Stephen Battaglio

Hemmer's at Home on Fox

Bill Hemmer

Seeing Bill Hemmer in the anchor chair during Fox News Channel's coverage of Hurricane Katrina might have been a jarring experience for viewers who watched him on CNN for the last 10 years.

Hemmer left CNN earlier this year after a stint as anchor of American Morning, and because he wanted to stay in New York City, he joined Fox News instead of taking a reassignment as CNN White House correspondent. The Biz caught up with him to talk about how Mother Nature forced him to hit the ground running on his first week at Fox and his other activities since leaving the morning grind at CNN. You weren't supposed to show up on Fox News Channel until Monday, but you were on Sunday night. When did you find out that you were going on?
Bill Hemmer:
I got a call early Sunday morning to move up the debut by a day. I was more than happy to. Stories like these are what we do. When you were working at CNN, what did you thi read more

UPN Banks on Rock to Roll

Chris Rock

UPN thinks everybody is going to love Everybody Hates Chris. In the weeks leading up to the show's Sept. 22 premiere, it will be hard to avoid it.

The show created by Chris Rock and based on his childhood years is getting the biggest promotional blitz in the history of UPN. You'll see the usual stuff — ads that run before movies in theaters and on DVDs, posters on every New York City bus and tons of radio ads. But UPN thinks Rock's show deserves extra-special treatment.

Starting in September, the entire pilot episode will be shown on American Airline flights that carry CBS programming. That amounts to 4 million captive viewers. George Schweitzer, marketing chief for CBS and UPN, says no new show has ever been given that kind of exposure before its premiere.

UPN has also sent "street teams," outfitted in Chris T-shirts, to urban centers to distribute up to 1 million DVD copies of the pilot. They were at the X Games earlier this month and are read more

World News Tomorrow

Charles Gibson

America said goodbye to ABC World News Tonight anchor Peter Jennings in a big way last week. The program topped NBC Nightly News in the weekly ratings for the first time since July 2004. The Aug. 8 edition, anchored by Good Morning America's Charles Gibson the day after Jennings' death, was watched by 10.5 million viewers. Only the top five prime-time shows had higher ratings last week. (On Monday, the first day World News Tonight aired without Jennings' name in the title, NBC regained the ratings lead.)


The official line at ABC News is that it read more

Peter Jennings Dies at 67

Peter Jennings

ABC World News Tonight anchor Peter Jennings, who died Sunday night at age 67 after battling lung cancer, leaves a 40-year legacy of bringing world events into America's living rooms.

"He was as much at ease with a microphone and in front of a camera as anyone I will ever know," said former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw.

Jennings' natural ability as a broadcaster was something to emulate. As a young correspondent, Bill O'Reilly studied Jennings while the more-experienced newsman prepared for a broadcast. "I could see how he handled the camera, used the TelePrompTer, what kind of inflections he made,'' says the Fox News Channel host. "It was important for me to digest that."

He was a demanding boss, too. Once, O'Reilly recalls, he told Jennings he had a piece that was good enough to lead that night's newscast. The anchor's reply: "You'd better be right."

Jennings was just as tough on himself. Ex-wife Kati Mar read more

Cruel Summer
Ratings haven't been pretty for NBC, CBS and WB

Brat Camp

Remember how some broadcast network execs said they can't take the summer off anymore and have to be in the business of year-round original programming? Well, there may be fewer summer repeats, but viewers are still trained to go cable once Memorial Day rolls around.

In the first nine weeks of the summer, the combined rating for all six networks is 43 percent lower than it was during the official TV season that ended on May 25. That's in line with last summer's decline of 40 percent. This summer, however, has been rougher for some networks than others. Here's how each of them is doing so far:

ABC – After a spectacular comeback season, it makes sense that the network of Desperate Housewives and Lost should be stronger. The summer audience is up 8 percent from a year ago, thanks to having the biggest reality hit, Dancing with the Stars. Brat Camp has also performed well, although it's faded a bit lately aga read more

Court TV Paulagate has an independent counsel, and ABC cuts off David E. Kelley's lawyers

Paula Abdul

It just wouldn't be a Television Critics Association press tour without a Fox reality-show controversy.

So while the rest of America hasn't thought much lately about American Idol contestant Corey Clark's charges that he had a sexual relationship with Paula Abdul and that she gave him a few pointers to help him advance in the competition — the story was alive and well among the reporters who showed up Thursday to hear Fox entertainment president Peter Liguori's press-tour debut.

Liguori said the Clark-Abdul matter was being investigated by an "independent counsel." Not a great choice of words. Independent counsel conjures up visions of Kenneth Starr, Archibald Cox, stained blue dresses and Oval Office tapes. (He meant "outside counsel," we were told later. A Fox insider said the place has been crawling with lawyers looking into the matter.)

So the questions kept coming from read more

Must-Revise TV
No longer No. 1, NBC tries to regroup

My Name Is Earl


How does NBC entertainment president Kevin Reilly describe a season in which his network tumbled from first to fourth place?

"[It] was kind of a colonic," he told the Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills, Calif., Sunday.

Is that covered by parent company General Electric's health plan? ("I think it's 80 percent," one exec told us.) But seriously, folks, Reilly is trying to look at his network's sudden biggest-loser status as a cleansing experience that will prepare all involved to take on the task of rebuilding a prime-time schedule.

"It literally took any residual sense of entitlement or complacency at our company and blew it out, so to speak," he said. "I do feel a thirst for creativity and a focus for getting NBC back on the leading edge. This is what it's going to take ultimately to fuel our comeback."

In a rare admission for a programming executive, Reilly said NBC has been "in denial" about its downward m read more

TV-Movie Madness CBS will battle Desperate Housewives with edgier fare

Spring Break Shark Attack

How do you take on a hot show like Desperate Housewives? With some vampire bats, a time bomb and a serial killer, of course. And if those don’t do the job, there’s always a "superstorm" to destroy the world.

Welcome to the new CBS Sunday Movie, long the network-TV home for the tearjerker or spiritually uplifting Hallmark Hall of Fame film. A steady diet of those movies simply isn’t doing the job to attract younger viewers away from ABC’s Sunday lineup. CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler said at the Television Critics Association press tour on Tuesday that it’s time to change course with more B-movie-esque thrillers.

"We know we’re up against a juggernaut on Sunday nights," she said. "As a result, we’re trying some high-concept and popcorn movies to go along with our traditional female films and star-driven vehicles. You’ll also see a somewhat different scheduling strategy."

In other words, Tassler will put those movies read more

Info Superhighway: Round 2

John Roberts

The news division of CBS, which once flirted with the idea of merging with CNN, has expanded its website,, into a 24-hour news service for Internet users with high-speed connections.

It isn't a "linear" news network where an anchor sits at a desk reading news and introducing video packages, says CBS News president Andrew Heyward. It's going to be your job to pick and choose what you want to see. It won't just be reports that have already aired. CBS News will continuously post its reporting on the site, and some of the coverage will be live. And if a correspondent has something to report before the CBS Evening News airs, you'll see it sooner on the broadband channel.

Heyward says the on-demand aspect of the service means CBS News doesn't have to be "live for live's sake" and to fill up time the way cable news channels do. It will offer an online version of the CBS Evening News with Bob Schieffer and regular original features, such read more

Hail to the Chief White House drama and other new shows get ad guru's vote


We're still two months away from the new TV season, but TV research chief Steve Sternberg of the ad-buying firm MAGNA Global has already issued his picks for the fall. Why should we listen to him? Last year he touted Desperate Housewives and Lost, the two ABC megahits.

He's a bit more cautious this year. In fact, he dispensed with his annual list of hits and misses for his report on the 2005-06 fall season. "In today's TV world of low-rated renewals and increased network ownership of programming, it is more difficult than ever to try to figure out which new shows will last the full season," he says. Besides, he adds, "our hits and misses labels were more relevant to the press than our clients, anyway." Thanks, Steve.

But Sternberg's report does list what new shows he likes most. Here they are, along with his take on how they'll fare.

Commander-In-Chief: ABC's White House drama, starring Geena Davis as president of the Un read more

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