News Briefing for Monday, May 12, 2008

Topic of the morning in the Cable360 newsroom: should Baseball’s Mother’s Day celebration include more than pink bats and wristbands? Good day.

Happy broadcast upfronts week! Not really. Owing to the writers strike, the economic downturn, DVRs, the Internet, and, oh, yes, strong cable fare, ratings are down about 15% for broadcasters vs last season, The LA Times says. Some shows haven’t rebounded well from their writers strike hiatus, including Grey’s Anatomy and Ugly Betty on ABC, which have dropped 20% vs their pre-strike average; CSI on CBS is off 15%; and NBC’s Deal or No Deal and The Office are at season lows. Even Fox’s American Idol is losing viewers. To the dismay of the hors d’oeuvre-chomping set, ABC, NBC and CBS are toning down their traditional festive upfronts, opting for fewer canapés and more sales talk. This development could mean longer lives for entire communities of shrimp, Lisa de Moraes jokes in The Washington Post. And when it rains it pours, a strike by SAG at the beginning of July could really hurt. [LAT] Still, ad execs crave broadcast TV’s immediacy, as its $9 billion ad market attests. The key for The NY Times’ TV Decoder blog is finding the 6 million viewers who’ve abandoned the networks. Many of them are watching TV via DVRs or on the Web, Decoder says, erasing the difference between TV ads and those in magazines. Both Stuart Elliott in The NY Times and The Wall St Journal predict dampened spending for the upfronts.  [LAT] [WP] [NYT][NYT] [WSJ]

With Rupert Murdoch pulling out of the hunt for Newsday Saturday, the Dolans now own the paper for $650million. And look at this, the press (Newsday, at least) says the cable family could help the paper, reversing the Cox model where a newspaper family owns a cable company. The NY Times’ piece reflects the prevailing mood on Wall St regarding the Newsday deal as headscratching rules the day. The Wall St Journal takes a more business-like approach to the development, noting Newsday’s circ could rise by about 100K with Cablevision’s help. It also notes that NY Daily News owner and Newsday bidder Mort Zuckerman was unfazed, as he found solace in piano lessons. [ND] [NYT] [WSJ] In a somewhat related item, former ESPN exec Mark Shapiro joins the board of Tribune Co, which sold Newsday to the Dolans. [WSJ]

ESPN grabbed its 4th tennis major today when it announced signing to cover The US Open for ’09, The Journal reports. Bristol and The Tennis Channel will share coverage; ESPN will carry more  than 90 hours, Tennis gets 60. [WSJ]

Briefly Noted
There’ll be changes today at Fox Business News, with shorter programs and more face time for Alexis Glick and her comely countenance, The NY Times reports.
[NYT

They’re still writing about the digital transition and that cable customers don’t need to worry about it—at least the Register-Herald of Beckley, WV, is. [RH]

Consumers with new TV sets are being consumed by a gaggle of cables, the San Jose Mercury News says. [SJMN]

The presidential hopeful who leads in appearances on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart says he likes The Tudors on Showtime and MTV’s The Hills. [NYT]

Late Stories
Marco Bresaz was promoted to VP of Development and Original Programming for TV Land. Most recently, Bresaz was director, development and production for TV Land from 2004-2008.

Brett Hurwitz joined ESPN as VP, Ad Sales Operations. Prior to ESPN, Hurwitz was the VP, Commercial Sales Initiatives for NBC Universal (1998-2007).

SI.Com is reporting Hannah Storm will join ESPN next year to anchor a new morning edition of SportsCenter. The announcement is set to be made tomorrow at ESPN’s upfront. Late Monday ESPN set up a Tues,  noon ET, conference call for reporters noting that "new, live programming" and "a new commentator" were the subjects of the call. [SIC]

Suzanne Kolb was upped to Chief Marketing Officer, E! Entertainment and The Style Network; GM, E! Online.  In this role, Kolb leads marketing, communications and brand alliances for the networks. Kolb will oversee the summer launches of E!’s Denise Richards: It’s Complicated, Living Lohan and the "observational documentary series" Pamela (working title), about Pam Anderson.

Fine Living Network begins June with new series. First is the U.S. premiere of From the Ground Up, where 14 hopefuls compete to become Debbie Travis’s chief designer (June 1). Then on June 7 it’s the debut of eco-themed series It’s Easy Being Green, with organic chef/author Renee Loux. On June 20 it’s the US premiere of Dating the Enemy, where opposites try to coexist on a date. 

Got a tip?Contact sgoldstein@accessintel.com and sarenstein@accessintel.com

Friday’s Top Stories  http://www.cable360.net/competition/web/29635.html

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