FACEBOOK SETS BIDDING WAR: PRICETAG $10 BILLION
The digital world was poised for big changes on Tuesday as bidders finally seemed ready to make a play for Facebook, while News Corp.'s Fox Interactive attempted to forge the next phase of its mobile strategy.
Microsoft emerged as a potential bidder for a stake in Facebook, the popular social-networking site that has been described as a more mature MySpace and has been the subject of intense speculation about a possible sale over the last 24 months.
The company had been reluctant to sell to an early round of bidders.
But according to reports on Monday, Microsoft was interested in a bid of up to $500 million for a 5% stake in Facebook, in a move that could touch off a bidding war with other congloms and tech powerhouses.
Google is also thought to be interested in Facebook and could try to outbid the Redmond, Wash.-based company.
While other congloms, including Viacom and News Corp., had previously been mentioned as possible contestants in the Facebook sweepstakes, their subsequent investment in other sites makes it unlikely that they could or would want to pull off the capital for a major deal.
Some experts questioned the Microsoft dollar figure, saying that by extrapolation it would value the site at an enormous $10 billion, with some even suggesting that Microsoft was testing the market more than making a serious play.
The overheated price underscored the value of a social-networking site to media congloms -- and highlighted that Rupert Murdoch's purchase of MySpace for $580 million in July 2005 is, by current standards, a relative bargain.
Meanwhile, at MySpace's Fox Interactive Media division Monday, News Corp. made a move to define a key element of its mobile strategy by announcing a set of free, ad-supported mobile sites that will be grouped together.
Strategy is an attempt to better unite disparate media assets as well as use MySpace as a lever to sell more ads for other sites.
FIM sites that will be part of the initiative, which is being undertaken with the mobile-ad firm Millennial Media, include the movie-review site Rotten Tomatoes and media properties like FoxSports.com, as well as, of course, MySpace.
But as they have on the online side, some experts continue to wonder how MySpace and other Fox interactive properties fit with the company's entertainment assets. Fox Mobile Entertainment, which oversees the conversion to mobile of Fox properties ranging from "Borat" to "24," continues to be run as a separate division under topper Lucy Hood.
Officials said Monday that the new set of ad-supported sites won't affect how those entertainment properties are distribbed on mobile devices.
Mobile is seen as the next big platform for entertainment content, and the creation of free sites reps a similar shift as the one on the Web, where a paid-content model is shifting to an ad-supported model. MySpace already has a deal with AT&T under which consumers pay for a mobile version of the site.
'THE WAR', NFL FOOTBALL SCORE ON SUNDAY NIGHT
PBS took a risk by skedding its seven-part World War II documentary "The War" up against premieres on the broadcast networks, but it seems to have paid off.
Sunday night's opening installment registered a preliminary 5.0 household rating/7 share in Nielsen's 56 metered-markets, about on par with Burns' "Baseball" mini in 1994. That's impressive given the multitude of viewing options these days and the stiff competition from football and the premieres of returning programs on Fox and CBS.
"The War," from Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, averaged a solid 6.7 rating/11 share in Gotham (equating to roughly 495,000 households) and got its best ratings in Minneapolis/St. Paul (11.3/17), Seattle (8.4/15) and San Francisco (8.1/13).
Although reliable average audience estimates for the 8-10:30 p.m. telecast weren't available, it's likely the public broadcasting net trailed the audience of only Fox, CBS and NBC on the night, and probably was in line with ABC's mostly repeat lineup, which averaged 6.9 million viewers.
Nielsen is expected to issue a cume audience for "The War" in November.
Elsewhere Sunday, opposite the marquee matchup of the early NFL season on NBC (Dallas Cowboys-Chicago Bears), Fox's animated vets "Family Guy" and "The Simpsons" opened to strong numbers Sunday night.
It was slower going, though, for the season premieres of CBS crime dramas "Cold Case" and "Shark" -- which figured to be most affected by the premiere of "The War" -- while CW barely registered with its new alternative shows on the night.
According to preliminary nationals from Nielsen, the "Sunday Night Football" matchup between Dallas and Chicago averaged a 7.0 rating/17 share in adults 18-49 and 16.9 million viewers overall on the Peacock affiliates from 8:30 to 11 p.m., with the final nationals expected to come in at least 5% higher.
In Nielsen's metered-market overnights, the Cowboys' 34-10 victory earned a 13.7 household rating/23 share, the highest score of the net's three games Sunday games this fall; it did a 56 share in Dallas and a 42 in Chicago.
Despite such gaudy overall, and, particularly, male numbers for NBC, Fox's testosterone-tilting comedies "The Simpsons" and "Family Guy" couldn't be stopped in kicking off their 19th and sixth seasons, respectively, with a bang.
At 8, following a football overrun and postgame show, "The Simpsons" averaged a prelim 4.7 rating/12 share in adults 18-49 and 9.4 million viewers overall, its best numbers since January. Net then fell off at 8:30 p.m. opposite the start of football with the 12th season opener of "King of the Hill" (prelim 3.7/9 in 18-49, 7.7 million) but then performed very well from 9 to 10 with a special "Star Wars"-themed episode of "Family Guy" (prelim 5.5/13 in 18-49, 10.7 million).
It was the best showing for "Family Guy" since the show returned to Fox in May 2005. It placed second to football among adults 18-49, but surged to the hour's lead among persons 12-34 (7.1/19), notching a huge 9.3/24 among males 12-34.
Following the season premiere of "60 Minutes" at 7 (prelim 2.3/7 in 18-49, 11.4 million), CBS ran a distant fourth at 8 o'clock with gameshow "Power of 10" (1.7/4 in 18-49, 7.5 million). Weak perf (about half of what "Amazing Race" did on the same night a year ago) certainly contributed to a lower start for "Cold Case" (3.0/7 in 18-49, 12.3 million), which was down about 25% year to year.
Eye's "Shark" placed second at 10 p.m. in its new timeslot premiere (prelim 2.7/7 in 18-49, 11.5 million), down sharply from "Without a Trace" a year ago (prelim 4.8/12 in 18-49, 17.6 million).
At ABC, a two-hour repeat of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" averaged a prelim 2.1/6 in 18-49 and 6.7 million viewers overall, and a "Desperate Housewives" recap show did pretty well at 9 p.m. (3.1/7 in 18-49, 9.0 million viewers overall) -- on par in adults 18-49 with the "Cold Case" premiere on CBS.
CW barely registered from 7 to 8 p.m. with the series premieres of pop culture mag "CW Now" (prelim 0.2/1 in 18-49, 1.0 million viewers overall) and video show "Online Nation" (0.3/1 in 18-49, 1 million).
As for "The War," the PBS mini about World War II from Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, averaged a 5.0 household rating/7 share in Nielsen's 56 metered markets, about what ABC did with its repeat lineup but behind what the other major broadcasters did with fresh programming. Impressively, the 5.0 is in line with the 5.1 the opening night of Burns' "Baseball" earned for PBS in 1994, when there weren't as many viewing options.
DIRECTOR JOHN MCTEIRNAN SENTENCED TO PRISON
Director John McTiernan has been sentenced to four months in federal prison for lying to the FBI about hiring disgraced private eye Anthony Pellicano to illegally wiretap producer Charles Roven.
U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer sternly admonished the "Die Hard" helmer Monday for suggesting that his crime did not justify prison time, and that he suffers from depression.
"He (McTiernan) will certainly not be the only depressed man in custody," Fischer said during the Monday court hearing. "He has shown no remorse, just excuses."
Sentence, which also included a $100,000 fine, was issued after the court rejected McTiernan's motion to withdraw his earlier guilty plea.
In April 2006, the 56-year-old McTiernan became the highest-profile Hollywood player to be charged in connection with the Pellicano scandal.
He is the second person who used Pellicano's services to receive prison time. Earlier this year, Daniel Nicherie was sentenced to 4½ years after pleading guilty to hiring Pellicano to wiretap a Hollywood businessman.
Prosecutors say McTiernan lied to the FBI when he told investigators that he had no knowledge of Pellicano's illegal wiretapping activities.
In fact, FBI said McTiernan hired and paid Pellicano to conduct an illegal wiretap of producer Roven in summer 2000. Roven and McTiernan had worked together on the movie "Rollerball."
Shortly after McTiernan was indicted, he agreed to plead guilty to one count of making a false statement in connection with a Justice Dept. investigation, an offense that carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment.