ABC's nightly news enjoying good numbers with Gibson

Celebrity News

July 17, 2006|By VARIETY ENTERTAINMENT NEWS SERVICE

Charlie Gibson is making it interesting in the evening news race.

Ever since the former Good Morning America co-anchor took the helm of World News Tonight, the broadcast has either tied or won the coveted 25-54 demographic against NBC's once-dominant Nightly News.

In a week shortened by the July 4 holiday and with Diane Sawyer at the helm, ABC defeated NBC's Brian Williams in both the 25-54 demo and total viewers.

ABC News senior VP Paul Slavin said it's a sign that the news race is going to be tight this fall, especially with Katie Couric joining the fray at CBS.

"NBC is going to face some really tough competition from Katie and some really tough competition from Charlie," Slavin said. "It's getting more competitive, which puts us all on our game."

Gibson's four-week streak at the helm of WNT has been anything but normal.

For two weeks NBC was hampered by sports coverage such as the NHL Stanley Cup Finals, the U.S. Open Golf Tournament and a low-rated Wimbledon, which crippled the Nightly News lead-in.

`Sex/City' chat

TBS will bow a six-week special called Let's Talk About Sex and the City, featuring interviews with five of the series' most memorable male characters.

The actors - Blair Underwood (Dr. Robert Leeds), Mario Cantone (Anthony Marantino), Evan Handler (Harry Goldenblatt), Willie Garson (Stanford Blatch) and David Eigenberg (Steve Brady) - will reminisce about their experiences. Interviews will be interspersed throughout 12 selected episodes.

TBS will run back-to-back episodes each Tuesday until Aug. 22.

The network has acquired rights to the song "Let's Talk About Sex," by Salt-N-Pepa, for the special.

Mouse tightens belt

Even as it basks in the box-office glory of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Disney is looking at cost-cutting measures.

The studio will announce within the next 10 days that it's cutting back on the number of films it makes to around eight a year - it currently releases around 18 - and will substantially reduce its workforce. All movies will be Disney-branded, meaning companies like Touchstone could be vastly diminished.

The cutbacks will be far greater than many anticipated, as Walt Disney Studios chairman Dick Cook looks to reinvent the architecture of his studio. The move reflects an effort to improve the studio's return on investment and get infrastructure back into line.

While Disney's having a grand summer with Pirates and with Pixar's Cars, this year has seen some major misfires: Stick It, Annapolis, Stay Alive and especially The Wild.

So, while the general population wonders how a studio can claim "money problems" after a record-breaking opening - Pirates took in a whopping $135 million in its first weekend - the move underscores the fact that studios are looking to cut costs amid increasing overhead, production budgets and marketing bills.

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