be contributed to Mr. Garrett and the other core castmembers, Patricia Heaton, Peter Boyle and Doris Roberts.

Mr. Garrett’s reps at Raw Talent did not return calls for comment.

Vivendi to Keep Talking With NBC, Bronfman: NBC and an investment team led by Edgar Bronfman Jr. were the last bidders standing Tuesday after Vivendi Universal’s board of directors agreed to enter into further negotiations with both parties in its effort to sell its U.S. entertainment assets.

Both bidders had largely been seen as the likeliest candidates to walk away with Vivendi Universal Entertainment, whose assets include Universal Studios, a television production company and cable channels USA, Sci Fi and Trio.

Most observers figured NBC stood the greatest chance of winning the derby, in large part because Vivendi Chairman Jean-Rene Fourtou has long been a fan of NBC parent General Electric, and because NBC can bring a lot to the table in the way of cable channels that would complement Vivendi’s studio library.

However, after Tuesday’s board meeting in Paris, Vivendi is willing to entertain the offers from both NBC and Mr. Bronfman, which could be designed to encourage both bidders to one-up each other in an effort to get closer to the $14 billion price tag Vivendi has been seeking.

Liberty Media, once seen as a strong bidder, pulled out late Monday.

“The board of directors of Vivendi Universal met today to examine the bids received for VUE and expressed its satisfaction with the high level of interest showed in these assets,” the company said in a statement. “Vivendi Universal has decided to enter into further negotiations with the two strongest bidders.”

The company also said that it continues to mull an initial public offering, adding that a stock deal would take place after Vivendi struck a strategic alliance “aimed at strengthening its television activities.” The company earlier this month said it was holding talks with cable giant Comcast about such an alliance.

Vivendi said both the NBC offer and the Bronfman offer include debt consolidation and cash or cash equivalents, and both parties would contribute assets to VUE to create a new company. Additionally, both scenarios would leave Vivendi with a stake in the newly formed company.

NBC’s deal would combine the network’s broadcast and cable properties with VUE’s to form what Vivendi described as one of the world’s largest media companies.

The group led by Mr. Bronfman, Vivendi’s vice chairman, would combine VUE’s assets with cable channels owned by Cablevision Systems and equity from private equity fund Thomas H. Lee Partners to form a larger entertainment company.

New ‘Man Show’ Improves Ratings: Comedy Central’s “The Man Show” has shown improved ratings this season with new hosts Joe Rogan and Doug Stanhope. Last week’s premiere rated 1.7 (1.4 million households), which was 42 percent higher than the past three season’s launches with former hosts Jimmy Kimmel and Adam Carolla. The second episode of the half-hour Sunday night program equaled the premiere’s rating.

Nielsen Reports Increase in TV Households: Effective Sept. 1, Nielsen Media Research’s official estimate of the total number of TV households in the United States will rise to 108.4 million.

The new estimate, up from 106.7 million TV homes in the 2002-2003 season, means each national rating point will represent 1.084 million TV homes. The new estimate represents an increase of 1.7 million television households from the 2002-2003 season.

Also rising, effective with the 2003-2004 season, will be the number of persons 2 and older in the TV universe (275.6 million, up from 272.0 million last season). The 18- to 49-year-old demo so avidly sought by advertisers will number 128.8 million for the 2003-2004 season.

Nielsen annually reports television household and persons estimates based on information from a variety of sources, including Claritas, the U.S. Census Bureau and Nielsen Media Research’s samples.

CBS Delays Comedy Block Debut: CBS is delaying the debut of its new Wednesday night comedy block by a week in order to air the “Big Brother 4” finale during premiere week. The “Brother” finale will now air on Wednesday, Sept. 24, from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. The move will put “Brother’s” last hurrah up against the season premieres of ABC’s “The Bachelor” and NBC’s “The West Wing” and will provide a solid lead-in to the debut of CBS’s new David E. Kelley drama “The Brotherhood of Poland, N.H.” “Brother” has been pulling solid ratings for the network all summer. “The King of Queens” will now premiere the following week, on Wednesday, Oct. 1, with a special one-hour episode from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. “Becker,” originally scheduled to debut Oct. 1, will now premiere Oct. 8 from 9:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Leach to Host ‘Life of Luxury:’ ABC is producing a one-hour special called “Life of Luxury,” hosted by Robin Leach, best known for hosting “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” The show will look at the lives of the super-rich and explore how they made their money and what they spend it on. The special will air sometime during the fall season, but no date has been set. The show will be executive produced by Andy Friendly, the former president of programming and production at King World.

Fessel Exits ABC: Andy Fessel’s brief reign as senior VP of research for the ABC Television Network came to an abrupt end Friday, according to sources. “We don’t comment on employee matters,” said a network spokeswoman, regarding a source’s description of Mr. Fessel’s tenure as volatile.

Mr. Fessel joined the network in October 2002. His previous stops included VP of Wireless Internet Intelligence Telephia, Inc.; senior VP of Media Metrix; director of database and marketing at Microsoft; and Fox Broadcasting, where he served as senior VP of research and marketing.

Fuller Named NFL Network’s Media Sales VP: Chris Fuller has been named VP of media sales for the NFL Network, scheduled to launch Nov. 4. The former East Coast sales VP for Fox Cable Sports will report to Senior VP of Marketing and Sales John Collins. Before his five years at Fox Cable Sports, Mr. Fuller was director of sports for Ogilvy & Mather. He will oversee all NFL media sales, including NFL Network, NFL Sunday Ticket, Super Bowl Halftime and NFL Films programming distributed on broadcast and cable.