Entertainment Industry

Category: American Idol

CBS chief Leslie Moonves' favorite comedy is not on CBS

Leslie Moonves is CBS' chief executive.

CBS Corp. Chief Executive Leslie Moonves made a startling admission at the 36th Annual UCLA Entertainment Symposium on Saturday.

At the end of a wide-ranging question-and-answer session, prominent entertainment attorney Ken Ziffren asked the television titan to name his favorite television comedy.

"Modern Family," Moonves said.  

The Emmy-winning sitcom, created by Steve Levitan and Christopher Lloyd, has become a colossal hit for ABC. The show, now television's top-rated comedy, is produced by another rival, 20th Century Fox Television -- not CBS'  production studio. 

It would hardly be news if any other entertainment CEO said he liked a competitor's program, but this was Moonves. He has been CBS' most ardent cheerleader for more than 15 years, and he has changed the names of several business units in his corporate stable so they would be branded CBS. 

Moonves immediately knew he would take flak.

"I'm going to get in big trouble with Chuck Lorre next week," Moonves said, referring to the prolific producer who has helped build CBS' comedy blocks into some of the most profitable half-hours in all of television with his shows "Two and a Half Men," "The Big Bang Theory" and most recently "Mike & Molly."

Ziffren noted that "Big Bang Theory" (produced by Warner Bros. Television), which airs on CBS on Thursday nights, is beating the once-invincible Fox Broadcasting singing competition "American Idol" in the ratings.

"Look, 'Idol' is still a monster show, I wish that I had it, but it's not what it used to be," Moonves said.

For the record, Moonves said his two favorite dramas on television were "The Good Wife" on CBS and "Homeland" on Showtime, which is owned by CBS. 

"And they are both mine," he said.

"Big Bang Theory" tops "American Idol" again

CBS chief testifies that he would have paid more than NBC for Golden Globes

CBS chief Leslie Moonves gets $57.7 million in compensation

-- Meg James

Photo: CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves in April 2011 at the National Assn. of Broadcasters convention. Credit: Julie Jacobson / Associated Press

'American Idol' parent CKX to be sold to Apollo Global Management

American-idol

CKX Inc., the parent of "American Idol" producer 19 Entertainment, has struck a deal to sell itself to a private equity firm.

The company, which has been on the block for years, Tuesday morning announced a deal with Apollo Global Management valued at about $509 million.

Under the terms of the all-cash deal, CKX shareholders will get $5.50 per share. The CKX board said it would recommend that its shareholders accept the offer.

Apollo said it had the support of CKX's two key shareholders -- company founder Robert F.X. Sillerman, who is now a consultant to the company, and The Promenade Trust, the company's partner in Elvis Presley Enterprises, whose sole beneficiary is his daughter, Lisa Marie Presley.

Besides 19 Entertainment, which also produces Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance" and owns a management business, CKX operates Elvis Presley's Graceland mansion and an 80% interest in licensing rights to the name and image of Muhammad Ali.

Last year, when suitors were circling the company, offers were between $550 million and $600 million.

However, although there were three separate groups kicking the tires of CKX, including "American Idol" creator Simon Fuller and Sillerman, no agreements could be reached. The third bidder was One Equity Partners, a private-equity arm of JP Morgan Chase that had teamed up with Hollywood veteran deal-maker Allen Shapiro, who is president of Mosaic Media Group.

The slow pace and tone of the talks led CKX to say in October 2010 that it "did not receive any proposals that it felt were in the best interests of shareholders."

More recently, the Gores Group, which is billionaire Alec Gores' company, made an offer to buy CKX that the board ignored.

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-- Joe Flint

Photo: "American Idol" judges Steven Tyler, left, Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson pose with host Ryan Seacrest. Credit: Reuters

The Morning Fix: Big bucks for 'Big Bang'! Weinstein Co. makes splash at Toronto. Reality bites on broadcast.

After the coffee. Before wondering why Fashion Week snubbed me.

Reality bites. The Wall Street Journal uses the overhaul of Fox's "American Idol" to check in on the state of the reality TV biz. Heading into the fall season, the WSJ notes that the five broadcast networks have scheduled 14 hours of reality shows, the lowest number since 2005. Of course, in fairness, a lot of reality shows usually come on in mid-season to replace new comedies and dramas that didn't work. Also, although broadcast may be backing away from reality shows, the story doesn't note how huge they've become on cable. TLC, MTV, Bravo and dozens of other channels are basically reality-show factories these days. As for "American Idol," we're all still waiting for Fox and the producers to announce Steven Tyler, the Aerosmith singer, and performer Jennifer Lopez as the new judges. Actually, does anyone care anymore?

Big paycheck for "Big Bang Theory." Deadline Hollywood has the details on the new contracts for the stars of the CBS hit "The Big Bang Theory." Most interesting was how Warner Bros. TV, which makes the show, managed to get breakout star Jim Parsons to take the same deal as his co-stars. Initially, the Emmy winner had been holding out for a bigger deal, but Warner Bros. played hardball. The raises come in the wake of Warner Bros. selling repeats of the program to TBS. In other words, this is the reward for the last few years as much as it is a raise going forward.

They're back! The Weinstein Co., apparently trying to move on from founders Bob and Harvey Weinstein's unsuccessful effort to buy back Miramax from Walt Disney Co., has been making a splash at the Toronto International Film Festival. According to Variety, the Weinstein Co. picked up North American rights for a British coming-of-age comedy called "Submarine," its second purchase after springing for "Dirty Girl." Lionsgate has also been busy as it and specialty subside Roadside bought U.S. rights to Robert Redford's "The Conspirator," which is from new Chicago Cubs owner Joe Ricketts

Brother, can you spare a dime? Veteran movie banker Clark Hallren, who left JPMorgan last year to create Clear Scope Partners, has a grim financing forecast for the movie industry. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Hallren, who worked on the initial IPO for DreamWorks Animation, said "it's a good time not to be a banker." Why? Well, Hallren notes that foreign banks are not doing as many deals and the risks in the movie business have skyrocketed.

You say show, I say advertisement. An advocacy group is going after Nickelodeon, charging that one of its new shows is nothing more than an advertisement dressed up as a kids cartoon. The show, "Zevo-3," premieres on Nicktoons next month (actually the day after Hub, a new rival kids channel from Discovery and Hasbro, launches) and is based on characters that were created for a marketing campaign by the shoe company Skechers. The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has sent a complaint to the Federal Communications Commission asking the agency to stop Nickelodeon from proceeding with the show. The FCC does have rules regarding advertising and kids programming, but Nickelodeon parent Viacom counters that although the characters of the show may have been inspired by the ads, it is not violating any government regulations. More on the skirmish from the New York Times.

Missing the point. The Hollywood Reporter has a story Thursday declaring that "fat is making a comeback in Hollywood" and suggesting that we can all "forget about" the super-skinny actresses that fill just about every show on broadcast and cable. What the story doesn't note is that most of these shows are reality shows about losing weight and that their overall message is that there is something wrong with the people on the show. Although obesity is a real issue, many of these shows are just exploiting people in the hopes of ratings. In other words, Hollywood is not suddenly embracing people who you can actually still see when they turn sideways.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Sirius XM Chief Executive Mel Karmazin said he is confident that Howard Stern will sign a new deal with the satellite radio broadcaster. MGM got its seventh (that's right, seventh) forbearance on its debt payments. Lucas Cruikshank is building an empire with his Fred Figglehorn character.

-- Joe Flint

Follow me on Twitter because I said so: Twitter.com/JBFlint

The Morning Fix: Steven Tyler to scream for 'American Idol'! Spyglass chiefs near deal to run MGM. HBO might add an X.

After the coffee. Before readjusting to heat and humidity.

Walk this way! Looks like Steven Tyler, the lead singer for Aerosmith (they were a big band in the 1970s and then made Alicia Silverstone's career, for you kids who don't know), has sealed his deal to be a judge on Fox's "American Idol" next season. The show, which lost Simon Cowell and Ellen DeGeneres, still has to find at least one more judge and talks with Jennifer Lopez have hit a standstill. Although "American Idol" has definitely lost some power over the last few years, it remains the most-watched television show in the industry and a cash cow. One trusts that even if ratings take a bigger than usual slide without Cowell, the cost savings from his exit will balance out with any advertising decline. In other words, hope Fox and the producers, 19 Entertainment and Fremantle, are not breaking the bank on unproven judges who happen to have once been big names. The latest from Ted Casablanca and Taryn Rider at E! Online.

Spyglass brass gets closer to taking reigns of MGM. Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum, the chiefs of Spyglass Entertainment, are putting the final touches on a deal to run the troubled MGM studio. Earlier this week, MGM's debtors and Barber and Birnbaum reached an agreement that would have the two Spyglass toppers take over a shrunken MGM. Details from the Los Angeles Times and Variety.

But I already saw "Boogie Nights." HBO is working on a series about the adult entertainment business. Makes sense -- after all, they already have porn star Sasha Grey on the payroll for "Entourage" and maybe she's up for double duty. The show is from Dirk Diggler himself -- Mark Wahlberg. He's already in bed with HBO, as his production company makes "Entourage" and "How to Make It in America" for the pay cable channel. Just to make sure everyone knows it's a fictional show, author James Frey has been tapped to write the pilot. More from the New York Post.

Stop calling me Shirley! This week, "Vampires Suck," the latest spoof movie of a popular genre opened, but are these joke flicks getting tired? The Hollywood Reporter looks at whether "Vampires Suck" will draw blood at the box office.

Location, location, location. Facebook has unveiled its location service, which will allow its users to let people know where they are at. Of course, most Facebook users already take glee in telling their friends when they are at the gym, hiking, on vacation or just sitting around in the backyard. I've never quite understood why one would never put a sign on their door saying, "going away, feel free to ran shackle" yet people have no problem telling Facebook where they are at all times. What, none of my friends are thieves? I'm not taking that chance. Oh, and there will be the usual griping from privacy advocates about what Facebook is doing; although I'm as pro-privacy as anyone, if you truly want privacy, don't put your life online. Oh, and if you are curious, Thursday morning's roundup is being done from a Starbucks on Broadway and 103rd Street. Details on Facebook's latest move from the Wall Street Journal.

"Business Report" sold. "Nightly Business Report, a stable of public broadcasting that for years has been owned and produced by WPBT-TV, a public television station in Miami, has been sold to a private company. According to the New York Times, Mykalai Kontilai, who distributes television programs and used to manage mixed martial artists, has acquired the show. No terms were disclosed. The show, which is over 3 decades old, will continue to be produced out of WPBT. 

Guess Betty White wasn't available. Chelsea Handler, host of E!'s late-night talk show "Chelsea Lately," will be the host of MTV's Music Video Awards, which return to Los Angeles next month. Handler, best known for her love of vodka and single men, is something of an unusual choice for the show. Get ready for lots of Snooki jokes. More on Chelsea's big gig from MTV News.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: John Horn on the odds of a big win for "Lottery Ticket." Why "The Switch" isn't a chick flick. 

-- Joe Flint

What? You mean you don't follow me on Twitter: Twitter.com/JBFlint

The Morning Fix: Where'd all the fanboys go? Hulu's IPO a reach? HBO not shaking over Netflix.

After the coffee. Before realizing we're almost in the dog days of August.

Will Wall Street embrace a Hulu IPO? Word that Hulu, the video-sharing site owned by Disney, NBC Universal, News Corp. and private equity firm Providence Equity, wants to launch an initial public offering is raising a lot of questions about whether the timing is right. It appears that Providence Equity may be pushing the move as a means to get out. In the meantime, it remains unclear how Hulu's pay plans will be embraced by its audience. Also, as more programmers try to take control of their online destinies, will Hulu really be able to become the one-stop shop for TV content online, or will there never be such a place? A look at Hulu's plans and reaction from the New York Post, Wall Street Journal, Hollywood Reporter and Los Angeles Times

Did the fanboys get lost on the way to the multiplex? Universal's "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" had the buzz, but it didn't get the box office in its opening weekend. The movie, based on a graphic-novel series and starring Michael Cera as a teen who has to battle his girlfriend's exes, took in only $10.6 million. Of course, once again the debate is going about whether films based on comic books or graphic novels that are not Batman or Spider-Man can translate into big bucks. Marc Platt, a producer of the movie told the Los Angeles Times that the first weekend was "disappointing" but added that "the film's financial story cannot be written after one weekend "but in weeks and months and years." Let me throw something out there. As adorable as Michael Cera is, he seems to be playing the same role in every movie. He needs to do something different, and casting directors need to find a new lovable geek. More on why Scott Pilgrim didn't save the box office from the Los Angeles Times and Hollywood Reporter.

HBO shrugs off Netflix. All the talk last week about Netflix striking a deal to stream movies soon after they appear on the new pay-TV channel Epix is supposed to be a direct blow at HBO. Only problem is someone forgot to tell the Time Warner behemoth that. HBO says it's not interested in a deal with Netflix nor does it feel threatened by Netflix. The network has some crazy idea that it makes sense to keep the online rights to the content it spends so much on to itself instead of throwing that content all over the Web and let its value be diluted. "There is value in exclusivity,” HBO Co-President Eric Kessler told Bloomberg.

Apple versus Google on the small screen. With search giant Google getting ready to spring Google TV on the world this fall, Apple is looking to beef up its own foundering Apple TV. Both companies want supremacy in connecting the Internet to the TV. USA Today looks at the turf battle and whether the rest of us want one more box next to our television.

Rupert gets revenge for Obama causing L.A. traffic jams. News Corp., the media conglomerate headed by Rupert Murdoch, gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Assn., according to Politico, the D.C. website that tracks Capitol Hill. A News Corp. spokesman told Politico that the company is in lock step with the association's "pro-business agenda."

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Patrick Goldstein on Hollywood's aging business model. Officials of CKX, parent of "American Idol" producer 19 Entertainment tells potential suitors to show them the money. Developer Hal Katersky, whose no stranger to controversy, has big plans for Hollywood.

-- Joe Flint

It can't all be Hollywood. Follow me on Twitter for all your Redskins news: Twitter.com/JBFlint

The Morning Fix: Emmy loves broadcast. Disney may really have sold Miramax! ESPN-LeBron backlash

After the coffee. Before avoiding all the reviews of "Inception."

Is it really over? Walt Disney Co. has struck a deal to sell Miramax to an investor group led by construction executive Ron Tutor with backing from Colony Capital, a private equity firm, and James Robinson, chief executive of production company Morgan Creek. If this deal actually closes, it will bring to an end to months of high-stakes negotiations and a battle among three potential suitors, including Miramax founders Bob and Harvey Weinstein. Former Disney executive Richard Nanula, now with Colony, is expected to oversee operations at Miramax for its new owners. More on what may be the final chapter from the Los Angeles Times and the Wrap.

Explaining Emmy. When hundreds are nominated for awards, it can make finding a trend difficult. But try we must, and with some new shows on broadcast television -- "Glee," "Modern Family," and "The Good Wife" -- doing very well, the verdict seems to be that network television is back. Well, certainly it was a good season, but it's not like HBO, Showtime, AMC and other cable channels were overlooked by Emmy voters. I'm still wondering how the voters could snub Khandi Alexander of HBO's "Treme." And why do they keep ignoring FX's "Rescue Me." Analysis on the nominations from the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Variety and Hollywood Reporter.

Fleeing Sun Valley. Friday is when the media stalkers exit Allen & Co.'s Sun Valley mogul gathering after three days of chasing executives and being escorted by security to the bathroom. So here are the wrap-up stories from the New York Times and Wall Street Journal that, quite frankly, could have been written before the conference started. No digs at my media pals intended; I've been there and know the drill. You do the best you can with what few morsels you can get. At least the Idaho setting is beautiful and there are some good restaurants in town.

The 10% factor. The Hollywood Reporter's Matthew Belloni takes a look at the verdict against Walt Disney Co. in its battle over profits from the game show "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" with the show's creator, Celador Productions, and the role that agents played in the relationship between the two companies. William Morris agents were put in an awkward position throughout the trial, and the verdict may have some rethinking the way packaging fees for shows are doled out to agencies.

ESPN and LeBron: The Aftermath. ESPN's deal with LeBron James, in which the basketball superstar got to handpick his interviewer and sell the network's ad time (for charity) in return for telling the cable channel where he was signing, has been heavily criticized in the media. Here's our Thursday story and a take from Friday's New York Times. Ex-ESPN analyst Dan Patrick said on his radio show Friday that the Thursday night program was "an infomercial" and that the network covered this "like it's 'American Idol.'" Not everyone is ganging up on Disney's ESPN though. Here's a defense from the Daily Beast. Meanwhile, super-agent Ari Emanuel is taking credit for helping put together the show, which, given the reviews, may not be something to boast about.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: "Eclipse" is expected to rule the weekend again at the box office, but its pacing is trailing its predecessor, "New Moon." More bad news for Mel Gibson.

-- Joe Flint

Follow me on Twitter and I won't abandon you for Miami: Twitter.com/JBFlint

CKX, owner of 'American Idol,' in play

Forget about figuring out who will replace Simon Cowell on "American Idol." The real question is who will end up owning "American Idol."

CKX, the parent company of "American Idol" producer 19 Entertainment, is in play. The suitors are "Idol" creator, Simon Fuller, and Hollywood deal maker Allen Shapiro. Lingering in the background is Robert F.X. Sillerman, the founder and former chief executive of CKX who holds more than 20% of the company's stock and left the firm in May to contemplate making his own bid.

SHAPIRO Shapiro is teaming up with One Equity Partners, the private equity arm of JPMorgan Chase & Co. Fuller, former owner of 19 Entertainment, has joined hands with former Barclays Capital banker Roger Jenkins. People close to the parties said the Fuller group has offered $600 million, while the Shapiro team bid $550 million.

All the attention is barely causing a ripple on Wall Street. CKX's stock is actually down nearly 20% since word of offers for the company first surfaced in March, and it currently trades around $5 per share.

"Nobody has shown up with the dough yet to get the deal done," said Mark Argento with Craig-Hallum Capital Group, one of the few analysts to follow the stock.

One challenge for any potential owner is determining how much value there is to be milked out of "American Idol," which is still the No. 1 show on television, although its ratings may have peaked. 

Though the show is a cash cow for Fox, CKX and Fremantle, the other producer of "American Idol," the potential upside down the road may be limited because of the agreement Fox has for the hit program.

A story in Tuesday's Los Angeles Times details the chase for CKX as well as just how Fox pays for "American Idol" and why that may limit a big payday for the show's owners.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: Allen Shapiro. Credit: Starla Fortunato.

Fox out of the gate in television upfront advertising sales

Fox Broadcasting has launched this year's television advertising sales season -- another sign that companies are stepping up their purchase of television time to pitch their products after two years of cautious spending as a result of the economic downturn.

Demand for 30-second commercial spots on the Fox network has been brisk, several people familiar with the negotiations said Tuesday.

Advertising buyers and network executives predicted that all of the broadcast networks, including CBS, ABC, NBC and the CW, will begin selling their commercial time this week -- a sharp contrast from a year ago, when negotiations between the networks and advertisers dragged on through the summer.

"The market is moving quickly," said one executive, who asked not to be identified because negotiations were continuing. Fox began writing business late last week, two people said, and its efforts intensified Tuesday. The network should wrap up ad sales for the coming TV season by week's end, another  executive said.

Last year advertisers held back their ad budgets because of worries over the economy. And some key TV advertisers, including General Motors, were in bankruptcy.

HughHouse This year, however, several major advertisers have increased their marketing budgets. Financial firms and car companies have been leading the charge as GM, Toyota and Chrysler are rolling out ad campaigns to persuade consumers to buy their vehicles. Hyundai, Ford, BMW, Nissan and Subaru also are buying commercials to try to take advantage of the vulnerability of their competitors and increase their share of the market.


Insurance companies and cellphone providers, including Verizon and AT&T, are buying time as they slug it out for customers, and Apple and other device companies are advertising new products. Despite releasing fewer films, Hollywood studios are nonetheless lining up commercial time to promote their upcoming tent-pole movies, advertising executives said.

Top-rated TV network Fox, owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., typically is the top pick among advertisers. Credit the laws of supply and demand. Fox has fewer hours to fill because it programs 15 hours in prime time each week compared with 22 hours by ABC, CBS and NBC.  In addition, the network has a stable schedule and big attractions including popular shows like "Glee," "House" and "American Idol," NFL football and next year's Super Bowl.

Fox has been able to command rate increases of 8% to 9%, according to people familiar with the network's strategy. The overall upfront advertising market, so named because the networks sell the bulk of their commercial time in advance of the fall season, is expected to be at least 15% higher than last year’s downturn-depressed $7.94 billion for the broadcast networks.

"TV is back in vogue," said one advertising buyer, who also asked for anonymity.  "Advertisers have come full circle and they recognize the importance of television to their marketing plans."

-- Meg James

Photo: Hugh Laurie, who plays Dr. Gregory House on Fox's hit TV series "House." Credit: Michael Yarish / Fox.

Cowell's 'American Idol' exit draws 24.2 million viewers

COWELLPAULA

Ryan Seacreast declared it "the end of an era," and Janet Jackson even kept her shirt on. But in the eyes of Nielsen, Simon Cowell's last episode as chief justice of "American Idol" was the least-watched finale since its first season, when the show ran during the summer and was just starting to become a phenomenon.

About 24.2-million people tuned in Wednesday night to see Lee DeWyze get crowned the new "American Idol" over Crystal Bowersox, who seemed to be the people's choice. Although that is a strong number that any network would kill for, it is also about 16% off the 28.8 million who watched last year's finale. Among adults ages 18 to 49, Wednesday night's finale averaged an 8.2 rating, off 18% from last year's 10.0 rating. A rating point in that demographic equals 1.3-million people.

Fox pulled out all the stops for Cowell's final show. Paula Abdul returned to say goodbye to her old on-air nemesis. Comedian Dane Cook made music out of Cowell's more infamous put-down lines, and Bret Michaels, who recently suffered a mild stroke and a brain hemorrhage, performed. Also performing with "American Idol" winners and wannabes were Hall & Oates and Alanis Morissette, who had to have the lyrics to her hit "You Oughta Know" tweaked before it could be performed on broadcast television.

For the season, "American Idol" saw declines in viewers and adults ages 18 to 49 of about 10%. The show's ratings have been sliding for several years, but it is still a cash cow for the network and its most valuable franchise. How much of the show's success is tied to Cowell's biting wit and musical taste will be clear next season when "American Idol" goes on without him and he starts "The X Factor," another musical talent show, for the network.

Though lots of names have been floated in the press as possible Cowell replacements -- Elton John, Jamie Foxx, Tommy Mottola -- Fox and the show's producers are keeping mum, and a replacement is not expected to be named in the immediate future.

Figuring out how to replace Cowell is just one question facing the franchise. On the business side, CKX Inc., parent of 19 Entertainment, one of the producers of "American Idol," may be sold. Among those expressing interest in the company are its own founder, Robert F.X. Sillerman, who resigned earlier this spring as chairman and CEO, and Hollywood executive Allen Shapiro.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: Paula Abdul and Ryan Seacrest say goodbye to Simon Cowell. Credit: Vince Bucci / Reuters

The Morning Fix: Disney's insider trading mess! SOAPnet out of suds. New boss at Hollywood Reporter

After the coffee. Before trying to get Lee DeWyze's awful version of "Beautiful Day" out of my head. 

Is this the plot for "Wall Street 3"? An assistant to a top Disney executive and her boyfriend hatched up a crazy plan to sell inside information about the company to hedge funds, according to the Justice Department. Bonnie Jean Hoxie was hoping to trade access she gained working for Zenia Mucha, the head of corporate communications for Disney, for ... a Stella McCartney handbag from Neiman Marcus. OK, she and her boyfriend wanted money too. This well-thought-out plot blew up in their faces with an FBI arrest. More on Hoxie and her boyfriend and their not-too-bright idea from the Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal.

Turn off the soap, kids are home. In other Disney news, the company is pulling the plug on its 10-year-old cable network SOAPnet and in its place will launch Disney Junior, yet another channel aimed at preschoolers. First lesson on the channel? Trying to trade inside information you get from working for powerful people is bad. Seriously, the channel enters a crowded marketplace, trying to compete with Nickelodeon's Nick Jr. and PBS Sprout. On the other hand, Disney has a way of just ramming these things down everyone's throat. Details on Disney Junior from the New York Times.

Business will be booming. Over the next couple of weeks, the broadcast networks will start selling ad time for the fall TV season. Many are anticipating a stronger market than in previous years. However, before you get all excited, keep in mind that although more money might be spent now for the fall season in what is known as the upfront market, that does not mean that overall spending on broadcast TV will go up. Anyway, the Wall Street Journal offers its preview of the mating dance between buyers and sellers. By the way, mating dance has become the most overused term to describe the upfront, and I will admit I'm guilty of it too. Can we come up with something new, like the annual polka between buyers and sellers? Ad Age, meanwhile, tells us that an improved economy means classier advertisers on this year's Super Bowl. Good, because I thought last year's 900-number chat-line spots were way over the top.

King's reign is over. The gradual decline of Larry King is picking up momentum. The CNN talk-show host has seen his ratings dip for years, and some might say that he is not exactly the most engaged interviewer these days. Also, while his rivals on Fox and MSNBC try to interview political news-makers, King often focuses on celebrities and crime stories. Those are, of course, easier to do and require less homework. Anyway, sooner or later CNN has to make a change at 9 p.m., but the network won't even discuss the idea. The New York Times looks at King's and CNN's woes.

Fuggedaboutit. HBO has taken issue with CBS hyping the link that two executive producers of its new drama "Blue Blood" have to the pay cable channel's classic mob drama, "The Sopranos." It's not that the producers didn't spend many years on the show and even won some Emmys, it's that they may not have the best relationship anymore with David Chase, who created "The Sopranos." CBS is backing off the promos, according to Vulture.

The Wrap doesn't like white people. OK, maybe that's an overstatement, but the entertainment website, whose biggest backer is Starbucks Chief Executive Howard Schultz (does it get any whiter?), goes to that old race chestnut and takes issue with both the stars of the summer movie season and recent winners of "American Idol."

Inside the Los Angeles Times: The Hollywood Reporter has tapped former Us Weekly editor Janice Min as its new chief. Turner Broadcasting sales chief David Levy thinks Conan O'Brien and the NCAA will translate to big ad dollars. Hard to disagree. Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) wants some tough conditions on the Comcast--NBC Universal deal.

-- Joe Flint

Just click here and let the magic begin: twitter.com/JBFlint

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