Mixing some bed-clothing metaphors, it's curtains for NBC's spy show Undercovers. The network has canceled the J.J. Abrams adventure-comedy, though it will air six more episodes that have already been shot. The show about a charismatic and attractive husband-and-wife spy team -- which featured two black leads, which even now is a rarity in broadcast TV -- started slowly in the ratings and has been tailing off for several weeks now.
When Nielsen Media Research sent out its weekly television ratings report for the first week in September, TV programmers and marketing directors across America blinked, rubbed their eyes, then blinked again. Could it really be? Spanish-language Univisión finishing first? Not first in the Spanish rankings, not first in Miami or Los Angeles: First in the whole United States, ahead of Fox, CBS, ABC and NBC.
It could be. It was. And, says Univisión Networks President Cesar Conde, it will be again.
"Our goal is to be the No. 1 network in this country regardless of language,'' says Conde, from his office in Doral. ``[If] we continue to perform the way we have -- and you have to have some macroeconomic trends continue -- that is feasible, that Univisión, a Spanish-language network, can be the No. 1 network in this country regardless of language, within the next five years.'' Read the full story that Bridget Carey and I wrote on Univision in Monday's Miami Herald.
This will be a rough weekend for Florida sports fans who watch television over the Dish satellite network. Fox yanked all 19 of its regional sports networks -- including Fox Sports Florida and Sun Sports -- off Dish at the end of September. (FX and the National Geographic Channel were also casualties.) Among the games Dish subscribers can't see this weekend as a result are exhibition hockey matches involving the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Florida Panthers, exhibition basketball games with the Miami Heat and the Orlando Magic, University of Florida women's soccer and volleyball, Florida and Florida State football replays, and several live SEC, Big 12 and Pac-10 games.
If this standoff continues -- and there's every appearance that it will, for weeks and possibly months -- the regular season games of the Panthers and the Heat will be wiped for Dish subscribers. And on October 31, the deal between Dish and Fox's broadcast stations ends, which means Fox-WSVN 7 will disappear.
These hardball negotiations are the industry norm these days; Fox is in a similar dispute with Cablevision, which may lose Fox cable and broadcast channels as early as Saturday morning if there's no breakthrough. Almost the entire NHL season (as well as dozens of Pac-10, Big 12, Mountain West and Ivy League football games) vanished from DirecTV last year in a seven-month fee dispute with the Versus sports channel. My advice: Find a good sports bar. You're going to need it, and not just for the sports.
Jeff Zucker, the North Miami High boy wonder who led NBC to some of its most dramatic ratings peaks and plunged it into some of its most profound abysses, has been fired as part of a corporate takeover.
In a Friday memo to company employees, Zucker said he'll leave when corporate parent NBC Universal is acquired by cable giant Comcast, a move expected to win approval from federal regulatory authorities late this year or early next.
Zucker, NBC Universal's chief executive officer, had hoped to stay on when the new owners arrived. But Comcast executives told him two weeks ago that he wasn't in their plans, he said. "It became increasingly clear that they did want to put their own team in place,'' Zucker told The New York Times. "And I didn't want to end up being a guest in my own house.''
His departure after 24 years caps a remarkable run for the one-time North Dade tennis star, who took a job as an NBC Sports researcher when his high-school ambition of being a Miami Herald sports writer covering the Dolphins didn't work out. Read my full story about the ups and downs of Zucker's NBC career in Satursday's Miami Herald.
If you're a network boss, you should quit reading this and bolt for your car in the garage; head straight home; and don't answer the phone or read email until Monday. The scent of blood is in the air. First CNN pitched Jon Klein overboard, and now NBC's Jeff Zucker says that Comcast wants him to take a hike when it acquires NBC late this year.
"In the last nine months it became increasingly clear that they did want to put their own team in place -- and I didn’t want to end up being a guest in my own house," Zucker told the New York Times. He got the definitive word two weeks ago in a meeting with Steve Burke, Comcast's chief operating officer.
Newspaper managements remain endlessly fascinated with what they view as the promotional possibilities of television. Practically every sizable paper in America has a "news partnership" with a TV station that, when announced to the newsroom, is billed as the first step to world domination. (The Miami Herald, hitched up with WFOR-CBS 4, is no exception.)
Far be it from me, entombed about four levels below the lowest link of journalism's food chain, to contradict the best and brightest minds of the business. But Slate's maddog media critic Jack Shafer is a different matter. He's just written a columnnoting that no print news organization in the known universe had more or bigger TV whores than Newsweek. Jonathan Alter, Howard Fineman, Fareed Zakaria, the list of Newsweek perpetual talking heads goes on and on. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that the kid who sells dope in the Newsweek mailroom is a regular on Weed.
Result: Newsweek is so bountifully successful that the Washington Post Co. just dumped it for $1 (no typo: $1) to a 91-year-old philanthropist who probably thought he was buying a subscription to help a high-school glee club. Another victory for marketing science!
The results of the U.S. census just being wrapped up are expected to show a huge increase in America's Hispanic population. But even before we have the census results, the Nielsen folks are forecasting a big jump in Hispanic television households. Nielsen says 40 percent of next year's new TV households will be Hispanic. That will represent a 3 percent jump in the overall numbers of Hispanic TV households -- about five times the rate of increase for Asians, and six times the rate of increase for blacks.
Sorry, Hallmark refugees, it looks like you won't be joined around here by bereft ex-Time Warner Cable viewers of the Disney/ABC/ESPN family of channels. Time Warner and Disney have announced they've reached a long-term deal that keeps the plug from being killed.
Changing Channels today welcomes all you jillions of disconsolate, aimless Hallmark and Hallmark Movie Channel views who've been shuffling around like zombies since you lost access to your channels through AT&T U-Verse early Wednesday morning. Don't worry, guys! This blog, with its obsessional pursuit of ever-racier photos of Jennifer Aniston and Dana Delany, a relaunch of NBC's American Dreams and a Swanson's TV dinner Hall of Fame (first member: enchiladas), is even more more fun than the heartwarmingest Hallmark movie about romance after divorce or the death of a pet. Why, even Keith Olberman is frequent visitor! (He's the one in the trenchcoat and dark glasses, over in the corner. Don't make any sudden moves around him -- he's a biter.)
The loss of your channels was a result of the increasingly hardball nature of negotiations between producers and service providers over the fees paid for programming. Hallmark and AT&T have been negotiating frantically since August 1, but talks broke down Tuesday night, and at midnight Hallmark pulled the plug. Your channels might be back soon, but then again, they might not. When the Versus sports channel got into a fight over money with DirecTV, it took six months to get it straightened out.
The good news is that you Hallmark fans are probably going to have plenty of company around here. The deal between Time Warner Cable and Disney expires on Sept. 2, and unless negotiations take a sudden turn for the positive, Time Warner viewers are going to lose access to the entire Rodent Empire: ABC, ESPN, Disney Channel and everything else Disney owns.
That lawsuit filed WSVN-Fox 7's parent company seeking to have Nielsen Media Research declared an illegal monopoly is slowing working its way toward a courtroom. Media Daily News reports that an attempt at court-ordered mediation went down the tubes last week in Boston, where representatives of Sunbeam Television Corp. held a fruitless meeting with Nielsen. Meanwhile, Sunbeam has produced a list of over 100 witnesses who could potentially be called if the case goes to trial in a Miami Federal court. The two sides have four months or so in which to beat their chests, bellow, bluff and -- maybe -- work out a deal. If they don't, it appears the case will reach critical mass -- and a courtroom -- in January.