The latest news from the TV beat
ET FIGHTS BACK: George Clooney’s much-publicized snit with Paramount’s Entertainment Tonight is giving Warner Bros.’ film unit a superhero of a headache. The ER star’s boycotting of ET means the toprated entertainment-news show has barely mentioned the studio’s big summer gun. Since ET insists on interviewing the stars of movies it features, and Clooney isn’t playing ball, ”we therefore are not covering Batman & Robin,” says a spokesperson for the show. While this has been great news for rival Access Hollywood, Warner Bros. execs are reportedly wishing Clooney would cooperate. DreamWorks SKG must be wishing even harder: Batman is pretty much self-promoting, but the start-up studio’s first major action film, The Peacemaker — a gritty Bosnian drama, also starring Clooney (to be released Sept. 26) — will need a big ET-size push.
ABC, EASY AS FLY WITH ME: If all else fails, try bribery. Third-place network ABC has just announced a plan whereby viewers who also belong to American Airlines’ AAdvantage Club earn miles by answering questions about the net’s programming on an AA/ABC mailer. The Alphabet calls the partnership a way to build a brand-loyalty club similar to AAdvantage. ”We want a one-to-one relationship with our viewers,” says Alan Cohen, executive VP of marketing and research. ”We’re trying to give viewers more access to the network.”
”There’s no evidence that these [sorts of ploys] work,” says Gene DeWitt, head of media-buying firm DeWitt Media. And indeed, CBS hooked up with MCI last year (watch CBS shows, answer questions, win free long distance), with little success. ”We didn’t find any measurable impact” on ratings, admits George Schweitzter, CBS’ marketing VP, who adds that while it’s the shows that bring the viewers, the campaigns did build awareness for CBS.
Hal Brierley, president of Brierley & Partners, a customer-loyalty consulting firm, calls the ABC effort ”primitive,” but he does see another possible advantage: ”If the network can cost-effectively identify consumers and know what shows they’re watching every day, it could be a powerful tool.”
CROAK FIEND: UPN chair Lucie Salhany, exiting her post in a couple of months, is going out with a bang. Ever outspoken, Salhany is focusing her attention on rival WB’s family-friendly claims. She has taken to sporting a pin of the net’s mascot, Michigan J. Frog, with a stake through its heart, and called The WB’s decision to schedule its racy fall drama Dawson’s Creek at 8 p.m. ”embarrassing.” The teen show is fairly adult; in the premiere, topics include virginity, penis size, and masturbation (the lead character admits to an attraction to Today host Katie Couric). A WB spokesperson called the remarks desperate, adding, ”[We will not] engage in a mudslinging contest.”
AND SO ON… No, Rupert Murdoch hasn’t found religion. His recent purchase of the Family Channel means Fox can finally launch a kids’ cable network to challenge mighty Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel…. Actor Ken Marino (MTV’s The State) has moved to the top of the AWMRRE (actors who might replace Ron Eldard) list. Although Eldard, star of NBC’s Men Behaving Badly, hasn’t officially left, he reportedly wants out…. Ricki Lake wants to clean up her trash-talkin’ show; word is it’ll be remade in Rosie O’Donnell’s more positive, celeb-lovin’ image…. CBS execs are said to be considering a syndicated Saturday-night best-of-Howard Stern hour (similar to his E! show) to air opposite NBC’s Saturday Night Live.