The Biz

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

No Laughing Matter So far, new comedies are faring better than their older siblings

My Name Is Earl

The state of returning comedies has not been pretty in the new TV season. Consider the year-to-year decline in these shows:

 — ABC's According to Jim, which moved from 9 pm to 8 pm on Tuesdays, is off 26 percent compared to the first three weeks of last year. Its 8:30 companion, Rodney, has dropped 22 percent.

— CBS' Two and a Half Men has had an uphill battle trying to the big shoes of Everybody Loves Raymond. The network is down 20 percent in the time period from a year ago.

— As for NBC's much-maligned Joey? Ugh. It's off 46 percent compared to last year and has taken the Must-See TV network to new lows on Thursday nights.

But before this turns into another "Is the sitcom dead?" column, let's look at the bright side: Last week N read more

And They're Off!
An early peek at the fall ratings race

Commander in Chief

Can ABC be stopped?

Two weeks into the 2005-06 prime-time season the Alphabet network has taken a commanding ratings lead among viewers aged 18 to 49, the group advertisers covet most. The network's hot new shows from last season, Desperate Housewives and Lost, are even hotter this year. And while none of its new shows look like they'll be breakout hits, they at least show the potential to improve the network's performance on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights.

Of course, the race for No. 1 in the prized demo will tighten once Fox's American Idol rolls in again come January. But here's how each of the networks has performed so far and what they'll need to do to improve.

ABC: With two consecutive weekly wins among viewers aged 18 to 49, the network is off to its best start since the 1994-95 season. read more

A Fanfare for Peter Jennings remembered by family, colleagues and his favorite musicians.

Peter Jennings

During the 41 years Ted Koppel and Peter Jennings worked together at ABC News, Koppel knew where each one stood in the universe.

"He was known as the handsome one, and I was known as the smart one," Koppel said at a memorial service for Jennings held Tuesday at Carnegie Hall. "Over the course of the decades he was still known as the handsome one, and also as being very, very smart. I still was known as being the smart one."

Viewers knew Jennings as the confident, sophisticated and authoritative anchor of ABC World News Tonight. But at the service to celebrate his life — which ended Aug. 7 after a battle with lung cancer — he was most remembered as a devoted father who truly cared about the human condition.

Koppel recalled walking with Jennings in Manhattan's Upper West Side and being stopped by a homeless man who asked for money. "Peter stayed and talked to the man for about 10 minutes," he said. "He asked about his life and he listened." For year read more

Love for Raymond (and Friends) Will Last

Everybody Loves Raymond

On Monday CBS aired its last rerun of Everybody Loves Raymond. Last year Friends and Frasier left NBC. In the new TV season that starts next week, Will & Grace will be heading into the prime-time sunset, and we'll all wonder what happened to the network sitcom.

According to a new study from media ad-buying firm Magna Global, people are watching more comedy on TV than ever. In the 1994-95 season, a TV household watched an average of 4.14 hours of sitcoms per week. This past TV season, that average was up to 4.58 hours, but compared to 20 years ago, the bulk of that viewing is now on cable. Viewers are spending an average of 2.19 hours a week watching comedy on cable and less than an hour per week on the broadcast networks. They're also spending more ti read more

Legal Eagle

Just Legal

Just six years ago Jonathan Shapiro was working as an assistant to the lieutenant governor of California and thinking about running for statewide office. But he underwent a major career shift after he wrote a script for The Practice and was hired by producer David E. Kelley. On Sept. 19, Shapiro's own creation, Just Legal, will premiere on WB. Based on Shapiro's family experiences, the show stars Jay Baruchel as an 18-year-old prodigy who passes the California bar exam but can't get a job with a decent law firm. He gets his break when he's hired by an ambulance chaser with an alcohol problem (Don Johnson). The Biz recently spoke with Shapiro about his new show and about how TV may have saved him from a life of unsuccessful political fundraising. Before you got into television, you were counting on having a career in politics.
Jonathan Shapiro:
I planned my entire life to run for office. I was a speechwriter fo read more

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