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THE WAR FOR THE OPRAH SPACE BEGINS

Anderson Cooper's new set: the couch undermines the intimacy

Yesterday  the first shot was heard around the new talk show world as Warner Brothers officially entered the high risk/high reward battle to replace Oprah.

Even the queen of the talk placed a stake in the outcome when  she launched  her own heir apparent,  Dr. Oz,  under her Harpo banner.

Katie Couric  follows next year as will Ricki Lake, Bethenny Frankel and I’m sure many more.

The first kid on this scary new block turns out to be Anderson Cooper who, as bravely as he has waded into snake-infested flood waters, has now stepped into the fierce competition of syndicated talk. Read the rest of this entry »

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Schwarzenegger Fathered A Child With Member Of Household Staff

We live in tough emotional times, for sure.  First on my list of news that has made me genuinely sad, the one prompting this cathartic column, that Arnold Schwarzenegger has confirmed to the L.A. TImes that his marriage broke up after he told his wife, Maria Shriver, that he fathered a child over a decade  ago with a member of the “household staff” who continued  to work for them until she “retired”  this January.

update: The feeding frenzy has begun.  And at 7:49  this evening Radar Online.com, in a joint investigation with Star magazine, has identified 50-year-old Mildred Baena (seen in their exclusive photo) as the mother of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s love child,. 

For her part, Maria Shriver released a short statement saying she is heartbroken and said, as a mother, she is concerned for her children.

Today, there’s also been  a warmed-over story from 2003 percolating: a British tabloid alleged that a former stewardess who worked on the family’s private jet, Tammy Faye Tousignant, had Schwarzenegger’s “love” child, a boy who would now be around 18 years old.

That article, along with Tammy Faye, were  widely ignored in America in 2003.  But now, with the L.A. Times revelations, she is being hounded.  She’s denying Schwarzenegger is the father of her son, and has changed her phone number. Her lawyer now says she has a DNA test to prove she’s telling the truth.

For his part,  the boy,  described by an on-line gossip column as having a familiar toothy grin, reportedly told one reporter not to waste his time; this was a politically motivated story invented eight years ago.  Riddle me this: was Tammy Faye an intentional red herring? Read the rest of this entry »

PRINTING LAST WEEK’S NIELSEN RATINGS FOR THIS WEEK?  REALLY! YOU’VE SUNK TO A NEW CREDIBILITY LOW

For many months since launching daily Xpress, I haven’t  been able to resist pointing out the many inaccuracies of the weekly ratings reported by TVNewser, the once respectable “must read” during the tenure of the great Brian Stelter who was blogging while still in college and was quickly hired by The  New York Times after graduation.

I miss those days with Brian who was sadly replaced by reporters with fuzzy math, conflicts of interest and reckless disregard for the truth, much of which I’ve detailed in previous posts.

But now, get this error.  Today TVNewser has posted the ratings for the evening news shows for the week of April 11th, beginning their story:

“It was par for the course for the network evening newscasts the week of April 11.”

I guess so.  TVNewser has posted last week’s ratings by mistake! How embarrassing is that! Read the rest of this entry »

AS THE RUMORS SWIRL THAT MATT WILL FOLLOW MEREDITH OUT THE DOOR, A BILLION-DOLLAR FRANCHISE HEARS A GASP

Mano y mano: The only muscle Matt Lauer flexes with Tom Cruise is from the nose up.

A Today Show without Matt Lauer? Could this really be true? Could it still thrive?

Those are some of the questions recently posed to me by David Bauder of Associated Press. Where do I even begin?

As someone who’s studied Matt Lauer for many years, not just as a viewer but as a competitor, first as executive producer of ABC’s Good Morning America then senior executive producer of CBS’ Early Show, I can genuinely say with authority: there is simply no one like Matt Lauer in all of network news. There never has been, and now given the experience he adds to his broad range of skill sets, there probably never will be again.

So, NBC, what ever Matt wants, Matt should get. He’s certainly earned it.

HOW MATT LAUER BECAME “THE FONZ” OF MORNING TV AND WHY HIS BOSSES GET CREDIT FOR SPOTTING HIM

Most network news executives I have known would never have hired Matt Lauer in the first place. It’s clearly been their loss. You see, once upon a time, he was a young feature reporter for Robin Leach’s “Fame, Fortune and Romance,” a short-lived daytime series that rode the coat tails of the bigger show that brought you champagne wishes and caviar dreams. He then moved to New York and co-hosted a local talk show called 9 Broadway Plaza.

This, plus a few credits short of a degree from Ohio University, was not exactly the winning resume for a network news division, but somewhere within the NBC corporate hierarchy someone saw that Lauer was smart, fun to be around, comfortable in his own skin and likable. Not classically handsome, he was still sexy, appealing, someone who definitely sat at the cool kid’s table of life. Read the rest of this entry »

“BALLISTIC BOSS” AND “TANTRUM-PRONE” NO MORE

Icorrect: this girls new BFF

For three years I have lived with the collateral damage of a deliberate and continuing cyber smear campaign from a handful of detractors who have hidden behind the time-honored protection given anonymous news sources. They are more school yard bullies than protected sources in the traditions of  great journalism.  But even with school yard bullies, you at least know who they are.

Two old stories in particular (2007 and 2008) were actually manipulated  for years to reappear on the first page of my Google Search. Both articles, highly sexist,  were based on false or twisted information provided by those with apparent malice who choose to  portray me as a workplace wackjob.

At the time the articles first appeared, I made a decision to take the high ground and ignore the bad press.  I now know that decision was wrong; not defending myself against the many lies let them  live on, unchallenged,  in cyberspace, a new world that has a real and measurable impact.

The “anonymouses” were actually “winning.”   But today, in the words of one ESPN anchor, “Not so fast, my friend.”

Today, the New York Times  has an article in the Week In Review section called “Celebrities Set the Record Straight” about  a new website called ICorrect.com where , for a membership fee of $1,000, one can correct a false story and then see your correction posted side by side with the original accusation.  The NYT story today features Stephen Fry, Bianca Jagger, Michael Caine, Tommy Hillfiger, Kevin Spacey and me!

If $1,000 seems like a lot of money, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the $65,000 I was quoted by one company  to chase down all the lies that had been ricocheting around the internet. That was just to start; there was no promise to tackle unforeseen problems, such as what turned out to be a cyber “stalker(s)” who, regardless of any accomplishments, will manipulate the headlines with the words “Ballistic Boss” and “Tantrum-Prone” back to the top of my search page.

The most vicious stories were published at the end of my 17-year tenure at ABC News, then at the end of a much shorter one at CBS News where, after 23 weeks as senior executive producer of The Early Show, the bad press was at a fever pitch and I was asked to leave.

March 3, 2008 was my last day at CBS News and, ironically,  also the day I was about to assign the story of Paul Tilley, a 40-year-old creative chief of an ad agency, DDB Chicago. A week and a half earlier Tilly, a husband and father of two, jumped to a violent death from an upper floor of the Fairmont Hotel,  the building next door to his offices.  The talented Mr. Tilley had been the target of vicious, anonymous blogs on two ad industry websites.

At the time, I named this new phenomenon blood blogging, a far more accurate phrase than Sarah Palin’s more recent blood libel, and certainly less incendiary.  To me, blood blogging seems more of a sport than anything else, one designed by those not particularly witty, talented or inspired, but rather  those who are seemingly disgruntled, disenfranchised and not willing to put their own ideas front and center for anyone to notice, let alone judge.

Under the cloak of anonymity, they tear others down, wound with words and when all else fails, make stuff up.

The blood blogging of me began even before I even accepted the CBS job, when it was published that  my secret contract negotiations to become senior executive producer of The Early Show were halted because Katie Couric was mad at me.  Not true, but the lightning round of phone calls from reporters revealed one certainty: someone was working a sabotage story pretty aggressively.  I was hoping this was just a little gossipy speed bump, but not so.  Following my introduction to The Early Show staff, I gave my first talk about the difficult but exciting days ahead as we faced the challenge of moving out of third place.   Soon after that, my old pals at ABC called and repeated back my words, almost verbatim, and even told me their favorite parts of the Q&A session.   When I officially began work at CBS  the next week, I changed the pass code to the telephone conference bridge.

The steady stream of malicious gossip began pretty early. I “melted down,” went “ballistic,” “became enraged” and “threw temper tantrums” in meetings I did not attend, in hallways I didn’t walk in and on phone calls I never placed or received.   In the early days, almost like clockwork each Friday afternoon at about ten to six, my boss and  I would be handed a demeaning anonymous item to confirm or deny for Page Six of the New York Post.  Despite the clear and specific denials from the president of the news division, Page Six eventually ran one big story anyway, telling our publicist, “but our source is so good.”  Perhaps the source had an ulterior motive.

As one website picked up each false and malicious story from the other,  personal threats began, some addressing what should happen to terrible bosses like me.  There was simply no recourse, until now.   Read the rest of this entry »

MUIR BREAKS ABC NEWS’ RATINGS RECORD SEASON-TO-DATE,  ANCHORS ONLY WEEK FOR NET WITHOUT YEAR-TO-YEAR DECLINE

David Muir: the next generation of ABC News?

You won’t read this in their press releases, but a stealth weapon has been discovered at ABC News. TMZ has already called him the “Brad Pitt of network anchors.”

TMZ may prove to be way ahead of ABC’s revolving research and management teams.

His name is David Muir and remember that you read it here first: the holiday week Muir filled in for Diane Sawyer, a rare week without an ABC News press release to spin, er tout the ratings, David Muir increased the viewership of adults 25-54 by a whopping 8% over the year before. And that week, the week of December 27th, was the only week of the entire season-to-date (the past 16 weeks) that the demo at ABC News has increased over the prior year.

Some keen observers may say the boost was due to the big snow storm hitting parts of the east coast, especially New York where Brian Williams reported outside in the snow.  He was up 10% year to year.  CBS News with newly deposed morning anchor Harry Smith filling in for Katie Couric, however, was down 9%.

NEW ABC PRESS RELEASE OUT TODAY

Interestingly, today ABC News issued a press release today lauding the week of January 3rd  with the headline: “World News with Diane Sawyer” Draws Second Most Watched Week in Nearly a Year. (The most watched week? Shhhh, David Muir.) Read the rest of this entry »

****UPDATED 12/28/10 PAINT BY NUMBERS: AN EVENING NEWS SHOCKER

Couric Squeezes the Gap with Sawyer to 150,000 Viewers — Narrowest of  Season — 66% Smaller than Last Year

Christmas Colors in Red and Green

note from your friendly blogarist: “Paint by Numbers” will be an occasional, yet regular,  feature of daily Xpress meant to reach behind the press releases for a more accurate picture of the state of broadcast news than reported elswhere.

Can you call a 150,000-viewer gap between ABCs World News with Diane Sawyer and CBS Evening News with Katie Couric anything other than "striking distance?"

Note to Les Moonves: Objects in the rear view mirror may be closer than they appear.

As you sit down to re-negotiate Katie Couric’s $15M salary and future at CBS News, and you should amidst your continuing lay-offs, you might want to take a closer look at her A25-54 numbers this year compared to last year.

Katie Couric has narrowed the gap with Diane Sawyer on 12 out of the 14 weeks of this season. (One week showed the same gap as last year).

I just want to make sure you have our Paint By Numbers kit. TVNewser seems to have ignored this accomplishment which is somewhat  surprising given their warm relationship with her executive producer. Oh well, maybe they’ll write something about it next week, in a round up of the quarter. (Oops, they missed it again. Might they be holding back to hang on to some negotiating leverage?)

Bloomberg News, in reporting on your preliminary talks for her new contract, noted this last week:  “Both sides recognize Couric’s salary must be reduced for her to remain at CBS, one of the people said. This season, the “CBS Evening News With Katie Couric” is averaging 5.73 million viewers a night, according to Nielsen Co. data, behind NBC and ABC, and down 24 percent from when she took over in 2006.”

Yikes, the  continuing obsession TV writers have with total viewership is…. meaningless.   Does that matter in the real business world?   Not one bit.

As you know, “total” viewers don’t add one single dollar to the financial health of a news division.  Doesn’t it make you want to scream “It’s the demo, stupid,”  because that’s what they should  be tracking for Katie in the coming weeks.

THIS JUST IN: KATIE HAS A VERY MERRY XMAS WEEK

For the week of December 13, Katie Couric quietly narrowed the demo gap with Diane Sawyer from 500 000 to 450,000 year to year.  *** And this just in for the week of December 20.  Katie Couric squeezed the demo gap down to just 150,000, narrowing that gap a whopping 66% over the same week in 2009 (440,000). The CBS demo delivery of 1,980,000 viewers was actually  the second highest of the season, only topped by Thanksgiving week which only included two days (Monday and Tuesday.)

The week of Christmas only included four days, excluding Friday (generally the lowest rated day of the week for the evening newscasts.) This year, as last year, Diane Sawyer took off for her birthday  (December 22) and the day after.  David Muir substituted.

Read the rest of this entry »