Stephen Battaglio

A Long Day
NBC extends Today to four hours

Meredith Vieira and Matt Lauer, Today

Is there such a thing as too much Today? NBC execs, who announced they will launch a fourth hour of the morning show this fall, don't think so. And they're right.

NBC has long been the worst network in daytime. Its most successful show, the long-running Days of our Lives, is a breakeven proposition at best. The network hasn't had much luck launching syndicated the network's scrap heap of expensive failures.

Today has been the No. 1 morning show for 11 years. It successfully added a third hour in 2000, and no one thought anything less of the flagship two-hour telecast. That makes the math of going to a fourth hour very easy.

But there's a bigger reason: About 10 years ago, Today show creator Pat Weaver gave a talk at the Museum of Television and Radio. He was asked what he would do to combat the migration of viewers from broadcast to cable, which at the time was happening read more

Buy the American Dream The Idol empire expands through creative merchandising

Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Ryan Seacrest, American Idol

Can't get enough American Idol? Fox has been very careful not to overexpose the talent-competition franchise by airing only one contest each TV season — a rare demonstration of restraint for the network. But outside of prime time, the noise surrounding Idol will be cranked up to 11 this year. The licensing arm of Idol production company Fremantle Media is taking a cue from the 570 million votes cast in last year's competition and is giving viewers more opportunities to get involved in the show. The company is planning to extend the Idol experience to games, books, mobile phones and the frozen-dessert section of your supermarket. Keith Hindle, executive vice president for marketing at Fremantle, recently talked to the Biz about the company's plans to make television's biggest show even bigger. So, the plan is to get the viewers more involved beyond just voting f read more

Music to Our Eyes
CBS gets back in the recording industry

Bruce Springsteen, a former CBS Records artist

Who ever thought the day would come when you'd hear more music on CBS than on MTV? Nearly every prime-time drama ends with a montage that has a backing track by a new artist or a recognizable legend. The exposure is massive and can generate a surge in sales for the song, but it isn't cheap for the show. The producers of CSI: NY paid $25,000 for the use of a Bruce Springsteen track on a recent episode. It wasn't too long ago that the Boss was part of the CBS family, when the company owned his record label (it was sold off to Sony in the 1980s). Well, CBS Records is back. And while the new label won't have Bruce on the roster, it will develop artists whose tracks could be used by CBS-produced shows. Nancy Tellem, president of the CBS Paramount Network Television Entertainment Group will oversee the label. She recently explained to the Biz why the company wants to make music again. CBS has been ou read more

Midterm Report Cards
How the networks have fared in the first half of the season

Alec Baldwin, Tina Fey and Tracy Morgan, 30 Rock

Thirteen weeks into the 2006-07 TV season, the four major broadcast networks actually have more viewers than they did a year ago and are even in the advertiser-coveted demo of 18- to 49-year-olds. So the grades on our ratings report card should be pretty good, right? It's time to take a break from watching all those canceled shows online and assess the season so far.

ABC: The network held up remarkably well considering the loss of Monday Night Football. Overall, it was only down three percent in viewers ages 18 to 49, but showed big gains among young women. The move of Grey's Anatomy to Thursdays improved ABC's 18-to-49 audience by 150 percent. Brothers & Sisters and Ugly Betty are real success stories. Dancing with the Stars has proven to be a durable franchise. But Wednesday has become a problem — the network practically goes dark when Lost isn't on. The second half of the season could get rough as ABC is typically hurt m read more

The Post-Super Bowl Game Why networks want hits like Criminal Minds to air on their big night

Mandy Patinkin, Criminal Minds

Back in the early '80s, when the Super Bowl moved into prime time, the networks began scheduling a new entertainment show to premiere after the big game, to take advantage of the humongous audience lead-in it provided. NBC started the tradition with The A-Team, which went on to become a big hit and helped the network begin its run of prime-time ratings dominance that lasted the rest of the decade. The next year, CBS used the platform to launch Airwolf, which hung around for a few seasons. ABC previewed The Wonder Years after the game in 1988. That show then had a nice six-year run that included a season in the top 10.

But the tactic of using the supersize audience to launch a show has become a TV-business relic. When it comes to Super Bowl Sunday, networks now go with what they think is their already hot show, instead of something new. For 2007, CBS has given the nod to Criminal Minds to follow Super Bowl XLI. CBS Corp. chairman Leslie Moonves read more

To Catch a Time Slot Dateline producer David Corvo on the return of the newsmagazine

Chris Hansen, Dateline NBC

When the 2006-07 TV season started, there were only three hours of newsmagazines in prime time, the fewest since 1987. Well, the high casualty rate of scripted entertainment shows has changed that. Dateline NBC will be back up to three hours a week in January. ABC's Primetime is plugging the ratings crater left by The Nine on Wednesdays, until Lost returns. Look for a few episodes of 48 Hours to show up on Tuesdays at 10, now that 3 LBS has flatlined on CBS. Add 'em up, and in some weeks in January you'll have eight hours of newsmags to choose from. But producers say the shows can't give viewers the same old, same old anymore. A catchy hook is a must. Primetime has just kicked off a series of hidden-camera reports showing how people react in uncomfortable situations or when faced with ethical dilemmas. It's a read more

Sweeps Stakes
This November's winners and losers

Jorja Fox and William Petersen, CSI

It's time to put a fork in another ratings sweeps month. When the final numbers come in, CBS will be the winner in total viewers while ABC takes the crown among the 18- to 49-year-olds that advertisers care about. Here's a look at what was hot and what was not.

Desperate Housewives: It was nicked in the ratings due to tougher competition from NBC's Sunday Night Football but still finished as the No. 2 among all shows in viewers aged 18 to 49. (In November 2005 it was No. 1.) Not bad considering TV critics were throwing dirt on this show a year ago. It's funnier than ever, but ladies, please, go easy on the Botox.

Criminal Minds: It's the grisly gift that keeps on giving to CBS' Wednesday lineup. Up 14 percent from last November among viewers 18 to 49, Minds became a dominant time-period winner once read more

Year of the Mother Elizabeth Vargas sees 20/20 when it comes to career and family

Elizabeth Vargas, 20/20

After leaving a tumultuous stint as coanchor of ABC World News Tonight for maternity leave, Elizabeth Vargas is back in her coanchor chair on ABC's 20/20. Her departure from the evening-news job has made her a walking example of the tough choices faced by working mothers. (Next month's Marie Claire features an interview with her next to a photo of a woman breastfeeding at the anchor's desk.) But Vargas is aware that her decision has become a flashpoint. She has readily taken it on — working mothers were the subject of her first piece for 20/20. The Biz recently caught up with Vargas, and she talked about her year. This couldn't have been an read more

CNN's Dotcom Dazzle How the news channel used web techniques to make election coverage a success

Rep. Nancy Pelosi on CNN's midterm election coverage

Before he became president of CNN/U.S. in November 2004, Jon Klein founded a company called The FeedRoom, which was at the forefront of delivering video news stories over the Internet. Klein brought some of the lessons he learned from the world of new media to his first election night for CNN on Tuesday. The news channel's dazzling set had the look of a feature-rich website. (And his tweaks paid off: CNN's prime-time election coverage averaged 2.97 million viewers, up 21 percent from the 2002 midterm elections and right on the tail of Fox News Channel, which had 3.06 million.) Klein keeps his eye on web users, who might become CNN watchers as they get older. He discussed this strategy — and whether he's pursuing a certain big-name talent from ABC News — with the Biz as the elections returns were still coming in. This was your first election night at CNN. What do you think you did right?
Jon Klein:
I think we chose the right people to anchor the cov read more

The Race Is On! NBC's Brian Williams on his first big prime-time election showdown

Brian Williams, NBC Nightly News

On Nov. 7, the three broadcast-network news anchors will be having their first prime-time showdown covering the midterm elections. NBC's Brian Williams, ABC's Charles Gibson and CBS' Katie Couric will all be in their respective chairs for live, hourlong specials at 10 pm/ET and PT. It will only heighten the attention that's been focused on evening news since the ballyhooed arrival of Couric. After sustaining an early hit from Couric's debut, Williams has made a ratings comeback, and NBC Nightly News is back at No. 1, recently earning its strongest ratings among viewers aged 25-to-54 since March. The Biz checked in with Williams as he prepared for one of his favorite nights of the year. Midterm elections usually aren't too sexy. Yet it seems like there is a lot more attention on it this year, not just because of the nature of the races, but also because it feels like an opening read more

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