- - Thursday, October 27, 2011

Brian Williams ready to unveil ‘Rock Center’

Promoting the newsmagazine “Rock Center” in advance of its Halloween-night debut has been something of a challenge for anchor Brian Williams and his NBC News colleagues.

They’ve talked about the program’s pedigreed cast and shown off the rebuilt studio where it will originate, but what they are doing won’t fully take shape for outsiders without a sense of the stories they are pursuing. And for competitive reasons, they kept mum until Wednesday, when they lifted the curtain on the opening-night lineup, the Associated Press reports.

“You will very quickly feel a destination when you watch it,” Mr. Williams promised. “If we’ve all done our jobs right, this will feel like ‘Rock Center’ by week two. There will already be a familiarity. Once we do enough pieces, and once we show the audience the work I already know is done, there will be a voice to this broadcast.”

Those first-night stories include a Kate Snow investigation into Chinese women who give birth in the United States so their children will have U.S. citizenship, a Richard Engel report from Syria and a Harry Smith piece on a place in the U.S. where virtually everyone has a job.

Fighting off a cold, Mr. Williams sat on a couch on the show’s new set in Rockefeller Center. It’s his personal kingdom: On one side is the desk and video screens from “Nightly News,” which moved this week to the new studio. On another is a decorative wall filled with curios long locked away, including a light from when the “Today” show broadcast from here in the 1980s and an applause sign whose origin is unclear.

NBC News executives say they are encouraged because parent company Comcast Corp. strongly backs the project and urges long-term thinking.

That’s good, because “Rock Center” was dropped into the black hole that is NBC’s prime-time lineup, put at 10 p.m. on Mondays because “The Playboy Club” was a quick bust. When winter comes, NBC Entertainment has another use for that time slot and “Rock Center” will move, destination unknown.

The first few months are about getting established and NBC News President Steve Capus said high ratings aren’t an expectation.

“Rock Center” will buck the recent trend of single-topic newsmagazines like “Dateline NBC” and present multiple stories each week. Former CBS anchor Mr. Smith and Miss Snow are the primary correspondents, and producers have lined up a long list of other contributors that includes Meredith Vieira, Ted Koppel, Matt Lauer, Mr. Engel and Natalie Morales.

Internet streaming services pull viewers from prime time

Services allowing North Americans to watch movies and television shows over the Internet are luring droves of viewers away from prime-time television, a report showed Wednesday.

Waterloo, Ontario-based Sandvine said such online streaming has risen dramatically over the past year to become the top network traffic in North America during the peak period of 7 to 9 p.m., Agence France-Presse reports.

What it calls real-time entertainment now accounts for 60 percent of all Internet traffic in the evening, up 10 percentage points from last year, according to the data it has aggregated from network service providers.

The majority of real-time entertainment (55 percent) is destined for game consoles, set-top boxes, smart TVs and mobile devices used at home, while only 45 percent goes to desktop and laptop computers, according to the report.

The report explained that game consoles such as Sony’s PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox are powering this online movie watching phenomenon, through manufacturers partnering with content producers.

Microsoft, for instance, announced this month a massive expansion of content providers for its Xbox 360, including heavyweights Bravo, Comcast, HBO and BBC.

According to Sandvine’s report, the most popular real-time entertainment sites include Netflix, YouTube, Hulu and Google Video.

‘VH1 Divas’ to celebrate cities with soul

This year’s “VH1 Divas” is celebrating soulful voices - and the cities where soul flourished.

Mary J. Blige, Kelly Clarkson and Florence and the Machine are among the acts that will pay tribute to the places that helped create or contributed to the genre, the Associated Press reports. According to a Thursday statement, Chicago, Detroit, London, Philadelphia and Memphis, Tenn., will serve as the musical inspirations for the performers, who will also include Jennifer Hudson, Jill Scott and Jessie J.

The Roots will be the house band for the “VH1 Divas Celebrates Soul” special, which will air Dec. 19. The concert will be taped the day before in New York City.

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