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The Morning Fix: Couric heads to ABC, Ebersol leaves NBC, Schwarzenegger goes nowhere

May 20, 2011 |  8:50 am

After the coffee. Before admitting I'm the only living reporter who doesn't drink coffee.

The Skinny: Katie Couric is in at ABC, Dick Ebersol is out at NBC and neither of those things have to do with the television upfronts, which are finally over. "Over" is also a good way to describe Arnold Schwarzenegger's planned Hollywood comeback. And if Friday's "Morning Fix" seems less witty than usual, don't blame Joe Flint. He's traveling and you're stuck with, to mangle a phrase from a favorite movie of mine, "lesser Company Town reporter."

Operation "Ginger" is go at ABC: If you're like most people who read media news, you've been dying for somebody to write about Katie Couric's career. But after months of speculation, it seems the former (as of yesterday) "CBS Evening News" anchor is closing a contract for her next move: a talk show at ABC. The syndicated program, which ABC owner Walt Disney Co. is counting on to help replace "The Oprah Winfrey Show," will begin in fall 2012, be produced by former NBC Universal chief Jeff Zucker and cost about $40 million per year to produce. Best detail: Inside ABC, the operation to land her has been code-named "Ginger." Get all the details from the outlet that broke the story: the Los Angeles Times.

Ebersol and NBC split: Although sports is one of the biggest money drivers in the media business, the executives behind it tend to be less well-known than those who pick shows and work with celebrities. One exception was the larger-than-life Dick Ebersol, who over four decades has produced coverage of 12 Olympics and become a legend at NBC. That's why his departure from the company just four months after Comcast took over is such a big deal. Ebersol also co-created "Saturday Night Live," which I didn't know, and helped solve NBC's Leno/Conan mess last year. Analysis from the New York Times and L.A. Times.

Insert "career terminated" joke here: Surmising that few people are in the mood to work with, or be entertained by, an ex-governor who had a secret child with a woman who worked in the house he lived in with his wife and four other kids, Arnold Schwarzenegger announced he's putting his Hollywood "comeback" on hold indefinitely. I'll admit I was kind of looking forward to a fifth "Terminator" (hope springs eternal), but that animated "Governator" series always seemed a bit wacky. Everybody covered this story, so let's go with the L.A. Times (random, I swear), Entertainment Weekly and the Hollywood Reporter.

Is "interactive" always code for "money losing?": Unlike its media brethren who stick their toes into video games then pull out, Walt Disney Co. has committed itself to business. Last year it even spent $563 million on social games company Playdom and brought in a new executive team. But despite the sexiness of the word "interactive," the unit continues to struggle and is far, far away from profitability. An analysis from the Los Angeles Times.

"Mannix" is back ... in court: In a lawsuit nobody saw coming, Mike Connors, star of the 1967-1975 CBS show "Mannix," is suing over allegedly unpaid royalties. Defendant Paramount/CBS calls the complaint "a mystery worth of 'Mannix's' skills." I'm not that young and I'd never heard of "Mannix" until I read this. The Hollywood Reporter broke the story.

'Pirates' to pillage box office again: Only one new movie opens at the box office this weekend, but it's a big one: "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides." Disney's fourth entry in its adventure-comedy series built around Johnny Depp's fey buccaneer is in 3-D and cost more than $200 million. The biggest challenge: Moviegoers still sour over the third one, which nobody understood and felt like it lasted about 37 hours. Nonetheless, the studio is aiming for an opening of more than $100 million here and possibly $200 million abroad. Box office predictions from the L.A. Times, Variety, and the Wrap.

Upfronts are over: But Deadline has some analysis of what shows advertisers liked and which producers were the big winners.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Critic Betsey Sharkey says the 3-D in the new "Pirates of the Caribbean" stands for "dark, dismal and disastrously claustrophobic." Kenneth Turan is more upbeat about Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris." But Randall Roberts is not so hot on Lady Gaga's new album. The networks' new fall schedules seem focused on making women laugh.

-- Ben Fritz

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