60 Minutes' Troubles II
Deep inside CBS, there have been discussions about canceling the Wednesday edition of 60 Minutes, the newsmagazine where Dan Rather got into big trouble for using dubious documents in a report on George W. Bush's National Guard service. That certainly damaged it at the network, but it's not the main reason some CBS folks are turning against the show once dubbed "60 Minutes
Junior." Anemic ratings have been even more damaging to its long-term prospects. While the show's audience is relatively flat since last year, its ratings are down by a third in the key 18-49 demo since 2001. Indeed, as far back as last fall, some brass were lobbying to dump it in favor of younger-skewing reality fare, though a CBS rep says, "We don't comment on rumor and speculation." The buzz inside the network is that Wednesday's edition got a reprieve last spring with its exclusive report on the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison. That piece was produced by one Mary Mapes—the prime mover behind the notorious Bush/National Guard story. Now it could turn out that the same producer who saved "60
Junior" from the executioner's axe helped put the show back on the chopping block.
Jeopardy! Sweeping Up
The category is "Ken Jennings." Clue: The best thing to happen when a game show has a brainiac contestant on the greatest winning streak in the show's history. Answer: Alex, what is, November sweeps? That apparently is the game show's good fortune. Several weeks ago, it was widely rumored that Jennings had been vanquished, but the taping of that fateful episode hadn't aired at B&C's press time. For every day in November that stations get a Jennings-related sweeps bump, they'll know whom to thank: the kids who competed during a special week of children's Jeopardy!
that began on Oct. 18, putting the software engineer from Salt Lake City on hiatus. King World, which distributes the show, says the kiddie interlude was not a stalling tactic to carry the streak over into November. "Traditionally, we have a kids week in the fall," says a rep, who wouldn't comment on when the streak ends. Either way, stations are thrilled to have Jennings on-board for sweeps. He has been a ratings boon for the venerable syndicated show. Season-to-date, Jeopardy!
is averaging a 7.9 rating, up 20% over last fall's ratings, according to Nielsen Media Research. Since the streak started June 2, Jennings has won more than $2 million
Powell May Say FCCee Ya
FCC Chairman Michael Powell is likely to be looking for a job next year, regardless of who wins the presidential election. He'd probably bail out in January if Kerry wins and names a Democrat to run the agency, but he's not expected to stay far into a second Bush term, either. The Beltway chattering class is already speculating about Powell's next stop, and most gossip centers on the soon-to-be-vacated presidency of William & Mary. The college in Williamsburg, Va., is Powell's alma mater, and he already serves on the school's powerful board of visitors. If he recuses himself from the board amid its candidate search, consider that move a job application. It could prompt some awkward moments at Powell family gatherings: After the college's president, Timothy Sullivan, announced that he would resign next June, speculation started that Powell's father, Secretary of State Colin Powell—also presumed to be bolting not long after the election—might find the job a nice change from White House infighting
The B&C Hall of Fame
The tuxedos and little black dresses will be out in force Nov. 8 for the 14th annual Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame Awards Dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. Our estimable inductees will include Viacom's co-everything Les Moonves, Discovery's Judith McHale and ESPN's SportsCenter. To attend, call Maggie Pritikin at 646-746-7068.