- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 9, 2006

New look at MSNBC

MSNBC is revamping its schedule, adding two hours of documentary programming each weeknight, beginning tonight.

The change displaces two programs, “Rita Cosby: Live and Direct” and “The Situation Room with Tucker Carlson.”

Miss Cosby’s show was the first program canceled by the network’s new general manager, Dan Abrams, late last month. The feisty blonde with a talent for securing exclusive interviews now becomes the primary anchor of “MSNBC Investigates.” The long-running franchise, formerly seen only on Friday evenings, will expand to a weeknight format (airing Monday through Friday at 10 and 11 p.m.). Miss Cosby also will host the newly created “Rita Cosby Specials,” the cable network announced.

The schedule change also moves “The Situation Room” out of prime time. The show will air at 4 p.m. with a repeat broadcast at 6 p.m. That slot was formerly filled by “The Abrams Report,” which Mr. Abrams gave up when news of his promotion was announced.

Mr. Carlson will be moving back to the District this week after spending a year in the suburbs of North Jersey.

TNT nabs ‘Da Vinci’

Cable’s TNT has acquired the network rights to “The Da Vinci Code” and will be allowed to broadcast the film in October 2008, Reuters news agency reports.

Neither TNT nor Sony Pictures Television, the film’s distributor, would comment on the license fee. But recent theatrical releases are usually licensed to television for a fee of about 15 percent of their domestic box-office gross. Based on the best-selling book by Dan Brown, the film — directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks — was released May 19 and has grossed nearly $210 million in North America to date. According to the Internet Movie Database, its worldwide box-office take of nearly $719 million is the 22nd highest of all time.

Spanish ad sales up

Spanish-language broadcasters are seeing big gains in advance advertising sales while their English counterparts’ sales remain flat.

Merrill Lynch analyst Jessica Reif Cohen predicts that Univision will rake in $1.11 billion in ad sales for the upcoming season, a 10 percent increase over last year, according to Media Life magazine. Miss Cohen also estimates that Telemundo will see its advance sales increase by 25 percent, to $330 million.

Another analyst, David Joyce with Miller Tabak, forecasts that overall spending in Spanish-language upfront sales will rise by 10 percent, to $1.4 billion.

On the other hand, the English-language networks’ upfront will decline 1 percent to about $9 billion, Miss Cohen projects.

“The importance of the Hispanic marketplace to marketers grows as the population continues to grow,” said Teddy Hayes, vice president of media services at Los Angeles’ La Agencia de Orci.

Sundance online

The Sundance Channel is the latest network to take advantage of the growing popularity of online video.

The cable channel is joining Google in a partnership to make feature films and TV series available for purchase or rent on Google Video.

So far, 18 independent films are available including two standouts from 2002 — “The Heart of Me,” a wrenching British production starring Helena Bonham Carter as a 1930s woman who has an affair with her sister’s husband (Paul Bettany), and “Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself.” “Wilbur,” a quirky comedy-drama directed by Danish filmmaker Lone Scherfig, stars Scottish actress Shirley Henderson.

Movies may be rented at a cost of $3.99 for 24 hours or purchased for $9.99.

Prices for Sundance original series, including “TransGeneration” and the Peabody Award-winning “The Staircase,” are available for purchase starting at $1.99 per episode.

Compiled by Kelly Jane Torrance from staff and wire reports.

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