Fast Track

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Fox Wins May Sweeps With 'Idol’ Finale

On the strength of the American Idol season finale, Fox nabbed its first-ever May-sweeps win in the key 18- to 49-year-old demo. The two-hour Wednesday Idol 4 finale ranked as the month’s second-most-watched program in the demo with a 12.5 rating/31 share. ABC’s finale of Desperate Housewives earned a 13.4/31.

NBC, meanwhile, plummeted from first place a year ago to a fourth-place finish in May. The network posted losses in various key demos, including a 27% drop in viewers 18-49 to a 3.2 rating, a 29% dip in 18-34s to a 2.7 rating, and a 20% loss in total viewers to an average 9.3 million. (For a season wrap-up, see page 10.)

For the second straight May sweeps, CBS finished second in 18-49. The network is No. 1 in total viewers and in adults 25-54. It rallied several huge finales, including the series sendoff for Everybody Loves Raymond (39.2 million viewers), CSI’s season finale (30.7 million viewers) and the conclusion of Survivor: Palau (20.8 million).

The comeback story continues for a resurgent ABC. The network jumped to third place in 18-49s and gained more than 20% in all the key demos, including a 30% jump in 25-54. Desperate Housewives’ May 22 finale recorded 30.3 million viewers, making it the most-watched finale of a freshman drama on network TV since ER in 1995. ABC’s own medical show Grey’s Anatomy sizzled in its season finale, drawing 22.8 million viewers.

UPN edged out The WB in 18-34s, with a 1.5/5 to The WB’s 1.5/4. The WB is off 17% in the demo from last May, while UPN improved 25%.—A.R./A.B.

'Jeopardy!’’s Jennings Gets Cable Show

Jeopardy!’s answer to Cal Ripken, iron answerman Ken Jennings, has parlayed his fame as the show’s longest-running winner into a game-hosting gig for Comedy Central.

Jennings, a Utah software engineer is at work on a show with game guru Michael Davies (Who Wants To Be a Millionaire). The two will begin work on the show late this summer and likely launch it as a strip in late 2005 or early 2006.

Davies brought Who Wants To Be a Millionaire to the U.S. He continues to executive-produce the series, now in daytime with Meredith Vieira, who on Friday beat out Jeopardy!’s Alex Trebek for a Daytime Emmy for hosting duties.

Viacom-owned Comedy Central is currently in more than 87 million homes.—A.B.

DeLay Slams NBC Over 'Criminal Intent’

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay fired off a letter to NBC Universal Television Group President Jeff Zucker Thursday, citing “a failure of stewardship of our public airwaves,” and a “brazen lack of judgment” over a shot taken at him during NBC’s Law & Order: Criminal Intent finale May 25.

According to a transcript excerpt supplied to B&C by DeLay’s office, the episode features a white supremacist who kills an appellate judge and another judge’s family. As the detectives hunt for the killer, one says, “Maybe we should put out an APB for somebody in a Tom DeLay T-shirt.”

Saying he assumed it was a response to his comments about Congress’ closely monitoring federal judges, an obviously upset DeLay wrote Zucker, “To equate legitimate constitutional inquiry into the role of our courts with a threat of violence against our judges is to equate the First Amendment with terrorism.

“This manipulation of my name and trivialization of the sensitive issue of judicial security,” he continued, “represents a reckless disregard for the suffering initiated by recent tragedies and a great disservice to public discourse.”

NBC responded, “This isolated piece of gritty 'cop talk’ was neither a political comment nor an accusation. It’s not unusual for L&O to mention real names in its fictional stories. We’re confident in our viewers’ ability to distinguish between the two.”—J.E.

Kissinger Exits NBC U TV Studio

NBC Universal Television Studio will now have just one president: Angela Bromstad.

David Kissinger, co-president of NBC U Television Studio since May 2004, has left to become president of Conan O’Brien’s Conaco Productions.

Kissinger had run the studio with Bromstad since Universal Network TV and NBC Studios were melded last year. Kissinger had previously been president of Universal Network Television since 1999.—J.E.

Three-Net Revenues Dip

Combined net ad revenues for all dayparts for ABC, CBS and NBC were down $63 million, or 2.07%, in first quarter 2005 from the year-ago quarter, according to Ernst & Young figures released by the Broadcast Cable Financial Management Association (BCFM).

The three networks together took in $2.88 billion in ad revenues, off from $2.94 billion in first quarter 2004.

Not surprisingly, the biggest decline both in dollars and in percentage loss was in sports (21.35%), where the absence of the Super Bowl from the equation (this year, it was on Fox, which does not participate in the study) was keenly felt, resulting in a drop of $148 million.

Compared with 2003, though, when the Super Bowl was on ABC, the three-net revenues are up 8%, or $222 million.

But the biggest raw gain was prime time, up almost $61 million (3.98%) to $1.59 billion, while the largest percentage gain was news, up 12.43% to a $145.2 million.

The biggest percentage decline by category after sports was kids TV, down 17.18% to $7.7 million.

Mary Collins, president/CEO of BCFM, says that one of her goals for this year will be to try to bring Fox, The WB and UPN into the survey, although they would not be added until first quarter 2006.—J.E.

Dubow To Be Gannett President and CEO

Craig Dubow, who most recently headed Gannett Co.’s broadcast division, will become the media company’s president and CEO July 15 when current Chairman/President/CEO Douglas McCorkindale steps aside.

McCorkindale will remain chairman until his contract expires in July 2006.

Roger Ogden, Gannett’s senior VP of broadcast and president/GM of KUSA Denver, has been upped to president/CEO of the company’s 21 stations. In his former position, he was charged with stations in Atlanta, Cleveland, Denver, Phoenix, Washington and Sacramento.

Both executives are Gannett veterans. Dubow started his career in 1981 in ad sales for KUSA. Ogden joined KUSA in 1967 (it was then KBTV).

D.C. TV Stations Protest Nielsen

Washington, D.C., stations owned by or affiliated with the networks—except NBC—are banding together to push for the delay of Nielsen Media Research’s new electronic local people meter (LPM) ratings system, slated to roll out in the market June 2.

Nielsen’s LPMs have caught flak from some broadcasters, particularly Fox and UPN stations, which protest problems with undercounting minorities and high fault rates (operator errors in logging viewing) among Hispanics, African-Americans, young viewers and large households.

Washington broadcasters say they want the system fixed before it becomes ad-sales currency in the market. “We only have one source of revenue, advertising, so we scrutinize the ratings carefully,” says Jerald Fritz, senior VP of legal and strategic affairs for Allbritton Communications, owner of ABC affiliate WJLA. “If the numbers are wrong, we will make the wrong choices.”

The group, which also included representatives of Gannett Broadcasting, Fox Television Stations and Tribune Broadcasting, wants Nielsen to halt the LPM rollout until the system receives full accreditation from the Media Ratings Council, the client-backed independent overseer of Nielsen ratings.

The absence of WRC from the group doesn’t mean NBC Universal doesn’t have LPM issues. “We do have concerns,” says a spokeswoman, but “it is more effective to deal with these business issues through direct discussions with Nielsen.”

Nielsen has been rolling out the meters in major markets over the past year, with its primary opponent a group backed by Fox calling itself the “Don’t Count Us Out” coalition, which was noticeably absent from the protest. Fritz says the Washington stations see this as a local-broadcast issue, not a single-station or Don’t Count Us Out problem. If Nielsen does not delay the rollout, the broadcast executives said, they would advocate more government oversight, perhaps from the FTC or FCC. Nielsen is sticking by the LPMs and its deployment plan. “Greater accuracy has brought changes in ratings,” the company says, “and we understand that it is hard for some companies to adapt to change.”—J.E./A.R.

Comedy’s More-Than-OK Corrao

Comedy Central has promoted Lauren Corrao to executive VP, original programming and development. Corrao, who had been senior VP, original programming and head of development, will supervise Comedy’s originals, overseeing talent, development events and programming staffs in Los Angeles and New York, as well as supervising development of originals for digital platforms. She joined Comedy in 2002, having worked at MTV, Fox Television and Touchstone Television.—A.B.

Clarifications

The cover image on the May 16 issue should have been credited to Comstock Images.

Fox News Channel anchor Shepard Smith’s name was misspelled in B&C Week (5/23, page 4).

In photo No. 4 of “2005-06 Upfront Parties...and Presentations” (5/23, page 34), Jay Ireland was wrongly misidentified as Mario Cimarro.

The May 23 story about Rosum Corp.’s plan to use TV signals to enable 911 service on Internet-based mobile phones (“TV Could Make VoIP Safer,” page 10) stated that the company needs coordination with broadcasters for the venture to work. Actually, Rosum technology works without assistance but could be simplified by collaboration with broadcasters.

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