- The Washington Times - Monday, June 2, 2008

Black news network

Former Rep. J.C. Watts is developing a cable news network focusing on a black audience, Associated Press reports.

Black Television News Channel will hit the airwaves in 2009 and provide “original news programming with a distinctly African-American perspective,” according to the press release.

Mr. Watts, a Republican, served as representative for Oklahoma’s 4th Congressional District from 1995 to 2003 and now heads the District-based JC Watts Cos. in Northwest.

According to the press release, the network has a multiyear agreement with Comcast Corp. and expects to be added to Comcast systems in key markets for black audiences - such as Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, Baltimore and the District.

‘Recount’

HBO might want to ask for a ratings recount.

The May 25 premiere of its much-discussed original movie covering the 2000 presidential election fiasco was seen by a modest number of viewers when compared to the network’s other high-profile projects, Hollywood Reporter notes.

“Recount” - starring Kevin Spacey, Laura Dern and Tom Wilkinson - was seen by 1 million HBO subscribers, which is on par with the network’s last film, February’s lesser-known “Bernard and Doris,” starring Susan Sarandon and Ralph Fiennes.

“Recount,” however, has received heavy media interest because of its retelling of the election returns drama. According to Metacritic, the movie also generated mainly favorable reviews and averaged a score of 66 out of 100.

Yet compared to recent HBO movie titles that received considerable media attention, “Recount” fares worse.

About 1.9 million viewers watched the first airing of last year’s historical epic “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee,” and 1.5 million watched Queen Latifah in last year’s “Life Support.” The March premiere of the seven-part miniseries “John Adams” was seen by 2.5 million.

That may not matter come awards season.

Last year’s “Longford” biopic (with Jim Broadbent in the title role) was seen by just 600,000 viewers - but went on to win three Golden Globe awards.

Ratings for HBO movies also tend to quadruple in subsequent airings after their premieres, Variety notes.

“Recount,” like “Wounded Knee,” aired over Memorial Day weekend, when audience levels are lower than usual.

‘Chef’ cooks

Bravo garnered impressive ratings again last week from a trio of reality programs with “Top Chef: Chicago” leading the way as last Wednesday’s second-most-viewed cable program among adults 18 to 49 years of age, Multichannel. com reports.

In terms of total viewers, “Top Chef” is up 20 percent this season, surging from 2.2 million to 2.6 million viewers. Wednesday’s episode, during which 27-year-old Spike Mendelsohn was told to pack his knives, recorded the highest single-episode ratings to date and was the highest-rated cable telecast among women 18 to 49 for the day, the Web site reported.

For the year, “Top Chef: Chicago” is averaging more than 2.1 million viewers in that much-coveted demographic and, overall, averages 2.9 million viewers per episode.

There’s more good news for Bravo.

The network’s special installment of “The Real Housewives of New York City: The Lost Footage” (seen Tuesday), a montage of clips and conversations that didn’t make the final cut for the regularly scheduled airings, drew more than 1 million total viewers - up 234 percent compared to the previous four-week time period, according to network officials.

Finally, Bravo’s “Work Out,” a reality series following Jackie Warner, owner of the exclusive Sky, Sport & Spa in Beverly Hills, checked in with 927,000 viewers on Tuesday, up 19 percent from the previous week and up 18 percent among viewers between 18 and 49 years of age.

Ling joining CNN

“Oprah” special correspondent and National Geographic host Lisa Ling will join CNN for a documentary this year that follows up on the network’s “Planet in Peril.”

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Miss Ling - a former co-host on ABC’s “The View” - will report from countries where battles are being waged over oil, land, water and food. Also reporting for “Planet in Peril: Battle Lines” will be CNN anchor Anderson Cooper and the network’s chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. It will be televised in high definition at year’s end, THR says.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse and Kelly Jane Torrance from Web and wire reports.

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