NEWS BRIEFING FOR TUESDAY, MARCH 18, 2008 Wouldn’t it make things easier if when chickens laid their eggs they were already decorated for Easter? Good morning.
It looked like an isolated move—ousting veteran HBO Entertainment President Carolyn Strauss—but apparently it wasn’t, The Hollywood Reporter argues. It was part and parcel of the new Jeff Bewkes era at Time Warner, whose initial focus is the company’s entertainment units, and how content is distributed. “While insiders agree that the Strauss move was made by HBO chief Bill Nelson and [programming co-head Richard] Pepler for HBO-specific reasons, it was hard to mistake the Bewkes connection,” the Reporter says. “Plepler and Nelson worked closely with the CEO when Bewkes ran HBO from 1995-2002, and the move likely was sanctioned, if not inspired by, the new leadership in the executive suite.” The implications for cable? Uncertain. Bewkes, “known for favoring cable networks, which have over the past decade yielded higher growth rates on revenue and audience,” might consider selling off The CW. CNN seems safe, as do TBS, TNT and Cartoon, THR argues.
But back to HBO. The Strauss ouster “goes beyond programming and buzz to the kind of hard-core business concerns that resonate with Bewkes,” the Reporter notes. “While HBO continues to be a $1 billion-plus moneymaking machine, a large percentage of that comes from home video, which flows directly from the popularity of on-air series.” And while a number of HBO’s recent series have been critically acclaimed, they’ve not attracted mass audiences. [THR]
Lisa de Moraes is at her snarky best today, explaining the HBO shakeup in The Washington Post. HBO is like a cult, she writes; outsiders can’t enter and nobody ever leaves. Strauss, she tell us, had never worked anywhere but HBO, which she joined straight from Harvard in 1985. Her job is the most coveted in TV, a source tells de Moraes; "anyone would kill their mother to get this job.” But HBO “has lost its mojo,” de Moraes notes. Its shows are “poopy,” a source says. [WP]
For the first time, broadband network ESPN360.com offers coverage of all 63 games of the Women’s NCAA Division I basketball championships; the games start Saturday. Beginning with the regional semis, ESPN and ESPN2 will offer every game in HD. It’s the 6th straight year that ESPN nets have shown each of the women’s games.
WWE rarely does things without just a bit of color. And it knows from stars. Days after getting a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame and noting that he’s "the greatest star of all time," Vince McMahon climbed into the ring last night to face legendary grappler Rick Flair. To announce the company’s new CFO, a press release last evening was titled: “Superstar George Barrios Leaves NY Times for WWE Ring.” The Superstar CFO was Treasurer of The NY Times Co and a VP. He starts with WWE Monday, replacing Frank Serpe, who’s retiring after 21 years. No truth to reports that Serpe will have to tag Barrios before he can enter the WWE offices.
HBO pilot 12 Miles of Bad Road was a casualty of the Carolyn Strauss departure. The Lily Tomlin comedy from Linda Bloodworth-Thomason is being shopped; Lifetime is among the possibilities, The Hollywood Reporter says. [THR]
In another example of how YouTube sometimes trumps television during this political year, an interview with an Obama supporter gains plenty of eyeballs on The Latest Controversy channel. [NYT]
As expected, the Supreme Court agreed to give the FCC the authority to punish broadcasters for on-air vulgarity. Kevin Martin is pleased. [AP] Today in CableFAX Daily: The legal laundry list.
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