Cable360AM — News briefing for Tuesday, June 12 »

Ratings update: Sunday’s finale of The Sopranos attracted 11.9 total million viewers and 7.08 million viewers in adults 18-49, according to Nielsen. The final nine episodes in the sixth season averaged 8.2 million total viewers, down from an average 8.9 million total viewers for the first 12 episodes of season 6 that ran last year.

Sopranos
creator David Chase gave only one interview yesterday—to Alan Sepinwall of The Star-Ledger in Newark, NJ (Chase grew up in North Caldwell, NJ)—to address fans’ outcry at Sunday’s cliffhanger ending to HBO‘s series. "No one was trying to be audacious, honest to God," Chase commented. "We did what we thought we had to do. No one was trying to blow people’s minds or thinking, ‘Wow, this’ll (tick) them off.’ People get the impression that you’re trying to (mess) with them, and it’s not true. You’re trying to entertain them."

As for the post-finale backlash, Chase responded: "I hear some people were very angry and others were not, which is what I expected." He added: "It’s been the greatest career experience of my life. There’s nothing more in TV that I could say or would want to say." More from Chase (including some finale explanations) in Sepinwall’s exclusive interview. HBO programmer Carolyn Strauss tells Forbes it was exactly how Chase wanted the series to end and that "all of the creative decision-making has been David’s all along."

While Sopranos fans were busy crashing HBO’s website at the rate of 364,000 views per second, notes the New York Post (which also reveals the additional footage shot after the ending shown Sunday), Chase’s peers were emailing New York Times writer Bill Carter their post-finale thoughts.

Doug Ellin, creator of HBO’s Entourage (who’s developing another HBO series on hedge fund managers, notes the New York Times) said: "I’m speechless. I’m sure there is going to be a lot of heated discussion, but that’s David Chase’s genius. It’s what made The Sopranos different from anything that’s ever been on TV. It invented a whole new approach to storytelling that isn’t afraid to leave things open-ended, and now the biggest open story line in the history of television.”

Deadwood creator David Milch commented: “It was a question of loyalty to viewer expectations, as against loyalty to the internal coherence of the materials. Mr. Chase’s position was loyalty to the internal dynamics of the materials and the characters.”

Canadian cable operators, meanwhile, were given advance warning about the series’ abrupt ending and possible viewer confusion. "We viewed the episode on Friday, as is standard procedure, and we had a concern that people might think there had been a systems malfunction," a spokesperson for The Movie Network, which televised the series in Canada, told the Globe & Mail. Operators received few calls or complaints north of the border, or in the U.S., after the finale.

And thanks to the tipster who pointed out this morning that ousted HBO chairman/CEO Chris Albrecht warned in Vanity Fair‘s cover story on The Sopranos in April not to expect a tidy ending. VF imagines the seventh "lost" season here. (From another tipster: a NJ Sopranos tour by actor Joe Gannascoli, who played Vito Spatafore … and cast reactions on YouTube.)



• IN OTHER NEWS

As the upfront ad sales marketplace drags on, broadcast networks are asking for double-digit cost-per-thousand viewer (CPM) increases versus a year ago, reports MediaPost: "For the networks to break-even versus a year ago … they would need to raise prices by 11% in an environment where they lost 11% of their viewers." Broadcasters will more likely get CPM increases of 7% or more in primetime, meaning the overall TV upfront could increase 1% or 2% this year.

Warner Bros. is expanding its VOD/DVD day-and-date release tests with Comcast (in Pittsburgh and Denver) and Time Warner Cable (in Austin and other markets) with the July 10th release of The Astronaut Farmer — which only took in about $11 million at the box office, so not a huge risk in terms of DVD sales. [Wall Street Journal]

Canadian broadcaster CTVglobemedia last night accepted a CRTC (Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission) ruling that it can acquire rival broadcaster Chum for $1.3 billion but must sell off Chum’s five Citytv stations to Rogers for $252 million as part of the deal. [Variety]

Apple‘s iPhone will run applications from third-party developers using Web 2.0 Internet standards; it ships June 29. Apple’s iTunes store added long-running NBC soap opera Days of Our Lives for $1.99 per episode or $9.99 for a 20-episode multipass, notes Variety.

Comcast‘s new on-screen guide hits Seattle and Washington state next week.

DirecTV deployed fraud management software from UK-based Neural Technologies.

Dow Jones‘ controlling shareholders, the Bancroft family, may submit a revised proposal to News Corp. today addressing editorial safeguards for the Wall Street Journal. [WSJ]

Sony is producing a line of economy-priced flat-screen HDTVs for Wal-Mart, Target and other "price-conscious retailers" that will hit stores this summer, notes Barron’s Eric Savitz.

Actress Gloria Reuben hosts tonight’s Cable Positive 6th Annual POP Awards in New York, honoring outstanding cable programing in the fight against AIDS; Playboy‘s Christie Hefner is being honored at the event presented by Rainbow Media.



• PROGRAMMING

The Africa Channel is featured in Vanity Fair‘s July issue on Africa, guest-edited by Bono; former Viacom head and MTV founder Tom Freston also writes about his trip to Mali with some pals (including Jimmy Buffett) for a music festival.

BBC America tapped former CBS News exec Rome Hartman as executive producer. He will develop and anchor an hour-long BBC World News newscast that will run on BBCA at 7pm nightly. It replaces the half-hour BBC World newscast hosted by BBC’s Washington correspondent Katty Kay and will also run on the BBC World channel that’s currently available on Cablevision and Verizon‘s FiOS TV. BBCA also announced it’s adding Top Gear, the BBC’s long-running series for car buffs (or motoring enthusiasts, as they say in the UK), this fall.

Bravo premieres season 3 of Top Chef tomorrow night with Queer Eye‘s Ted Allen as recurring guest judge — except he’s noted as an author. No sign on Bravo’s schedule of the final 10 episodes of the Emmy-winning Queer Eye that were slated to run this summer.

Bridges TV is now on Verizon’s FiOS TV in Virginia and has signed a carriage deal with Cox Communications. [Washington Post]

FX premieres Rescue Me‘s new season tomorrow night.

HBO‘s post-Katrina documentary by director Spike Lee, When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts, won grand prize at the 28th Banff World Television Awards yesterday. Jurors called Lee’s doc (to which he’s filming a follow-up) a "genuinely seminal work that will leave a creative — and political — legacy for years to come," notes Variety. Separately, HBO’s new programming czar, Richard Plepler, is backing Chris Dodd for president; Plepler was an aide to Dodd in his pre-HBO career, notes the New York Post.

NBC‘s ousted programming head Kevin Reilly stands to receive "at least $6 million" from NBC Universal, according to the New York Post (as sources tell its Page Six gossip column). The Post‘s business section says Reilly’s replacement, Ben Silverman, has to do a better job working with NBCU head Jeff Zucker if he’s to succeed.

Oxygen premieres its Fight Girls reality series tonight; the Kelly Ripa-hosted 50 Funniest Women Alive special on Sat. June 16; and I Am Mandy Moore, a reality special pegged to Moore’s new CD, on Aug. 14.

Showtime premieres a documentary on medical marijuana, In Pot We Trust, on July 9.

Trinity Broadcasting Network aquired the Holy Land Experience theme park in Orlando, Fl. TBN plans to use the living recreation of ancient Jerusalem for TV production, concerts, special events and movies.

The Weather Channel launched weather alerts (SMS/text messaging or email) today; network owner Landmark Communications also launched breaking alerts as part of a suite of mobile services for its newspapers.

WWE hired former Lycos exec Brian Kalinowski as GM, digital media.



• ONLINE

Web-based video consumption has increased over the past five years (with usage appearing to have "stabilized") — but advertisers haven’t caught up, notes JupiterResearch in a new report.

Blockbuster added a lower-priced $4.99/mo. mail option to its online movie download service.

CinemaNow, the online movie download service, relaunched its WatchMusicHere site with exclusive content from Warner Music Group through July 21.

Playboy today launched an "island" (that will be overrun by bunnies) in the Second Life virtual 3-D online universe.

YouTube wil next month test Audible Magic’s digital video fingerprinting technology in the Google Labs with Time Warner- and Disney-owned content. YouTube CEO Chad Hurley has said the company intends to make the video ID technology available to all content owners in the fall. [Wall Street Journal]

The Bush administration did not support shareholders when the U.S. Justice Dept. yesterday let pass a deadline for filing supporting briefs in the lawsuit StoneRidge Investment Partners v. Scientific-Atlanta and Motorola. Briefs were due yesterday in the landmark Supreme Court case, which was filed by investors suing the set-top makers for their ancillary role in transgressions committed by Charter Communications in 2000; Charter settled with the SEC in 2004. [AP | Dow Jones]

Shirley Brady

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