Johnnie L.

Stories by Johnnie L. Roberts

  • A Big Label Woos A Hit Machine

    The music business has a long playlist of problems--piracy, slumping CD sales and marketing costs that are spiraling out of control. But one steady hit maker is Lyor Cohen, CEO of Island/Def Jam Records, who's poised to get the kind of courtship usually reserved for star artists.His five-year contract will expire early next year; rival Warner Music Group has quietly alerted Cohen that a top post is available, senior AOL Time Warner execs told NEWSWEEK. Formal talks haven't started--Cohen's current employer, Vivendi Universal, has rights to try to re-sign him, and rivals risk being sued if they interfere. Cohen won't comment, and Warner Music boss Roger Ames will only say he's a longtime Cohen fan.Cohen has hit mostly high notes at the Universal Music Group label. Def Jam rap stars, such as Ja Rule and Jay-Z, and new artist Ashanti, have helped Universal dominate the charts. The hip-hop exec has scored in rock music, too, with an established group like Bon Jovi and the new act Sum 41...
  • A Groundhog Day For Big Media

    Lost in the debate leading up to this week's vote by the Federal Communications Commission on media deregulation is the "Groundhog Day'' point: the more things change, the more they stay the same. Remember when TV sets were topped with rabbit ears? The living-room glow was owned by just three networks. Then, as the world of media exploded, established players kept adding movie studios, TV stations, cable and broadcast networks, news outlets and the like to hold onto a dominant share of the pie as the pie kept expanding.The big media companies will likely get some help from the FCC, which is expected to jettison prohibitions that now curtail single ownership of TV and radio stations and newspapers in a town or city. Protesters argue that media empires reduce the diversity of sources for news, information and entertainment. Why fear consolidation? Just look, they say, at Rupert Murdoch, whose unabashed political leanings are on display on Fox News Channel. The media power concentrated...
  • Shadow Man

    Long before it merged with America Online, Time Warner began holding its annual shareholder meetings at Harlem's Apollo Theater. But for the gathering this Friday, the company chose the Lans-downe Resort in Virginia, near the AOL unit's headquarters. The move looks like a standard Big Business play: if you only have bad news, like a slumping stock and a deepening investigation of accounting irregularities, hold your meeting in the boonies. It also will be the last such meeting run by chairman Steve Case, who initiated the ill-fated $350 billion merger. A shareholder uprising pushed him to resign his job, effective Friday. But that's not enough of a demotion to satisfy AOL's biggest shareholder, who plans to withhold his 305 million, or 7 percent of, AOL shares in the vote to re-elect Case as a director. His message: clean out your e-mail and go.Who helped push Case out of the top job, and now wants him gone? Gordon Crawford. He's the invisible mogul, a mutual-fund manager for...
  • Reconstruction: Piece Of The Pie, Please

    As the reconstruction of Iraq gets underway, a cottage industry has sprung up to facilitate the grab for war spoils. On May 5, Equity International will sponsor "The Iraqi Reconstruction Conference," where private companies, relief groups and development organizations can network with top government officials and bureaucrats overseeing the rebuilding of Iraq--an estimated $25 billion to $100 billion undertaking. Early-bird registration for the conference: $245 to $495. Months before a single JDAM struck Baghdad, EI began planning its gathering. "It was our feeling there would be conflict," says William Loiry, EI's president. EI has held similar reconstruction conferences covering trouble spots from Kosovo and Bosnia to Afghanistan. "For us, it has become a niche," says Loiry.EI now has competition. On May 1, London-based military-data giant Jane's Information Group and Washington think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) are cosponsoring "Companies on the...
  • Aol Time Warner: This Time It's Personal

    AOL Time Warner hoped to put an end last week to its three-year saga of turf wars, power plays and a gut-wrenching stock plunge. Steve Case, the company's chairman, finally stepped down. The board quickly gave Richard Parsons, the CEO, the additional title of chairman. "This is the management team for the foreseeable future," Parsons tells NEWSWEEK. "The company is on the mend." But the company has spun off a new soap opera, this one involving Gerald Levin, Parson's retired boss and the longtime CEO of Time Warner who helped engineer the AOL deal. Levin disclosed that he was dumping his wife of 32 years, Barbara, to marry a woman he'd fallen in love with seemingly overnight. According to friends of Levin and his estranged wife, he began a relationship with Laurie Perelman, a former Hollywood agent-cum-psychologist, about two months ago. They first met about a year ago when she approached Levin about investing in a start-up corporate-counseling business. Levin became an adviser. In...
  • You've Got Questions

    They got the message. AOL Time Warner executives knew investors weren't happy and wanted some clear answers to the company's problems. So during a four-hour presentation to Wall Street last week, company brass packed in enough announcements to fill a screen with pop-up ads. Their recovery plan, they said, would include an aggressive push into broadband, premium content offerings, a discount shopping site and more. Steve Case, the chairman, trumpeted the strategy as a fresh start. "It is a new day,'' he said. Not quite. AOL shares, which had rebounded to the teens after hitting a low of $8.70 this summer, fell 15 percent over three days. The company appeared to be still searching for answers. Case invited his 35 million subscribers to send ideas for improving the service, and 160,000 responded. For now, analysts say AOL is raising more questions than providing answers. NEWSWEEK's take:Will customers pay more for premium content and communications services?AOL sees its future in the...
  • How It All Fell Apart

    Perhaps Mona Lisa, with her uncertain smile, knew something at the time that nobody else did. In the fall of 1999, an upstart group with the lofty title of the Global Business Dialogue on Electronic Commerce had chosen the Louvre for its first conference. The setting certainly matched its ambitions--to set worldwide standards for cyberspace and electronic commerce. Among the conference heavyweights: Gerald Levin, the CEO of Time Warner, the world's largest media company, and Steve Case, chairman of America Online, the Internet king. The two men wound up chatting about big ideas; the belief that companies should be values-driven, rather than mere slaves to profit targets. "We weren't talking about putting our companies together'' at the Louvre, Levin would later note in a NEWSWEEK interview. And despite the warm words, there was in fact unspoken tension between the two men. Earlier in 1999, Case had pushed regulators to force AT&T, Time Warner Cable and the rest of the industry...
  • All The News That's Fit To Merge

    Surely there's an easier way to make money. But execs at Disney and AOL Time Warner appear determined to go the hard route, and have fixated yet again on their long-running interest in merging their respective news-gathering operations--Disney's ABC News and AOL's CNN division. The tantalizing prize: at least $100 million. That's what many experts say the two companies could reap in savings by combining their newsroom operations, merging far-flung bureaus and thinning ranks of pricey newsreaders. Both AOL and Disney are in desperate need of some good news to deliver to investors, in the hope of propping up their embarrassingly low stock prices. The ABC-CNN negotiations came up at a recent AOL board meeting.But the hurdles to such a deal are enormous, and some executives inside AOL tell NEWSWEEK they think the timing for such talks couldn't be worse. The company is dealing with a federal investigation into accounting practices at its AOL online unit--not the right moment to be...
  • The Rap Of Luxury

    Radio stations have played Busta Rhymes's latest megahit more than 97,000 times. Busta performed his ode to the pricey cognac on "The Tonight Show." And MTV and BET have aired the video version a combined 600 times. In it, Busta and his collaborator, P. Diddy, defeat evildoers, get the girls and toast their triumphs with "yack," hip-hop's shorthand for cognac. Across the Atlantic, British spirits giant Allied Domecq, which owns Courvoisier, is toasting Busta, too. Over the past several months Courvoisier's U.S. sales have popped by double digits, thanks in part to Busta's making the drink "the hero of the song,'' says Stephanie DeBartolomeo, the cognac's brand manager. Talk about free advertising--no deal was struck between Busta and the distiller beforehand. And it's not even his favorite cognac. "I'm a Hennessey dude," he tells NEWSWEEK. Lucky for Courvoisier he liked the sound of its name better.This is the rich sound of hip-hop: cash registers ringing loudly for luxury brands....
  • Aol Building: Down, But Going Up

    The building is going up (and up), but it isn't rising as fast as the questions about one future occupant. The AOL Time Warner Center, as it's currently named, is rising 80 stories above Central Park, a $1.7 billion, twin-tower project that was billed as an urban breakthrough marrying residential, commercial and retail space under one roof. Filling some of the space: $40 million penthouses, a Cartier store and the five-star Mandarin Oriental Hotel. And the most prestigious tenant of all, according to the plans? The world's largest media company.As an original partner in 1998, Time Warner forked over $150 million upfront. A bank is financing as much as $500 million more, which the company will owe. For that, it will own 10 floors for corporate digs, an additional expanse for its CNN studios and naming rights to the building. (Original name: the Time Warner Center.)But with AOL stock tanking, New Yorkers are buzzing about whether the company name still has the cachet to command such...
  • Aol's Board Is Digging In

    The decision haunts them. Forty-nine floors above midtown Manhattan, Time Warner's directors met in secrecy on a Sunday 31 months ago. One by one, all 13--including Stephen F. Bollenbach, CEO of Hilton; Reuben Mark, CEO of Colgate-Palmolive, and Michael Miles, CEO of Philip Morris--voted to sell Time Warner to the Internet giant America Online, despite pointed questions. Some directors asked whether Time Warner might prosper more without AOL. Was the $165 billion price tag, payable in AOL shares, enough, others asked, especially if a sagging stock could deflate the price before the deal closed? "This deal was a big leap of faith," says a person who was at the meeting. Yet the board jumped, assured by Time Warner CEO Jerry Levin that "convergence" of new and old media and the growth it would produce were real. "Jerry had a firm grip on the board," says a senior AOL Time Warner official. But so far, what became the biggest deal in the history of the media business has produced only...
  • You've Got New Management

    Avoiding "Sex" was a sure sign that the marriage of AOL Time Warner was in trouble. Last Tuesday, top company execs were supposed to show up for a welcome break from the relentless gloom of AOL's sagging stock price: premiere night for the new season of "Sex and the City," the smash series on AOL Time Warner's HBO. But CEO Richard Parsons didn't appear at the glittering event at the Museum of Natural History. Nor did Bob Pittman, his No. 2. The most glaring no-show, however, was the night's host, Jeff Bewkes, HBO's boss. One of his lieutenants tried to wave off his absence. "Some family thing," he explained, as a beaming Sarah Jessica Parker and "Sex" costars sashayed down a pink carpet.But Bewkes was off at dinner with Parsons, along with chairman Steve Case and Don Logan, CEO of the Time Inc. unit. With Pittman poised to quit after being blamed for many of the company's ills, Parsons had decided that Bewkes and Logan were going to move up in a big restructuring. Case, though, was...
  • Sticky Business

    When President Bush came to Wall Street to jawbone chief executives about corporate responsibility, Dick Cheney, the vice president and a former CEO himself, wasn't with him. When Bush met at the White House with his new Justice Department corporate-crime "SWAT team," Cheney was elsewhere--at a national-security meeting, his aides said. Two cabinet CEOs--Paul O'Neill of Treasury and Don Evans of Commerce--headlined televised town-hall meetings after Bush's speech, and were headed to the Sunday TV talk shows to pitch the president's program. Cheney's only comments on the need for tougher oversight of business were made at Republican fundraisers.Cheney's aides say it's all business as usual, that the veep normally doesn't play this kind of public role. But his absence from the debate about corporate behavior and CEO misdeeds is striking. After all, he seems to be more than qualified to work the mahogany pulpit. He ran Halliburton, the huge oil-services company, for five years. During...
  • Waiting In The Wings

    Barry Diller tried to plant himself backstage last week, far from the spotlight that focused on troubles in the world of Big Media. Vivendi, the French conglomerate that includes the Universal Entertainment division that Diller has run for two months, finally booted its CEO, Jean-Marie Messier, after his ambitious plan to remake a former water utility collapsed under the weight of staggering debt and a sinking stock price. Diller, spinning the turmoil back in Paris as the least of his concerns, appeared to be focusing instead on racing to the Hamptons behind the wheel of his convertible for the Fourth of July. He even seemed more attuned to how he was portrayed in the gossip columns than the business pages. He noted that he was wrongly described as hosting the likes of P. Diddy, Lizzie Grubman and Naomi Campbell for a celebration aboard a 100-foot yacht. "My yacht is bigger than that," he said to a friend. Never mind that these boldface names aren't his crowd, which tends more to...
  • Jerry Levin Swans On A Blue Note

    Jerry Levin strolled onto the stage of Harlem's famed Apollo Theatre--the site of AOL Time Warner's annual meeting last week--for his final bow as CEO. Many music legends, like B. B. King and Muddy Waters, have played there, and Levin, wanting to capture the moment, said it was his last opportunity to indulge a longstanding fantasy of becoming a great blues singer. His timing was perfect--since many investors in the audience were feeling pretty blue themselves. They've seen AOL's stock sink in value by billions of dollars in the year since AOL acquired Time Warner. "I know the frustration you feel now is real," Levin said to the crowd. "Have faith in this company." Ending his short speech, he said he would just "fade away, an old CEO."And Levin was quickly gone from the theater. But he won't be forgotten any time soon. Yes, he can point to many successes during 30 years of presiding over Time Inc., Time Warner and, finally, AOL Time Warner. He'd led the launch of HBO, initiated the...
  • Nbc's Real Fear Factor

    Coming to a small screen near you: "Kingpin," a gritty, riveting drama about a Latin American drug cartel run by the kind of murderers who mail the severed head of a drug agent to his colleagues back at the office. Send the kids to bed--is HBO on? Actually, no. "Kingpin" probably will air on NBC in prime time this winter, and is apt to generate controversy. Bring it on, says NBC entertainment chief Jeff Zucker. "That'll only make everyone want to tune in to see what the fuss is all about,'' he said during a recent interview at his West Coast office.If Susan Lyne has the toughest job in Hollywood in trying to revive ABC, Zucker arguably has the second toughest--making sure he extends NBC's long winning streak in prime time. The two executives have plenty in common, too. Both are former journalists (Zucker produced the "Today" show for years); neither had experience in programming or scheduling prime-time series before getting the nod, and both have to break some rules and invent some...
  • Prime-Time

    To: Network Brass.Re: Hot Fall Pilot.So maybe this won't make the cut for the new fall shows. Too bad, since it's probably the best story line the television industry has to offer right now. This is the week, after all, that Susan Lyne, the new head of entertainment at ABC, unveils her first lineup of shows to reverse the network's wrenching ratings slide into fourth place, an embarrassing fall caused largely by the country's sudden uninterest in watching Regis endlessly quiz would-be millionaires. In recent weeks Lyne and her troops have pored over 110 scripts and screened 29 pilots, from which they chose eight series that they're hoping will help make ABC the king of family-friendly sitcoms and dramas. Their picks include "Legally Blond," based on the movie about a clueless Harvard Law student, and "The Oath," about two HMO doctors fighting the system. "For the most part, I'm thrilled," Lyne said last week.Even discounting for Hollywood hyperbole, it's hard to exaggerate the...
  • The Race To The Top

    Sun-splashed and blanketed with golf courses, Boca Grande, Fla., is a natural habitat for that most elite breed of American capitalism: members of the old boys' network. On a single day last spring, you could spot an intimate gathering of these Masters of the Universe flown down from the north: honchos from American Express and AOL Time Warner and Merrill Lynch. The scene was as you'd expect: lots of backslapping, nostalgic talk about Harvard M.B.A. days and the requisite ribbing about the precision (or lack thereof) of their golf games. ...
  • Cable's A-Team

    In the never-ending attempts to convince consumers that nirvana is just one purchase away, snake-oil salesmen may have a better track record than peddlers of broadband. Despite endless hype about movies on demand, instant music downloads and Internet access in nanoseconds, broadband bliss has yet to materialize. It's been too expensive, too hard to install--and just not all that compelling for many TV viewers. That didn't stop a shrewd father-and-son team from placing a $72 billion bet on broadband in late December. Backed by Micro-soft, No. 3 cable operator Comcast Inc. of Pennsylvania won a bidding war for AT&T Broadband, the nation's largest cable company. In walking off with the prize, the glitzless Comcast defeated bidder AOL Time Warner, cable's No. 2 player.Comcast quickly proclaimed its victory the turning point in broadband's frustrated history. "If you think broadband has a great future, this [transaction] accelerates it," Brian Roberts, president of Comcast and the...
  • Why Diller Is On Top Of The World

    In the annals of american labor, show-business mogul Barry Diller has set a record for pay that's unlikely ever to be broken. By merely showing up for the first day's work as chief executive of the newly created Vivendi Universal Entertainment, Diller will collect a 1.5 percent piece of the action worth at least $275 million. Even if he were to quit--for good reason, of course--on the spot. But wait, it gets better. Unlike almost every other American working stiff, Diller will enjoy a second fortune in tax savings on his compensation. NEWSWEEK has learned that if Diller unloads his stake even on his first day of work, his $275 million won't be regular income, but capital gains. As such, he'll pay Uncle Sam almost $60 million less in income taxes than he'd pay if his $275 million were considered salary. "When you are bringing in talent like Barry Diller, you have to give him strong incentive," says Jean-Marie Messier, chief executive of Vivendi Universal, and Diller's putative boss...
  • Make Way For The Ceo

    AOL Time Warner CEO Gerald Levin returned with his trusted deputy Richard Parsons from a tour of Ground Zero, devastated. Not since the 1997 murder of his son had Levin appeared as shattered as he did looking over the wreckage that September morning. "He seemed to almost cry when he talked about 9-11," says Sandy Reisenbach, a Warner Bros. studio executive who, as another father of a murdered son, is a member of a sad fraternity with his boss. But the devastation also seemed to infuse Levin with a new sense of purpose for his media empire. "Our commitment not to just build our business but to make a difference" is among the company's "unique resources," he proclaimed in a companywide e-mail on Sept. 14. By early November, Levin was telling a gathering of investors that AOL Time Warner would spend heavily on its mission as a "public trust," even if that lowered profits. "I'm the CEO, and this is what I'm going to do," Levin also reportedly said. "I don't care what anyone else says."...
  • Cbs's Real Survivor

    As any TV executive will tell you, television is a game of numbers and gut feeling. And it was by those rules that CBS chief Leslie Moonves decided to end round-the-clock, commercial-free coverage of the 9-11 attacks after 93 hours, and to resume normal broadcasting with regular Saturday-morning fare, toy ads and all. CBS had lost upwards of $200 million of ads in the four days since Dan Rather and crew began nonstop news. By the weekend, viewers were tuning out: Nielsen reports revealed that the whopping 77 million audience on the night of the attacks had dwindled to half that size by Friday evening. Well aware that more was at stake than mere economics, Moonves took the unprecedented move of consulting with two CBS rivals to gauge the propriety of returning to business as usual.Ultimately, Moonves and his network brethren agreed that the best way to help bolster the country was to do what they do best--even if that meant sitcoms and "Survivor." But was America really ready for a...
  • Big Media And The Big Story

    One of Dwight D. Eisenhower's most enduring acts as president was his warning about the dangers of the 'military industrial complex'--the cozy ties between a weapons-hungry Pentagon and the nation's business-hungry defense contractors. Is the relationship between big media and big government the 21st century version of this--what international relations expert James Der Derian has dubbed the "military-industrial-media-entertainment network?"On Wednesday, Condoleezza Rice, the president's national security adviser, asked the major networks to refrain from showing unedited video messages taped by Osama bin Laden. All but one are controlled by major conglomerates that have important pending business with the government. All of them readily acceded to her concerns. At the request of the FBI and White House, "America's Most Wanted," the crime-fighting reality show on the Fox network, which is owned by media conglomerate News Corp., produced a Friday night television special on the list...
  • Network Synergy At Work

    As horrible as it was, the surreal image of a hijacked jetliner slamming into the World Trade Center wasn't the only picture drawing stunned double takes from viewers. Tuning to MTV and VH1 and finding grim-faced CBS anchor Dan Rather was surprising, too. Ditto for viewers who flipped to TNT or Court TV only to find CNN. And when sports fans turned to ESPN, it had been displaced by ABC News, anchored by Peter Jennings.There was a method to the media madness: corporate synergy. With tragedy unfolding throughout the day yesterday, the handful of corporate giants that now control the most popular broadcast and cable channels ran their coverage on all of their outlets. The most far-reaching example: AOL Time Warner. It controls TNT, Court TV, local cable-news channels, TBS Superstation and CNNfn as well as CNN-which ran on all of them. Even AOL-owned WB, the youthful broadcast network, dumped its entertainment schedule last night to carry CNN.Then there's AOL's rival Viacom, parent to...
  • The Economic Fallout

    With the linked global financial markets plunged into chaos following the horrific terrorist attacks on Washington and New York, nervous investors, seeking a safe haven, sent the price of gold skyrocketing in the aftermath of the attacks.While U.S. financial officials scrambled to assure the public that markets and money supplies would be protected, there was concern about the lasting impact of the attacks. With the U.S. economy already teetering on the edge of recession, some traders worried that the devastating assault would act as a negative catalyst, further depressing global markets and economic activity.The attacks destroyed one of the most prominent architectural symbols of global finance and trade. U.S. securities markets came to a complete halt on Tuesday, and stocks plunged across Europe. It's not clear when trading can resume; the rubble of the collapsed World Trade Center is located only a block or so from Wall Street, the epicenter of world finance, through which at...
  • The Disc That Saved Hollywood

    You'd think that, at 64, the decidedly dated Snow White would be headed for retirement. Disney has milked $1.1 billion out of the perky princess since "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" first arrived in 1937, rereleasing the movie eight times in theaters for each successive generation, and then selling millions of videotapes in two "limited" releases. Nonetheless, Disney is going to the wishing well again. On Oct. 9, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" arrives on a next- generation DVD, and Disney CEO Michael Eisner is hoping that one bite of this apple will make shareholders forget all about "Pearl Harbor" and Disney's California Adventure. Two years in the making, "Snow White" the DVD is 15 hours of digitally compressed entertainment offered up in four different languages and jammed onto two silvery, CD-size discs.There's a "making of" documentary, an interactive Dopey game and an original recording of "Some Day My Prince Will Come" by Barbra Streisand. You can take a virtual tour of...
  • The House Of Grubman

    When Allen Grubman's daughter got kicked out of prep school years ago, the high-powered music lawyer knew just what to do: he made a few phone calls and got her enrolled in another (and still another when she flamed out of that one--and another after that). When she wanted to start her own public-relations firm in 1997, he opened his checkbook as well as his Rolodex, sharing some of his own clients to help fill her roster. And so, when 30-year-old Lizzie Grubman woke her father in the wee hours this past Fourth of July weekend to inform him that she'd had an accident in his Mercedes-Benz SUV, he knew exactly what to do: he picked up the phone. "I said, 'I'll volunteer to help'," uber-spinmeister Howard Rubenstein told Grubman. "And he said, 'No! No!' " No price is too high to pay to help Daddy's girl.Surely by now you must have heard of Allen Grubman's daughter Lizzie, the rich, cover-girl celebrity publicist who reps the likes of Britney Spears and Jay-Z and controls the guest...
  • Moving In On Ma Bell

    Brian Roberts was seated so close to the basketball court that he could have read the inscriptions tattooed on Allen Iverson, the Philadelphia 76ers superstar. Unlike many of the stylish fans in the money seats, the CEO of cable-giant Comcast was dressed in a subdued blazer that looked like an off-the-rack bargain. Roberts seemed unruffled even though Comcast is majority owner of the Sixers, who were entering the final game of the NBA's Eastern Conference championship tired and bruised. But his calm proved justified as the Sixers went on to win. Days later, however, the scrappy team fell to the overpowering Lakers in the NBA championship.Now the unflappable Roberts is gunning for even bigger game. Last week Philadelphia-based Comcast, the industry's best-run company, made a $58 billion hostile bid for AT&T's cable business, known as AT&T Broadband. Over the past three years AT&T spent $100 billion on a cable-buying binge, positioning itself as a one-stop supplier of...
  • Chances Are, You've Only Surfed A Few Sites Today

    For more than a year now, consumer advocates and promoters of media diversity have warned about cyberhogs: giant companies that draw most of the traffic on the Internet. The fears swelled in the wake of AOL's January acquisition of Time Warner. Now, critics of media concentration have fresh ammunition: A study released Monday by market researcher Jupiter Media Maxtrix finds that just four companies-AOL Time Warner, Microsoft, Yahoo! and Napster-control roughly half of the time Internet users spend online. That's down from 11 companies two years ago. Moreover, 60 percent of online time is controlled by only 14 companies, a breathtaking plunge from 110 companies in 1999. That's "an incontrovertible trend toward online media consolidation," the authors of the report wrote.Jupiter says the numbers should be viewed as a cautionary sign-particularly by Washington regulators. The message: don't believe the hype from proponents of media deregulation. "Regulators should think twice about...
  • Rumble In The Media Jungle

    Buffy the vampire slayer's latest moves have left her fans gasping for breath. In her five seasons on the WB network, the sultry agent of good has killed dozens of night stalkers and demons, and even managed to finish high school and matriculate at UC, Sunnydale. The show made Sarah Michelle Gellar a big star and gave the WB a hip edge over its archrival, UPN. So fans were stunned by last month's news that "Buffy" was decamping to UPN. Wailed Boyslayer, one groupie on the official "Buffy" Web site, "How could you WB guys let such a great show slip through your fingers and let it go to a loser network that only has sci-fi shows?" Here's the deal, Boyslayer. As part of an escalating rivalry, "the loser network" upped the ante for the hot series, offering "Buffy's" producer a whopping $2.3 million an episode, a cool half-million dollars more than WB's bid. ...
  • This Space Available

    "The Runner" seems to fit the times. In the new ABC reality show, hidden cameras follow a "runner" (though the whole trip isn't made on foot) as he or she travels across America. While viewers try to track the runner down, he or she must accomplish certain "missions," going to a fast-food joint in a specific state, for example, and ordering a cheeseburger. Each week viewers can pick up clues about the runner's whereabouts on the prime-time show, or on the official "Runner" Web site. Catch the runner and win as much as $1 million. If the runner makes it across the country undetected in 28 days, he collects the money. ...
  • Cradle To Grave Tv

    Months ago, WB network CEO Jamie Kellner greenlit "The Oblongs," one of the more bizarre projects ever slated for prime-time television. The upcoming cartoon series on the AOL Time Warner-owned WB is a wicked satire showcasing a family of misfits living in a toxic valley. The father, Bob, is a limbless optimist. Wife Pickles is a bald, chain-smoking alcoholic. Two of the kids, Biff and Chip, are conjoined twins sharing three legs and three buttocks. But the twisted content is not the new show's most remarkable aspect. Rather, it's he novel plan Kellner is weighing to air it on several AOL Time Warner channels in short order, vastly expanding the audience for the expensive animated production. On April Fools' Day, "The Oblongs" will debut on teen-friendly WB. Soon after, it likely will appear on the Cartoon Network. "This wouldn't have happened before,'' says Kellner. ...