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Oct 2, 2003  •  Post A Comment

John Calley Departs Sony Pictures Entertainment

John Calley has resigned as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Sony Pictures Entertainment, the movie and TV arm of the Sony Corp., according to a company announcement.

Mr. Calley, who held the top post at the studio for the past seven years, is shifting to a movie producing deal with the studio and is remaining on the studio operating committee and the SPE board of directors.

Mr. Calley is not being replaced by a sole head of the studio. Instead, a committee of three vice chairman will manage all film and TV operations. They are Amy Pascal, chairwoman, Columbia Pictures; Jeff Blake, president, worldwide marketing and distribution, Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group; and Yair Landau, president, Sony Pictures Digital, who has oversight of TV operations at the company. All three are based in Culver City, Calif., and will report directly to Howard Stringer, chairman and CEO Officer, Sony Corp. of America, who is based in New York City.

“John is not only a valued friend and colleague but also an elegant, intelligent and passionate champion of both the creative process and the sound business practices that have reinvigorated our studio,” said Mr. Stringer in a statement. “He has been unfailingly generous with his talent, his wit and his wisdom, and Sony Pictures is a far better organization today because of his leadership. We will miss his day-to-day involvement but welcome the opportunity to continue to work together in a way that suits him yet retains his creative vision.”

The change at the top is not expected to have any immediate or direct impact on Sony’s TV operations. Mr. Stringer, a highly regarded producer and executive in Hollywood for more than four decades, focused almost all of his attention on the film side of the business. Steve Mosko, president of Sony Pictures Television, continues to report to Mr. Landau.

Mr. Calley’s first two projects for the studio are a film adaptation of the bestseller “The Da Vinci Code,” and a movie called “Closer,” to be directed by Mr. Calley’s longtime friend and former business partner Mike Nichols.

WBBM Hires Anchorwoman Diann Burns: As part of its effort to overhaul its news operations, Viacom-owned CBS station WBBM in Chicago has hired veteran anchorwoman Diann Burns to front its 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. news starting Oct. 13. The station will debut its new 6 p.m. news that night. Ms. Burns served as the 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. anchor at market leader ABC-owned WLS from 1994 until this past February when the station and the anchorwoman were unable to agree on a new contract. She joined WLS in 1985 and quickly became a weekend anchor.

At WBBM, she will co-anchor with Antonio Mora. “Diann has had an 18-year span where she has been the most successful anchorwoman in town,” said Joe Ahern, general manager for WBBM. The current 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. anchor Tracy Townsend has been asked to stay on as a reporter and fill-in anchor, he said.

The hiring of Ms. Burns and the relaunch of the 6 p.m. news, dormant for more than five years, should help WBBM regain news viewers, Mr. Ahern said. “So many viewers that watch in the 6 p.m. will go on to watch the 10 p.m. I want to re-establish ourselves as an important station in news and community service,” he said. To that end, the station kicked off its 4 p.m. newscast last month and introduced weekend morning news in August.

Rush Limbaugh Resigns from ESPN: Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh talked his way off ESPN’s “NFL Sunday Countdown” show. Mr. Limbaugh resigned from his position on the show in response to a flurry of negative reactions in the media to his comments that sportswriters favor Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb because he is black. “My comments this past Sunday were directed at the media and were not racially motivated,” Mr. Limbaugh said in a statement. “I … do not want to be a distraction.” ESPN accepted the resignation Wednesday. “We believe that he took the appropriate action to resolve this matter expeditiously,” said George Bodenheimer, president of ESPN and ABC Sports.

Alexander to Star in CBS Comedy Pilot: Jason Alexander signed a deal to star in a CBS comedy pilot based on the work of Washington Post journalist Tony Kornheiser. The series, from Regency Television, was originally developed last season, but a pilot pickup was cast-contingent.

With Mr. Alexander’s agreeing to star in the show, CBS gave the project the go-ahead. The show will be executive produced by Lindy DeKoven and Jeff Martin, who is also the writer. Mr. Alexander is known best for his role as George Costanza in the NBC hit “Seinfeld.” However, his last TV endeavor wasn’t nearly as successful. He starred in the ABC sitcom “Bob Patterson” in 2001-02, but it was canceled after five episodes.

Chrisanthopoulos Named Pappas President and COO: Pappas Telecasting Cos., a midsize television station group, has promoted Peter Chrisanthopoulos to a newly created position of president and chief operating officer. He had been president and COO of sales and marketing for Pappas’ Azteca America Television Station Group since November 2000. Pappas owns 20 Fox, WB, ABC, CBS, UPN and Azteca America affiliates.

New Station Cooperative Gets Seacrest Show: A consortium of small-market television stations has joined forces to create a buying cooperative with enough critical mass to take on The WB 100+ Station Group, and on Thursday inked a distribution deal with Twentieth Television to carry “On Air With Ryan Seacrest.”

The agreement, a cash-plus-barter deal with a weekly license fee, lasts for two years and involves 30 stations. Officials at Twentieth Television declined to provide additional financial terms.

The collection of stations, known as the Program Purchase Cooperative, consists of 221 broadcast stations in the 100-plus television markets and is the brainchild of Mary Carole McDonnell, VP of programming at Raycom Media, which owns and/or operates more than 36 TV stations.

People familiar with the PPC say they are betting that its size will better enable the stations to acquire programming and will position the stations to get first crack at content that might have otherwise gone first to The WB 100+, which smaller broadcasters say has had enough critical mass to land several sought-after syndication deals.

‘Bachelor’ Rating Down in Demo: CBS’s “King of Queens,” the finale of Fox’s “Paradise Hotel” and The WB’s premiere of “Angel” took a bite out of “The Bachelor’s” ratings last night.

“King of Queens,” which relocated to its Wednesday 9 p.m. time slot last night with a one-hour episode, came in second after NBC’s “The West Wing” (5.5/13) in adults 18 to 49 with a 4.9 rating/12 share, according to Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate data. It beat ABC’s “Bachelor” and “Paradise Hotel” (tied with a 4.6/11) by 7 percent in the demo. “King” also finished second in total viewers with 13.7 million to “West Wing’s” 16.1 million.

“Bachelor” was down 28 percent in adults 18 to 49 and 2.8 million total viewers from its two-hour premiere a week ago.

Fox finally had some ratings news to crow about with two hours of “Paradise” propelling the network to a third-place finish in adults 18 to 49 for the night with a 3.7/10 average. The show averaged 7.7 million viewers over the two episodes.

The WB launched its new Wednesday night combo of “Smallville” and “Angel” to decent results. “Smallville” had a third-place 3.1/9 in adults 18 to 49, beating NBC’s “Ed” and CBS’s “60 Minutes II.” It had 7 million total viewers, finishing in fourth place and beating Fox’s “Paradise.”

“Angel” dropped 15 percent from its “Smallville” lead-in with a 2.7/7 and a fifth-place finish. It pulled in 5.8 million total viewers.

Debuts were mixed for ABC. Sitcom “It’s All Relative,” which won its time slot in adults 18 to 49 with a 4.4/12, held on to 94 percent of “My Wife and Kids'” adults 18 to 49 audience. It also won its time slot in total viewers with 10.9 million. However, new drama “Karen Sisco” only held on to 65 percent of its “Bachelor” lead-in with a 3.4/9 in adults 18 to 49. It scored 9.2
million total viewers.

Both of those results were good enough for second place in the 10 p.m. time slot behind NBC’s juggernaut “Law & Order,” which dominated with a 6.3/17 in adults 18 to 49 and 17.2 million viewers. CBS’s “Brotherhood of Poland, N.H.” was third in the time slot with a 2.3/6 in adults 18 to 49 and 7.2 million viewers, down from its week-ago premiere.

For the night, NBC won in adults 18 to 49 with a 4.9/13, followed by ABC (4.2/11), Fox (3.7/10), CBS (3.2/8), The WB (2.4/6) and UPN (1.3/3). In total viewers, NBC won the night with 13.8 million, followed by CBS (10.3 million), ABC (10.2 million) Fox (7.7 million), The WB (5.3 million) and UPN (3 million).

With Ownership Cap Rider in Omnibus Bill, McCain Will Drop Effort to Block Rollback Vote: In good news for the affiliates, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told reporters today that a Senate appropriations bill that includes a rider that would roll back the cap on national TV ownership to 35 percent is going to be folded into a broader “omnibus” appropriations measure-and the lawmaker will drop his efforts to block a Senate vote on the legislation.

In an impromptu briefing with reporters, Sen. McCain confirmed that he had put a hold on the legislation in an effort to strip out the cap rollback. But he said it would be “inappropriate” to continue an attempt to block a vote once the language is included in the omnibus legislation.

Sen. McCain, however, also vowed to try to strip out the cap rollback with an amendment once the omnibus legislation reaches the Senate floor. But, said the senator, “I can’t hold up an omnibus appropriations bill.” Sen. McCain also said that the key reason for his hold has been that he doesn’t believe policy issues should be resolved with appropriations bills.

On a related front, Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., said the prognosis was bad for his resolution to overturn all of the Federal Communications Commission’s media ownership deregulation, largely because House Republican leaders are fighting it behind the scenes. “Regrettably, I think we will probably not see success on this issue,” Sen. Dorgan said. But a spokesman for the senator subsequently said the lawmaker had not intended to indicate that he was throwing in the towel. “He’s continuing to work to pass the resolution and restore sensibility to the FCC rules,” the spokesman said.