Entertainment Industry

Category: CNN

The Morning Fix: Court swears off indecency regulations. Piers Morgan headed to CNN. Lions Gate makes pitch to MGM

After the coffee. Before buying my advance tickets for "Inception."

Court swears off indecency regulations. A U.S. appeals court has tossed the Federal Communications Commission's indecency regulations, and the decision calls into question the FCC's clout to regulate broadcast TV and radio for content overall. The case grew out of the FCC's threats to fine Fox television stations for live telecasts in which there was inadvertent swearing. In the Fox case, Nicole Richie and Cher had sworn during live TV events, and a few years later, U2 singer Bono swore during an NBC telecast of the Golden Globes. The FCC can rewrite its rules or appeal the decision all the way to the Supreme Court. In the meantime, don't expect broadcasters to suddenly take their hands off the mute button or do away with seven-second delays just yet. More on the decision from the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Broadcasting & Cable.

Morgan to take King's throne. Piers Morgan, the British host of NBC's "America's Got Talent" is closing in on a deal to succeed Larry King at CNN. Although he's seen as a talent show host here, Morgan has a strong track record interviewing newsmakers in his native Britain. For several weeks, CNN denied it was talking with Morgan or even interested in him when reports first surfaced that he was the pick to succeed King. It was not long after those reports that King announced his retirement. More on the Morgan deal (he'll keep doing "America's Got Talent") from the New York Times and Los Angeles Times.

"Nailed" director bails. David O. Russell has left "Nailed," the political comedy that has had something approaching nine lives. The Hollywood Reporter has the back story on this one, which frankly sounds like one big soap opera that's impossible to follow.

Paramount committed to another mission. Despite disappointing box office for "Knight and Day," Paramount reiterated its desire to make another "Mission Impossible" movie with Tom Cruise. The Hollywood Reporter looks at what is at stake for the studio and Cruise with the next installment and seems to suggest that perhaps the franchise will go on without the star. Or maybe I'm doing too much reading between the lines.

Steinbrenner's legacy. Variety looks at how Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who died Tuesday, changed the game. Besides becoming one of the first larger-than-life owners, featured in beer commercials and hosting "Saturday Night Live," his wide-open wallet played a big part in turning athletes into brands. The owner rivals loved to hate, the image of Steinbrenner was no doubt softened somewhat by the parody of him on NBC's "Seinfeld." Variety also credits Steinbrenner with being the first owner to create his own cable network to carry the team's games. Although the YES network is a big success, the Red Sox actually were ahead of the Yankees in owning their own cable network.

Does Bruckheimer need some magic? Tracking for producer Jerry Bruckeimer's "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" is not encouraging and could be his third miss. Of course, miss for him means it's not a mega-blockbuster. The The Wrap does some analysis on Bruckheimer's current track record.

And the Emmy Awards go to ... Deadline Hollywood looks at the upcoming talks between the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and the broadcast networks over a new deal for the Emmy Awards. Could last week's nominations, which seemed to feature more broadcast shows in high-profile categories, encourage the networks to pony up for a new contract? There have been grumblings from the networks about the current deal and whether the awards wouldn't be better served by having a permanent home. Of course, that creates its own set of problems. The current deal is up at the end of August.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: John Horn looks at a battle between Chevron Corp. and director Joe Berlinger over his documentary "Crude," about the oil company's legal battles in Ecuador. Lions Gate has made a merger presentation to MGM. Starz President Chris Albrecht learned a valuable lesson about paying attention when answering e-mails.

-- Joe Flint

Follow me on Twitter and I'll stop writing these little reminders. Twitter.com/JBFlint

The Morning Fix: Upfront in full swing! Hollywood's lack of creativity not paying off at box office. ESPN closing its restaurants

After the coffee. Before figuring out how long until the Yankees get Strasburg.

Two and a half networks down. CBS said Tuesday it was done selling advertising inventory for the 2010-11 television season. The most-watched network joins Fox and the CW in wrapping up the so-called upfront advertising sales season. ABC and NBC expect to be done in the next few days. In terms of dollars, estimates of what CBS sold in commercials ranges from $2.2 billion to $2.6 billion. Fox sold about $1.9 billion while the CW sold around $375 million. More on the deal-making from Advertising Age, Bloomberg and the New York Times.

Hollywood made its bed. The disappointing start to the summer movie season is a sign of the chickens coming home to roost, says IndieWire's Anne Thompson. As studio executives continue to back projects that are pre-sold (a book, an old TV show, a toy, etc.) the product becomes bland and the audience gets bored. You know the rest. Of course, to buck that trend someone actually has to use their gut in making a decision and try to back something that might actually intrigue viewers instead of just serving them the same old stuff. Who will be this brave executive? 

So what is Sandy's next movie? With an Oscar in her purse, a bad marriage fading in her rear-view mirror and a smash appearance at the MTV Movie Awards, eyebrows were raised when word surfaced that Sandra Bullock's next movie would be another romantic comedy with Ryan Reynolds. But although she is involved in "Most Wanted," word from her camp is that it is not her next movie. The Los Angeles Times' Steven Zeitchik on what's going on with Sandy.

No booyah here. ESPN is closing the bulk of its ESPN Zone restaurant chain, reports the Los Angeles Times. Aimed at sports fans but offering a family-friendly atmosphere, the restaurants were usually in high- rent districts (New York's Times Square) and had pricey (in comparison to dive sports bars) menus.

Web ratings rise. Web viewing, normally a daytime phenomena, is on the rise in the evening. The Wall Street Journal says evening viewing in March was up 14% to 62.4 million, while daytime Web viewing was up only 1% to 45.4 million. Of course, what we don't know is how many people watching the Web in prime time were also watching television.

King for a week. CNN's aging and fading talk-show host Larry King enjoyed a ratings renaissance last week, thanks to interviews with President Obama, Lady Gaga and Bill Gates and plenty of hype around King's 25th anniversary. The New York Times, which is obsessively following King's ratings, provides analysis. Meanwhile, the Lakers-Celtics series is scoring, with USA Today noting that the NBA Finals are off to their strongest start since 2004.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Susan King profiles Mike Nichols. Henry Winkler has managed to have a life and career post-Fonzie.

-- Joe Flint

Come see what everyone's talking about. Follow me on Twitter at: Twitter.com/JBFlint

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

CNN execs say they plan no imminent changes to primetime despite ratings slide


CNN executives on Tuesday said they had no imminent plans to change the network’s prime-time line-up despite a steep fall-off in viewership, but suggested they are stepping up efforts to increase the performance of the current slate of shows.

“We always look to make change throughout CNN, we always have, across all of our businesses. As far as any specific plans to make any specific changes in prime time, no,” said CNN Worldwide President Jim Walton in an interview after the network’s upfront presentation to advertisers in Manhattan. “Because there can be changes within what we’re doing. A lot of it is in execution.”

So far this year, CNN has seen a 41% drop in its weekday prime-time ratings compared to the same point in 2009, drawing an average of 727,000 viewers, according to Nielsen. MSNBC has fallen off 24% to 864,000 viewers, while Fox News is up 3% to 2.7 million.

CNN’s slide has triggered a slew of suggestions from outsiders urging the network to reinvent its approach.

Network officials argue that the ratings decline reflects a natural ebbing of interest compared to fascination surrounding President Obama’s first months in office at this time last year. Walton also noted that prime-time on CNN’s U.S. network only contributes about 10% of the overall advertising revenue of the company, which also includes CNN International, CNN.com and HLN.

“It’s not as dire as maybe some people say,” Walton said, adding: “I’m not satisfied with the ratings, but I’m not concerned.” He also praised the leadership of Jon Klein, president of CNN/U.S., calling him “brilliant” and a “great journalist.”

For his part, Klein said in a separate interview that while he believes CNN’s prime-time shows can do a better job of engaging viewers and keeping them watching longer, he is happy with their quality.

“We don’t have anything to announce,” Klein said when asked of possible changes. “You’re always looking, always, at what we can do better, how we can do it better. But there’s nothing imminent.”

Klein said he welcomes the unsolicited advice about the network’s direction. “I actually love it,” he said. “The more eyes and ears the better. It’s a little bit like being the manager of the New York Yankees, right? Everybody thinks they could do it. Everybody watches and has an opinion because they love us and they want us to do as well as we possibly can.”

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[updated] Christiane Amanpour's challenge: Broadening 'This Week' as ABC News shrinks

By turning to Christiane Amanpour -- one of the world’s most recognized journalists -- as host of “This Week,” ABC hopes to send the message that Peter Jennings’ legacy endures even as the network is slashing its news staff and scaling back foreign operations.

Jennings, who died in 2005, projected a sophisticated worldview developed during extensive overseas reporting assignments. Amanpour brings with her similar international sensibilities.

Amanpour, who was born in London and grew up in Iran, has worked at CNN for 27 years, including the last 20 as a foreign correspondent, traveling to such strife-torn countries as Rwanda, Iraq and Afghanistan. Amanpour, in an interview, said she intended to increase the focus on foreign affairs on the Sunday-morning program. Previous host George Stephanopoulos made his insider's knowledge of Washington the show's hallmark.

The challenge for Amanpour will be to strike a balance between international and domestic policy debates while continuing to satisfy an audience that has come to expect large doses of inside-the-Beltway skinny and analysis of U.S. politics. If Amanpour can attract new viewers -- those who normally don’t tune in to the Sunday-morning news shows -- it would be a boost for ABC News, which has lost ratings momentum for some of its key programs.

“I would be disappointed if Christiane would become another Washington insider,” said Charles Bierbauer, a former top correspondent at CNN and ABC who is now the dean of the University of South Carolina’s College of Mass Communications. “Christiane could very well be the one to infuse a broader perspective -- and that wouldn’t hurt us.”

"This Week's" perspective for years has been squarely on the nation's capital. The show is produced from the Newseum in Washington, with a view from the set overlooking the U.S. Capitol. Amanpour plans to take over “This Week” in August, staying at CNN through the end of April.

“We are much more accustomed to seeing Christiane wearing a bush jacket and in a market in Baghdad or Bosnia,” Bierbauer said, rather than leading a round-table discussion in a studio. “But we are all capable of making these adjustments -- we’re journalists.”

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Amanpour to host ABC's 'This Week'


After two decades covering wars, famines and countless natural disasters, CNN’s chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour is headed to a new network and a new battleground: Washington.

ABC News on Thursday hired the CNN stalwart as the new host of “This Week,” its Sunday morning public affairs program.

ABC’s bold move signals that it intends to shake up the Sunday morning field, long dominated by NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Although Amanpour is a strong personality with substantial journalistic credentials, her specialty has long been international affairs – she has been reporting from around the world for CNN since 1990 – and her appointment comes at a time when ABC has been dramatically scaling back its international news operations as part of deep cuts across its news divisions.

“With Christiane we have the opportunity to provide our audiences with something different on Sunday mornings,” said ABC News President David Westin in an e-mail to ABC News personnel.  “We will continue to provide the best in interviews and analysis about domestic politics and policies.  But now we will add to that an international perspective.”

Amanpour, 52, will join ABC News in August. In the meantime, ABC’s Jake Tapper will continue to host “This Week.”

Jim Walton, president of CNN's Worldwide, said in an e-mail to his staff: "Since 1990 when Christiane became a CNN international correspondent, she has covered the defining news events of our time.  Her work burnished our news brand and gave it authority.  In turn, the CNN imprimatur opened doors for her around the world and provided a global platform for the intelligent, courageous, principled reporting that is her signature.  CNN and Christiane helped make each other great."

-- Meg James

Photo: Christiane Amanpour; Credit: Andrew Tkach

Tiger Woods' spin is big number for Fox News and ESPN

Apparently when it comes to Tiger Woods, it really is a matter of "we report, you decide."

Yes, Fox News drew the biggest audience among cable networks for its coverage of Tiger Woods' press conference. Actually, because he didn't take any questions and there wasn't really a whole lot of press there, can we really call it a press conference?

Anyway. For the 15 minutes or so that Woods apologized for being a professional athlete who enjoyed all that comes with that lofty position, Fox News averaged almost 2.1 million viewers. ESPN was a close second with 1.7 million viewers. Way back in the pack was CNN with about 900,000 viewers.

The Golf Channel probably got some of its biggest numbers for a non-golf event with almost 750,000 people tuning in to hear that Woods doesn't know when he's coming back to the game.

Bringing up the rear were Headline News (we're not ready to call it HLN yet) with 531,000 viewers and MSNBC with 414,000 viewers. All numbers are from our friends at Nielsen.

-- Joe Flint

Fox News continues to roll, CNN recaptures (distant) second place

In cable news, it is an axiom that CNN prospers when there is a big story. But another axiom might be that Fox News prospers whether there's a big story or not.

In January, Fox News again dominated the landscape. It was the only news channel to make gains from a year earlier. Its prime-time audience average for the month was almost 2 million viewers, a 22% increase from January 2009. Among adults 25 to 54, the key demographic for news, Fox News averaged 637,000 viewers in prime time, a 51% gain. The special election in Massachusetts didn't hurt Fox News, that's for sure.

CNN and MSNBC were both way down from January 2009, but keep in mind that President Obama was inaugurated that month, which boosted their numbers.

CNN did beat MSNBC in prime time for the first time in six month as viewers came to the channel for its coverage of the earthquake in Haiti. CNN also topped MSNBC in adults 25 to 54.

Overall, CNN averaged 842,000 viewers in prime time, down 34% from a year earlier, while MSNBC averaged 703,000 viewers, a 26% decline.

Both CNN and MSNBC were up from December but traditionally comparisons are made with the same period a year earlier, not the previous month.

-- Joe Flint

Dobbs' total-control clause may be the last of its kind


There was one little juicy nugget out of Lou Dobbs' interview with Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly tonight. Dobbs, who resigned from CNN last week, confirmed that he had "absolute editorial control" over his nightly show.

CNN would never quite admit to that when Dobbs was battling the network over the content of his show. Dobbs is probably the last on-air personality to have final say over what goes on his show. Just as there are very few quarterbacks who call their own plays in the huddle, there are even fewer anchors who get to actually choose the words they say. While some may hold the title of "managing editor," the reality is that there are many cooks in the kitchen.

Dobbs' total control clause was part of his deal when he returned to CNN in 2001 after leaving when he clashed with then-CNN News chief Rick Kaplan over content issues.

Dobbs didn't say what his future plans were other than that he wants to "remain in the public arena." He doesn't have to rush to find something new. His exit from CNN, which came while he still had well over a year left on his deal, included about $10 million. Although both sides say Dobbs' decision to leave was mutual, usually if someone is breaking his contract he doesn't get a such a generous going-away gift.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: Lou Dobbs, left, and Bill O'Reilly.


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