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ENTERTAINMENT NEWS
August 28

Entertainment News August 28 - TOP 3 Stories for Tuesday

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DEGRASSI SETS DEAL FOR LEGAL DOWNLOAD

Canadian producer Epitome Pictures said Monday that it has partnered with Puretracks.com to make teen drama "Degrassi: The Next Generation" the first homegrown TV show available for legal download in Canada.

Chris Jackson, director of digital media and merchandising at Toronto-based Epitome, said that the third season of "Degrassi: The Next Generation" is now for sale at Puretracks.com for CAN$1.99 ($1.85) per episode or CAN$29.99 ($28.30) for a whole season. Terms of the distribution deal were not disclosed but King said the revenue split between Epitome and Puretracks is in line with the industry standard.

Also sharing in revenue from pay-per-view downloading is Canadian broadcaster CTV, which airs "Degrassi: The Next Generation" in Canada and has an equity stake in the series, and Alliance Atlantis Communications, which distributes the teen drama internationally.

U.S. fans of the show, which follows the adventures of Toronto high school students and airs on cable network the N stateside, have been able to legally download the Canadian TV series on iTunes since September 2006. But geogating of iTunes meant Canadians were unable to buy episodes on the U.S.-based iTunes Music Store.

"We heard a lot of feedback and that our (Canadian) audience wanted a legal way to take Degrassi with them on their MP3 players," Jackson said.

OLIVER STONE HEADING BACK TO VIETNAM WITH BRUCE WILLIS

Oliver Stone is heading back to Vietnam. He is closing a deal with United Artists to finance "Pinkville," a Stone-directed drama about the investigation of the 1968 My Lai massacre. Pic would be distributed through MGM. Bruce Willis and Channing Tatum will star. Mikko Alanne wrote the script. A UA commitment could be finalized this week, putting the picture into production by early next year, with a budget of roughly $40 million.

It marks the fourth time Stone has directed a film in the backdrop of the Vietnam War. "Pinkville" also reunites the director with Tom Cruise, who with partner Paula Wagner is a co-owner of UA, and who starred in Stone's "Born on the Fourth of July." (Other Viet pics were Oscar winner "Platoon" and "Heaven & Earth.")

Willis will play Army General William R. Peers, who supervised the investigation into the massacre by U.S. soldiers of as many as 500 My Lai villagers, most of them unarmed women, children and elderly.

Tatum will play Hugh Thompson, a helicopter pilot who, upon realizing what was happening below, put a stop to the killing by placing his craft between gunmen and the few villagers who were left, and telling his two shipmates to fire on the soldiers if they shot any more people. They airlifted the survivors and reported the carnage to superiors.

Pinkville is the description on a military map for the region where My Lai is. Stone had been expected to follow "World Trade Center" with a drama about the CIA's attempt to catch Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan after 9/11. Instead, he will tackle "Pinkville," which is set up as a mystery, but explores the themes of barbarism and heroism. Thompson was initially excoriated for his actions, while Peers' revelation of one of the most atrocious acts in U.S. military history (and subsequent military cover-up) helped galvanize opposition to the war.

NEW MEDIA DRIVING THE TV WORLD

To launch their fall lineups, the major networks are turning to the Web like never before, offering viewers the chance to see premiere episodes for free and producing original content around their new series that doubles as entertainment and advertising.

All the networks except ABC are putting out at least some of the pilot episodes of their upcoming series on the Web and off, while ABC is limiting sampling opportunities to large screening events. The free sampling strategy clearly is on the rise this year following major successes during the past few years.

NBC, which is utilizing the tactic most aggressively, is offering downloads of the premiere episodes of the new dramas "Chuck," "Life" and "Journeyman" on Amazon.com starting Sept. 10. Also around that date, the 4 million members of Facebook's Apple students group will be able to exclusively download the three premiere episodes on iTunes. A week later, the iTunes downloads will be widely available.

NBC also is making the premiere episodes of "Chuck," "Life" and "Journeyman" as well as "Bionic Woman" available as free VOD offerings on about 30 cable and satellite systems, including Comcast, Time Warner, Cox and Dish Network starting Sept. 10. A week later, streaming video of the "Life" pilot will be exclusively available on AOL, "Journeyman" on MSN and "Chuck" on Yahoo.

There also will be one more online sampling program starting Sept. 4 that involves a partnership with a major retailer, but NBC declined to provide specific details. Additionally, NBC will screen the full premiere episodes of "Journeyman" and "Chuck" on United Airlines flights.

"We're engaged in the most aggressive sampling of any of the networks, and we have the research to back it up," said John Miller, chief marketing officer at NBC Universal Television Group. "We generally feel (that) if someone has seen a show and liked the show, they will tell others and come back for more regardless of where they saw it. That builds ratings."

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