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Archives: July 2005

“I’m A Manic, Overachieving, Competitive Dollar Sign,” Jim Cramer Told Jeff Zucker

Last November, Jim Cramer “faced a decision: renew his contract with Kudlow & Cramer, where he was dissatisfied with its middling ratings, or return to the world of money management.” He chose a third route, as Broadcasting & Cable explains:

 He opted for neither, instead brainstorming a concept for a new program and then going up the CNBC ladder to pitch it. After being soundly rejected, he begged his way into a meeting at the top of NBC’s food chain, with NBC TV networks chief Jeff Zucker.

“I told Jeff, ‘Listen, I’m a manic, overachieving, competitive dollar sign,” Cramer says. “Unleash me, and I’ll bring you the goods, or I’ll die trying. I think he wanted to see if I’d blow myself up.”

Thus far, Zucker seems happy to have taken the risk. “He’s a character, and in television, characters rule,” says Zucker. “In cable, outlandish characters really rule.”

Here’s the rest of the profile…

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Nancy Grace Beats Larry King

Nancy Grace beat Larry King for the first time ever on Thursday night. Yes, they’re in different time slots, but the symbolic nature of a Headline News legal show beating the “King of Talk” is too significant to ignore.

Observers frequently speculate that Grace is being groomed to replace King– and for the first time, the lawyer-turned-host has recorded higher ratings than the veteran interviewer. At 8pm, Grace averaged 879,000 viewers. An hour later, King delivered 756,000.

The 10pm repeat of Grace came close to beating NewsNight with Aaron Brown, as well: Grace had 437,000 viewers at 10pm, compared to 498,000 for Brown. Update: 11:24am: “Paula Zahn was covering for Aaron Brown Thursday night which would likely explain the low numbers there,” an e-mailer says…

Happy Birthday, Peter Jennings — On The Web & In The Sky

birthdaycandles.jpgPeter Jennings turned 67 on Friday, and viewers participated in a “virtual birthday party” on

“We miss you so much,” one supporter wrote. “Happy Birthday today and all the ones to come.” Jennings replied this afternoon: “Many thanks to all of you for your birthday wishes. Your words — as always — are a great source of strength.”

jenningsjuly30.jpgIn addition, Peter’s colleagues at ABC News sent a plane with birthday greetings over his home today. “It was the job of Jennings’ wife to steer the veteran anchor to where he’d see the banner saying, ‘Happy Birthday, Peter — love from all at World News Tonight’ flying above his home outside of New York City,” the Associated Press reports.

Jennings responded by sending ice cream to WNT and calling in his thanks, according to a spokeswoman.

> Jennings “continues to participate in planning and critiquing the show,” but hasn’t been in the office since May 23, the AP says.

The Scoreboard: Thursday, July 28

Total viewers:

Total day: FNC: 997,000 / CNN: 362,000 / HLN: 261,000 / MSNBC: 205,000 / CNBC: 146,000

Primetime: FNC: 2,224,000 / CNN: 639,000 / HLN: 593,000 / MSNBC: 306,000 / CNBC: 161,000

25-54 demographic:

Total day: FNC: 322,000 / CNN: 103,000 / HLN: 108,000 / MSNBC: 75,000 / CNBC: 42,000

Primetime: FNC: 656,000 / CNN: 154,000 / HLN: 217,000 / MSNBC: 90,000 / CNBC:85,000

The hourlies:

5pm: Gibson: 805,000 / Blitzer: 431,000 / HLN: 256,000 / Connected: 196,000 / Kudlow: 170,000

6pm: Hume: 1,239,000 / Dobbs: 515,000 / HLN: 139,000 / Abrams: 296,000 / Cramer: 187,000

7pm: Shep: 1,627,000 / Cooper: 481,000 / Showbiz: 113,000 / Hardball: 372,000 / Conan: 127,000

8pm: O’Reilly: 2,093,000 / Zahn: 662,000 / Grace: 879,000 / Countdown: 330,000 / CNBC: 118,000

9pm: H&C: 2,216,000 / King: 756,000 / Prime News: 463,000 / Situation: 211,000 / Mad Money repeat: 109,000

10pm: Greta: 2,363,000 / NewsNight: 498,000 / Grace repeat: 437,000 / Scarborough: 377,000 / Deutsch: 254,000

Carlson/Cosby: Evening Recap

> Associated Press: “Kaplan said today the switch wasn’t a demotion, that he had considered Carlson’s program for 11 p.m. all along, but that “it would have been a mess” if he had said that publicly from the beginning.”

> TV Week: “The scheduling of “Rita Cosby” boosts MSNBC’s headline potential value at 9 p.m., since Ms. Cosby chases big interviews, in contrast to kicking around the day’s topics with a regular ensemble every night, as “Tucker Carlson” does.”

> Most newspapers posted the AP’s story with the default title: “MSNBC shifts Tucker Carlson to late night.” But the Houston Chronicle added its own spin, with “MSNBC dumps Carlson from prime-time slot.” (Thanks Johnny Dollar)

> ICN has great analysis: “MSNBC will need more than the ‘Hey we’ve got fresh programming here’ tagline to make it work. They’re going to have to give viewers a reason to watch. That will mostly depend on whether a) The format of the progam is something that late night viewers truly want, and b) Whether Carlson is the guy to deliver those viewers. This is uncharted territory MSNBC is wading into.”

> Update: 11:25am: The Wash. Post can’t resist: “Jon Stewart vs. Tucker Carlson: The rematch.”

U.K. Police Request Temp. Media Blackout

During Friday’s raid in London, “broadcasters got so close to the action…that police eventually had to move them away and demand that they turn off the cameras,” The Times reports. “One of the viewers, after all, could have been the suspect himself.” At 11:38am local time, London TV stations were contacted by the Metropolitan Police, “requesting that they observe a media blackout during the armed operation that was taking place.” The blackout was lifted an hour later…

Late-Night Situation: Tucker Carlson Calls It A “Bold” Move By MSNBC’s President

The 11pm time slot sits on cable schedules “like a prize,” but none of the networks have put live programming in it.

After all, “it requires a real commitment of resources,” MSNBC president Rick Kaplan said. “It’s cheaper to just run your schedule, turn it around and run it over again.”

But that will change on Monday, August 8, when The Situation with Tucker Carlson moves to late-night.

“I told the network back in December or January that we were going to do an 11pm show,” Kaplan told TVNewser this afternoon. “What we really created for Tucker was a late-night show, but the hole in the schedule at that moment was nine, so we figured ‘Okay we’ll premiere it, we’ll fill the schedule.’”

Once Rita Cosby signed with the network, it was prime time for a shakeup.

“Everybody at our network loves the idea of going to 11pm. The HUT levels are pretty much the same and it’s a really strong time slot,” Kaplan said, noting that 15 to 20 percent of MSNBC’s audience comes from the West Coast.

tuckercarlson.jpgKaplan said he’s been pleased by “the progress” of MSNBC’s primetime ratings. The Situation has averaged only 201,000 viewers since it premiered.

“I know how difficult the 9pm time slot has been — frankly, they’re all difficult time slots — but I think Tucker has done very well,” Kaplan said. He referenced the comments, on this blog and elsewhere, that it takes time to develop a cohesive panel of commentators.

The first question to Carlson was obvious: Are you ready to go up against Jon Stewart?

“Jon Stewart’s got a funny show, Jon Stewart’s a funny guy” — when he’s not acting like an associate journalism professor, Carlson said. “I think we’re going after a different audience.”

Broadcasting & Cable says the move appears “to be a vote of low-confidence for Tucker Carlson.” But Kaplan and Carlson say that’s not true: The bow-tied host discussed a late-night show with Kaplan before he even came to MSNBC. “This is what I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” he said.

He continued: “This is a chance for Fox viewers, CNN viewers, people who are tired of reruns, to find a first-run program…It’s a huge move, from my perspective, on MSNBC’s part. As Rick said, it’s a commitment of resources. It’s a big deal. Other networks haven’t wanted to do it because it costs money, but MSNBC is bold enough to do it.”

> Update: 11:50pm: HUD has been changed to HUT. Thanks to the e-mails for pointing out the error; I published this quickly…

Will Somebody Please Buy MSNBC’s Dan Abrams A Blackberry?

blackberry.jpgShould we start collecting donations?:

—–Original Message—–
From: Abrams, Dan (NBC Universal, MSNBC)
Sent: Thursday, July 28, 2005 XXXXXXX
Subject: Out of Office AutoReply: XXXXXXX

I am out of the office until Monday August 1 . .and MSNBC does not feel I need a Blackberry. . so I can’t promise a speedy response.



Rita Cosby Was “Made For Our Primetime”

cosbyjuly30.jpgThe first question to new MSNBC 9pm anchor Rita Cosby was obvious: Why did she leave first-place Fox News for MSNBC?

“Look, I loved Fox News, I was there for 10 years. But NBC has such a depth that no other news organization has,” she told TVNewser this afternoon. She pointed out that Fox doesn’t have a network news operation, and described her first few days at MSNBC.

“Look what happened my first week here — we did an interview with Jermaine Jackson, and then Tito, and the second week Katherine Jackson. And we paired it with the Today Show…we ended up doing two parts on Today and we ended up doing a special on MSNBC,” she said.

Cosby is “thrilled” by the opportunity to host a live show five nights a week. “I’m a real down-and-dirty journalist, roll up your sleeves. I like to get in the trenches. I think you’re going to see a very active, breaking news, big scoops, fast-paced show” — at this point, it was hard to transcribe her comments, because she sounded so enthusiastic.

> “She was made for our primetime,” MSNBC president Rick Kaplan chimed in, calling her an “extraordinary talent.”

> I asked if the show would adopt the Grace-and-Greta style of crime stories. “It’ll be Rita Cosby style,” she replied…

> Update: 1:47pm: Fox staffers are amused that Cosby mentioned NBC’s abilities as a news organization. “What Fox people know and NBC will soon find out is that she’s dangerous — she would often watch the network news or the wires and then go to air and try to pass it off as her own ‘my sources are telling me’ exclusive,” a Fox staffer e-mailed. “The real journalists at 30 Rock are just going to looooooove Rita.”

MSNBC Losing Viewers At 9 & 11pm

Today’s primetime schedule shift at MSNBC is designed, at least in part, to shore up the channel’s ratings. Look at the year-over-year slippage:

Since the Situation premiered on June 13, it has averaged 201,000 viewers, and 82,000 in the 25-54 demographic. By way of comparison: The 9pm hour on MSNBC, between June 14 and July 28, 2004, averaged 353,000 viewers, and 109,000 in the demo. That’s a 43% decrease in total viewership between 2004 and 2005.

The Situation isn’t any better at 11pm: The repeat of Hardball has averaged 194,000 viewers between June 14 and July 28, down from 350,000 during the same time period in 2004 — a 45% decrease.