News Briefing for Friday, May 23, 2008

Members of the Cable 360 staff have petitioned management to permit barbeques in the newsroom. Good day. 

Even the weather business could fall prey to consolidation. Apparently the two main contenders to purchase The Weather Channel are Time Warner and a partnership of NBC Universal and Blackstone Group, The Wall St Journal says. The deadline for second round bids for Landmark’s asset is today. The company was seeking $5 billion for Weather, but The Journal says bids will come in around $3-$4 billion. A number of years ago The Weather Channel and NBCU’s digital forecasting channel Weather Plus were bitter enemies. At the time The Weather Channel mounted a campaign to brand Weather Plus as an immature upstart. Times have changed apparently. Time Warner, which is more flexible than NBCU-Blackstone, could merge Atlanta-based CNN with Weather, also located in Dixie. Of course, the persistent rumors of Time Warner acquiring NBCU are bubbling again, The Hollywood Reporter says.[WSJ] [THR]

Yahoo nominated 90% of its board, which will make angry shareholders, ticked over the dissolution of the Microsoft deal, even more upset, a Reuters story in The NY Times says. A showdown between the board and stockholders won’t happen for a while as the July 3 board meeting has been postponed until late July, The Wall St Journal reports. [NYT] [WSJ]

It’s hardly a subtle approach, but there’s another way to bypass TV viewers who skip commercials—let Bobby do it. Unilever, the parent of Hellmann’s Mayonnaise, has signed Food Network’s Bobby Flay to host season two of its series of online cooking spots that feature the blue-labeled mayo, The Wall St Journal reports. Apparently the first season of the branded entertainment series, ahem, brought out the best. Indeed results topped expectations, with some 1 million unique visitors going to Hellmann’s site and more than 5K joining its community, which required them to sign up. Meanwhile, searches for Hellmann’s and related words rose 50% on Yahoo. [WSJ

The NHL on Versus is thriving, with ratings for playoff games up 50%. But everything is relative, The Wall St Journal notes. Versus’ 700,000 households are small compared to other major sports. [WSJ]

Briefly Noted
HDNet’s documentary Surfwise, about iconoclastic doctor-surgeon Dorian Paskowitz, gets a strong review from the usually curmudgeonly Joe Morgenstern, who writes that “in its wisdom, [Surfwise] shows how binding, as well as blinding, family ties can be.” [WSJ

Alessandra Stanley in The NY Times praises Recount (Sun, 9pm), HBO’s recounting of the 2000 election, with its assortment of hanging chad and butterfly ballots. [NYT]

Ron Perlman is set to star in an FX series, Sons of Anarchy, The Hollywood Reporter says. [THR]

Our Cable360 columnist Peter D. Shapiro says this week’s NCTA Cable Show missed an opportunity to educate attendees by failing to include sessions on cable’s competitors. [360

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