In the Loop


E! Is for Exit

When Comcast launched its takeover attack on Walt Disney Corp., Comcast execs pointed to E! Entertainment Television with pride. Its management of the celeb-obsessed network, they argued, showed that Comcast wasn't just a savvy cable operator but it could run Disney's networks, too.

Think again.

E! CEO Mindy Herman is exiting the network under a cloud of charges that she ran E! as a tyrant who enjoyed a lavish baby shower on the company tab—and shook down her employees for gifts. Indeed, Herman was forced to repay the cost of the $8,000 baby extravaganza.

These and other juicy tales, including an alleged fight in a strip club parking lot, were contained in a blistering Los Angeles Times
article by Sallie Hofmeister that hit the streets hours before Comcast announced that Herman is on her way out. Her contract calls for a multimillion-dollar payout, a percentage of the appreciation of E!'s value on her watch.

Herman and Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen contend that her exit has nothing to do with the accusations, many made in anonymous letters sent to Comcast and to Disney, a partner in E! "We did receive a number of anonymous letters," Cohen says. "The allegations were looked into and resolved to the company's satisfaction." Whatever that means.

Herman attributes the accusations to employees resistant to changes she wanted to make. When she was hired in 2000, her mission was to shake up the network. "You'd have to be Gandhi not to have a handful that are disgruntled," she says. "This organization is more vibrant and alive than it has ever been."

So why is Herman exiting?

She claims she decided to leave after Comcast backed away from Disney and, among other things, consolidated all network ops into one division. But it was an open secret at Comcast that her contract wasn't going to be renewed [B&C,
April 12].

As Disney and Comcast determine who will ultimately own E!, Cohen says Comcast is happy with E!'s financials and hasn't picked Herman's successor. The company is looking for someone with "executive programming experience," he says. Benefits won't include baby showers.

Tapped Out

Former Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne wants to ban alcohol ads from college-sports coverage. He thinks the $58 million spent yearly on booze spots sends the wrong message to America's youth.

Alcohol abuse on campus, he notes, is a factor in 1,400 deaths a year and 570,000 injuries and sexual assaults.

Now Rep. Osborne (R-Neb.) says Congress shouldn't outlaw such spots, but he wants the NCAA to ban the commercials. He is also writing legislation that would fund a massive PSA campaign to combat underage drinking. Funny, we don't recall Osborne's making a stink about the ads during the 20 years they helped pay his salary.


When CBS announced the stars of Listen Up, a sitcom based on the lives of Washington Post
scribes Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon , who also co-host ESPN's Pardon the Interruption, a lot of Post
staffers got a laugh.

But it wasn't over Jason Alexander's being cast as Kornheiser. What caused the doubletake was Malcolm-Jamal Warner's taking on the Wilbon role. Indeed, when Wilbon ran into Warner, the star told him he was going to play the sportswriter, and his fellow scribe "almost fainted," says Kornheiser. When Post
staffers tease Wilbon, they call him Theo, the character on The Cosby Show. But it's not because the two look alike, says Kornheiser. His pal Wilbon, like Warner's Cosby
character, both share upper- middle-class backgrounds.

Get Gigli With It

When Starz! bought the rights to Gigli,
it knew it had a loser on its hands. But Starz! is hoping it's like a traffic accident: You just can't turn away. It wants viewers to watch June 5 precisely because the 2003 theatrical release was so awful (Gigli
grossed a pathetic $6 million). "Admit it, you know you want to see it," Starz! urges viewers in promos accompanied by a brief clip of stars Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck. Says Steve Belgard, Starz! director of programming publicity, "We knew if we promoted it like a real film, our credibility would be shot." (The San Jose Mercury News
famously proclaimed it "a rigli, rigli bad movie.") Has Belgard seen it? "Nope. I'm going to see it like everyone else—on TV."