The Biz

ABC's and D's
How do the nets fare in their midterm report cards?

Jason Lee, My Name Is Earl

We're 13 weeks into the 2005-06 TV season, so it's report-card time at the Biz. Based on the ratings, here's how each of the broadcast networks is doing so far:

CBS: Not only the most-watched network, but it's also No. 1 in the advertiser-coveted category of viewers 18 to 49 years old. Friday night has been rebuilt with Ghost Whisperer, Close to Home and Numbers. Criminal Minds is a solid hit, despite going up against ABC's Lost on Wednesday. The departure of Everybody Loves Raymond from Monday has hurt a bit, and read more

All the President's Sharpies Brian Williams wound down his momentous year with a White House exclusi

Brian Williams, NBC Nightly News

This week, TV Guide salutes those who had a big year in 2005, and in the news business, nobody was bigger than Brian Williams. In December 2004, he took over NBC Nightly News from Tom Brokaw, marking the first change in a network news anchor chair in more than 20 years. By the end of his first year, the unexpected departures of CBS' Dan Rather and ABC's Peter Jennings gave Williams seniority in the post. Not only did he hold on to the ratings lead he inherited from Brokaw, but he also distinguished himself with his reporting in South Asia after the tsunami and during and after Hurricane Katrina. Williams isn't ashamed to call himself a traditionalist when it comes to TV news. But on Dec. 12, he gave viewers a glimpse of how anchors will operate in the future. An extended version of his exclusive interview with President Bush for NBC Nightly News was shown as an hourlong special on MSNBC and made available online through While read more

The Secret of Eye's Success Just how is CBS breaking ratings records this season?

Pauley Perrette and Michael Bellisario, NCIS

For the second year in a row, ABC has the most talked-about shows: Desperate Housewives, Lost and Grey's Anatomy. But guess what? CBS has been No. 1 in viewers every week. It's the first time since 1988 that a network has opened with 11 consecutive weekly ratings wins. CBS has been on ABC's tail in the race for advertiser-coveted viewers in the 18-to-49 age group, too. (They were tied for first place during November sweeps). One CBS show after another has been scoring all-time highs this season. The Biz talked with Kelly Kahl, senior executive vice president of programming operations for CBS, to get some insight on why the Eye has it this year. You have two shows that are in their third season and scoring their best ratings ever. How do you explain that?
Kelly Kahl:
[Yes,] Cold Case and NCIS. I think some shows benefit from simply being on. It's a highly fragmented TV audience, and it takes time, read more

News Boss in Town NBC News president Steve Capus plans to keep his net on top.

NBC News president Steve Capus

Back in 1997, Steve Capus was executive producer of The News with Brian Williams, the prime-time flagship newscast of NBC's fledgling cable news channel MSNBC. At the end of each broadcast, the show's staff often had the same thought: Is anybody out there? Nearly a decade later Williams is seen by 10 million viewers of NBC Nightly News, where he has finished his first year as anchor and where Capus also served as executive producer. On Tuesday Capus, 42, was named president of NBC News after filling the role on an interim basis when Neal Shapiro departed in September. While NBC struggles in prime time, under Capus' watch it has remained the leader in the evening news and in the morning, with a resurgent Today show. Now that his job is permanent, Capus talked with The Biz about the challenges ahead. Congratulations on passing the audition. What do you think made this happen?
When (NBC Universal Televis read more

Good Night, Ted
Meet the new generation of Nightline

Martin Bashir, Cynthia McFadden and Terry Moran

This week Ted Koppel signed off of ABC's Nightline for the final time. Starting Monday the torch will be passed to a new generation of anchors for the respected late-night news show: White House correspondent Terry Moran, Primetime's Cynthia McFadden, and Martin Bashir, the British TV journalist who made his name in the U.S. with his explosive 2003 documentary about troubled pop superstar Michael Jackson. So what will the new Nightline look like? The Biz asked executive producer James Goldston. In recent years, Nightline has often been taped earlier in the evening, but you're going to be live every night. Why do you feel it is necessary to go live again?
It's a nightly broadcast that makes a point of analyzing what's going on in the world in [the most] informative way possible. For me, that means doing it live. Why wouldn't a show like this be live?

read more

Net Heads
TV execs look to the future... and try not to panic

The iPod-ready Desperate Housewives

TV is dead!

With media companies cutting deals to distribute shows over broadband Internet services, video-on-demand cable and even iPods, who needs crummy commercials and the tyranny of program schedules?

TV rules!

Shows like Lost, Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy, My Name Is Earl, Prison Break and others are making television more buzzworthy than it has been in years. "The communal experience of broadcast television is alive and well," pronounced ABC entertainment president Stephen McPherson at Tuesday's semiannual Newsmaker Breakfast sponsored by the International Radio & Television Society.

Anderson Cooper, fresh from taking over the 10 pm newscast on CNN, moderated the panel, which gathers the entertainment presidents of all the networks to discuss the trends of the moment. And it was Cooper, TV critics' favorite postmodern newsman, who presente read more

A Ready-for-Prime-Time Player Anderson Cooper has big plans for his newly expanded show.

Anderson Cooper

After earning high praise for his passionate reporting during Hurricane Katrina and the tsunami in south Asia, CNN has decided that prime time is the right time for Anderson Cooper. This week his nightly newscast, Anderson Cooper 360, was moved to 10 pm/ET and expanded to two hours (bumping Aaron Brown's NewsNight off the channel). The Biz caught up with Cooper last week after he had just received news of his promotion while on vacation in Oaxaca, Mexico. He spent his Halloween night there, sitting in a cemetery. Really. Was it kind of a surprise how fast this new show happened?
Anderson Cooper:
Yeah. This is not something I anticipated, certainly. It's not the kind of thing I focus on. I've been so focused on Katrina and the aftermath. It surprised me. How do you feel about the response to your read more

A New Game Plan
CBS Sports' prez has a winning strategy for CBS News

Sean McManus

As a boy, Sean McManus stood nearby as his sportscaster father, Jim McKay, reported live on the kidnapping and murder of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. ABC Sports president Roone Arledge was overseeing the network's extraordinary coverage and would eventually take over the network's news division, building it into an industry leader. So it was hard not to refer to Arledge when McManus, president of CBS Sports since 1996, added CBS News to his portfolio. He takes over for Andrew Heyward on Nov. 7. The Biz recently spoke to McManus about the challenges he faces in his new job. You must be pleased with the comparisons to Roone Arledge, especially because he and your father put ABC News on the map with the Munich coverage.
Sean McManus:
The biggest event in my father's professional career happened to be a news event, not a sports event, and I was lucky enough to spend that entire period in the stud read more

News Sensation
Geraldo Rivera ventures into syndicated news for Fox

Geraldo Rivera

Love him or hate him, Geraldo Rivera has always been impossible to ignore. He made his first big splash in 1971 on New York City's WABC, with a groundbreaking exposé of wretched conditions at Willowbrook, a Staten Island school for the mentally ill, and he hasn't been far from the spotlight since. As an investigative newsmagazine journalist, daytime talk-show host or cable-news anchor, he's never been afraid to take risks. So it's no surprise he's taken up the daunting task of anchoring a syndicated daily half-hour news show for Fox — Geraldo at Large, starting Oct. 31 (check listings). The Biz recently talked with him about the upcoming project.

TV You were in a secure spot at Fox News Channel, the No. 1 cable news network. You had a weekend show and were being dispatched to the big story when necessary....
It wasn't just a secure spot — it was the No. 1-rated cable news program on read more

Chuck Norris Kicks Butt
And other surprising results from last week's ratings

Walker, Texas Ranger

You can catch old episodes of Walker, Texas Ranger 55 times a week on Hallmark Channel and USA Network. (I'm not kidding. Do a search in the listings.) But apparently that isn't enough. The CBS Sunday Movie scored its highest ratings of the season last weekend when Chuck Norris brought Walker back to the network with Walker, Texas Ranger: Trial by Fire.

But this latest ratings kick doesn't solve a long-term dilemma for the franchise. The CBS Sunday Movie is down 16 percent compared to last season (although the decline is much smaller with 18-to-49-year-olds, only 4 percent), and it is the last weekly original-movie franchise in prime time. As the rest of CBS' current schedule gets more solid each week — it has won in total viewers for the first four weeks of the TV season and was No. 1 last week among 18-to-49-year-olds — network honchos have to be thinking about putting series p read more

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