Brian Williams, NBC Nightly News
There was a change at the top at NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams last week when Alex Wallace replaced John Reiss as executive producer. Wallace, a vice president at NBC News and a former Weekend Today producer, comes in just as Nightly News is in its toughest ratings position since Williams took over for Tom Brokaw at the end of 2004. In this past February-sweeps period, ABC World News with Charles Gibson scored its first across-the-board ratings win (in total viewers and in the ad-friendly demo of news watchers aged 25 to 54) since 1996. The Biz talked to Wallace about the challenges she's facing and the decision to send Williams to Iraq, making him the first evening-news anchor to travel into the war zone since ABC
Law & Order
The networks have started working on new fall series, which means pink slips are coming for some of your old favorites. Here's what could be on the chopping block.
Did you ever imagine the day when Law & Order would be canceled? We're not saying it's going to happen — it probably won't. But costs on the show have risen while its ratings have dropped, which means its renewal is no longer automatic every year. NBC's other middling crime dramas — Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Crossing Jordan and Medium — are more vulnerable. The network has also yet to decide on another season for The Apprentice
War hasn't been hell for Keith Olbermann. As President Bush's poll ratings have declined in response to his handling of the Iraq situation, the ratings for Olbermann's nightly MSNBC newscast Countdown have shot up. The irreverent anchor recently signed on to front the cable news channel's most-watched show for another four years. NBC News sweetened the pot by giving him occasional essays on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams and two prime time specials each year on the big network. The Biz asked Olbermann to reflect on his recent success and his new deal.
TVGuide.com: Countdown's ratings have built a lot over the year. Do you think it had something to with MSNBC finally sticking with a show for more than a few months
Why should liberals have all the laughs? On Feb. 18, Fox News Channel is looking to get a few younger viewers into its tent with The 1/2 Hour News Hour at 10 pm/ET. It's a satirical news program akin to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, but will aim more of its shots at the left side of the political spectrum. It repeats on Feb. 25 and a second episode airs on Mar. 4, before FNC decides whether to make a weekly series. The show was developed by Joel Surnow, cocreator and executive producer of 24 and a self-described "right-wing nut job." The Biz talked to him and his fellow 24 executive producer Manny Coto about their new project and the recent heat over Jack Bauer's torture methods.
Zac Efron and Vanessa Anne Hudgens, High School Musical
Before a single frame has been shot for the sequel to the Disney Channel's megahit TV-movie High School Musical, plans are already under way for a third film. But this one will be for the big screen.
Disney has announced plans to have the yet-to-be-titled second sequel premiere in movie theaters by the fourth quarter of 2008. The release will be timed for Halloween and have a story set in a haunted high school, Disney Channel chief Rich Ross told the Biz.
"The bigness of the idea we're working on would require a budget that would far outstrip what we've spent on other Disney Channel movies," said Ross, citing the reason for going the theatrical route first.
Ross said the cast has been alerted of plans to go ahead with a third High School Musical, but none have been signed as of yet. They will all reprise their roles in High School Musical 2, which begins production
This week Microsoft founder Bill Gates has been out touting the new Windows Vista operating system, which, among many other things, makes it easier to watch Internet video on your TV set. Does this mean the old way of watching TV is on the way out? The Biz got a chance to ask him just that during a stop on his whirlwind tour.
TVGuide.com: Do you think the days of showing up at 8 or 9 o'clock to watch something like 24 will soon be gone?
Bill Gates: No, I don't. I think there'll be less of it. Some of the big, breaking things everybody will want to watch together. The Super Bowl is on at one time, and everybody the next day wants to make their comments about it. So it's not that we throw out the old completely. We just get rid of some of the rigidity it's had. When the elections are on, you'll want to be able to pick the candidates and issues you care about and follow them a little bit interactively. I think the Olympics are a great example of something that
The Screen Actors Guild Awards are happening on Jan. 28, but for the cast, producers and writers of The Office, it's just another night out in formalwear. The NBC sitcom has been racking up awards since it made its modest mid-season debut in 2005. But the show's ratings are stacking up, too. Among viewers ages 18 to 49 (the ones NBC sells to advertisers), The Office is third among all half-hour comedies, trailing Two and a Half Men and The Simpsons. In some weeks, it's been No. 1. It's also got a big fan in the network's corporate headquarters. The Biz recently caught up with executive producer Greg Daniels and talked about how the workplace comedy is climbing the ladder of success.
TVGuide.com: I heard that Jeff Immelt, chairman of NBC parent GE, b
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
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.
TVGuide.com: So, the plan is to get the viewers more involved beyond just voting f
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.
TVGuide.com: CBS has been ou