ABC News Takes Over ‘The View’ As Ratings Dwindle

For 18 seasons, “The View” has been one of the crown jewels of ABC Daytime programming block. But in a significant restructuring that could foreshadow the management style of incoming presidentBen Sherwood, ABC’s daytime executives are losing oversight of the show, Variety has learned.
Starting today, “The View” will be part of the non-fiction branch of programming within ABC News, which produces the documentary series “NY Med.” The talk show will now be in the growing portfolio of ABC News president James Goldston, Sherwood’s right-hand man who helped revamp “Good Morning America.”
“Moving ‘The View’ to our non-fiction programming group now allows it to fully draw on the vast resources of ABC News and our team in New York, where the show is based right next door,” Goldston says in a memo Variety obtained from the network that will circulate to staffers on Thursday morning. “We couldn’t be more thrilled to work with this terrific team.”
One of his central goals, according to insiders, is to make “The View” more appealing to younger viewers. The show has fallen 10 percent in the last year among female viewers between the ages 18 to 49, but it’s up 1 percent in total viewers.
The long-running gabfest faced a drastic makeover in the fall with three new co-hosts — Rosie O’Donnell, Rosie Perez and Republican strategist Nicolle Wallace — joining moderator Whoopi Goldberg, though it hasn’t improved much in the ratings from last year’s lackluster season with Jenny McCarthy.
“The View’s” new panel has struggled to find its voice this season. The Hot Topics segments have focused more on hard news, like Ebola and ISIS, as opposed to celebrities and reality stars, the sweet spot for the knockoff CBS series “The Talk.”
The four co-hosts are all older than 40, which goes against the idea of Barbara Walters’ original pitch for “The View”: to make the debates multi-generational. Perez could be taking a hiatus from the show in the winter, since she’s signed to appear in a Broadway play, which may give executives an opening to test other co-hosts. Insiders say it’s too early to tell if a new cast member will join the show later this season, but the very possibility of a change is indicative of concerns with the panel’s chemistry.
The shift in the show’s management isn’t just an unexpected shakeup for “View” staffers. It speaks to the interim period between Anne Sweeney who will exit her perch atop of Disney/ABC Television Group early next year, and Sherwood, who steps in as the new president. Sources say that Sherwood had wanted more involvement with “The View’s” reboot and had long told colleagues that he thought ABC News and Daytime could be one entity.
Within ABC there’s been conflict about which side has been calling the shots on “The View” this season, with some sources insisting that the execs from the news side have driven decisions such as the hiring of former “Rachel Maddow Show” producer Bill Wolff as the new exec producer. However, those on the news side say they weren’t officially in charge of the show until now.
During the summer casting session, following Walters’ retirement, Sweeney—along with daytime executives Lisa Hackner and Abra Potkin—were overseeing “The View.” It was Sweeney’s idea to bring O’Donnell back after she left the talk show in 2007.
Sweeney is still involved with the show. Hackner, who clashed with O’Donnell and Goldberg, was phased out of her “View” duties in the middle of the summer, and Potkin will no longer work on “The View.” Marla Provencio, a chief marketing officer in Los Angeles, was also moved off the show.
The shakeup poses many questions about what sources describe as dysfunction inside ABC Daytime, which was folded into ABC’s entertainment division in 2011, and has a sparse plate that includes an upcoming Tyra Banks talk show, “The Chew” and “General Hospital.” One of the chief recent disappointments was “Katie,” the much-hyped Katie Couric 2012 talk show that hemorrhaged millions and was axed after two seasons.
A former senior-level ABC staffer who agreed to discuss the daytime department on the condition of anonymity recalls how Potkin, the executive who oversaw “Katie,” once lay flat on her back during a meeting with producers, telling them in panic: “If we can’t get the ratings up, we’re all going to be out of our jobs!” Potkin later jumped to overseeing “The View,” and has now been moved to a new duty–as a senior programming executive at the non-fiction division of ABC News. (Potkin didn’t respond to inquiries for comment.)
Over the summer, the casting for the new co-hosts, which was managed by the daytime team, was fraught with tension. Sources say they were too many cooks in the kitchen and the process was chaotic. After potential co-hosts were paraded into ABC for mock debates in August, executives couldn’t make up their minds about who they wanted to hire.
At one point late in the process, they even started to pursue Carrie Underwood, Variety has learned, even though the country star would be expensive, lives in Nashville and doesn’t publicly speak about her political beliefs. ABC finally offered a seat to Wallace on Sept. 3, just 12 days before the 18th season premiere. Perez was also a last-minute choice—the actress hadn’t been vetted with the other candidates.
Now “The View” finds itself alongside a growing stable of programs inside the non-fiction unit, which began several years ago, that includes “Surgeon Oz” (on OWN), “Mustang Millionaire” (National Geographic Channel) and “Ebola: Inside the Deadly Outbreak” (Discovery). Many of these programs are produced at ABC under Lincoln Square Productions, and sold to other networks.
On the surface, it might sound like asking ABC News executives to run “The View” will make the show even more serious, but the opposite could be true. Sherwood’s ABC News division is responsible for taking a more pop culture-centered “Good Morning America” to No. 1 against “Today.” Since it’s technically not an ABC News show, the staff will still be able to operate by more journalistically relaxed rules.
When Taylor Swift appeared as a guest in October 2012, “The View” agreed to guidelines that barred the co-hosts from asking about her recent breakup with Conor Kennedy. ABC News employees aren’t generally allowed to make such agreements, but “The View” will exist in its own ethical orbit.
For day-to-day decisions, Goldston is entrusting “The View” to Tom Cibrowski,  senior VP of programs, news gathering and special events at ABC News; Barbara Fedida, senior VP for talent and business; and David Sloan, a senior executive producer at “20/20.” The execs, who will continue to perform their regular daily duties, will be working with the show’s executive producer Wolff.
If Sherwood’s team is able to successfully rescue “The View,” it will be another feather in his cap. One thing is for certain: he’s not waiting until his job begins to make his mark.



HBO to Lay Off Over 150 Employees


Layoff fever is spreading at Time Warner.
Weeks after the conglom went public with job cuts at its Warner Bros. and Turner Broadcasting divisions, the HBO unit is expected to trim its own staff as well, according to sources. Approximately 7% of its 2,400 employees face pink slips as early as this week.
A rep for HBO declined comment.
An internal email from HBO CEO Richard Plepler that was leaked to Variety made clear his division would not emerge unscathed. The message, which was circulated last week to HBO employees the day of the Time Warner presentation, discloses that a small layoff was in the offing before the start of November.
“We reviewed 2015 budgets and staffing plans with this in mind and reduced cost and redundancy wherever possible to preserve our ability to invest in our future,” Plepler wrote (full memo below). “This will unfortunately include the elimination of some positions.”
While Time Warner made clear at a presentation to investors last week that its studio and basic cable units would lose as much as 10% of their ranks this year as a cost-cutting measure, no mention was made of HBO staff on the chopping block.
It’s unclear what areas of operation within HBO will be impacted by the layoff but the reductions will be contained entirely to the company’s domestic personnel.
HBO made headlines that day by announcing a long-anticipated standalone streaming service would launch sometime next year. Plepler also laid out plans to glean more in affiliate fees from subscribers who weren’t yielding revenue for the company.
Time Warner had indicated that “cost reduction programs” were going to affect every part of the company. But what’s unclear is whether conglom management deferred to the CEOs at each division as to whether they could decide how to achieve their respective cost cuts. Sources dispute whether HBO, for instance, could have conceivably opted to reduce its expenses in lieu of losing jobs, or whether Time Warner specifically ordered layoffs that HBO chiefs didn’t want to make.
The premium cabler has long been regarded the crown jewel of Time Warner, bringing in nearly $5 billion in revenue last year, as well as $1.7 billion in operating profit. With 127 million subscribers around the world, HBO was said to be a big part of why Rupert Murdoch made a bold play earlier this year to acquire Time Warner for 21st Century Fox. The bid was ultimately rejected, which in turn has put the company’s CEO, Jeff Bewkes, under pressure to boost earnings.
HBO in particular has come under scrutiny as being undervalued, which has kicked up speculation that Time Warner could move to spin off the division or convert it to a tracking stock. While the HBO channel itself added a record 2 million subscribers in the first half of 2014 according to SNL Kagan, an over-the-top digital extension was greeted with excitement by investors because of the prospect the company could open a new revenue stream.
Given the success of HBO over the lifetime of the organization, job cuts have been a rarity in its 42-year history. Last recorded reductions came just over a decade ago in its affiliate sales division, which shed about 20 employees in a restructuring of its operations.
Warner Bros. already indicated its intent to make $200 million worth of cuts to its annual overhead, which could amount to as many as 1,000 jobs, as Variety first reported.
Turner is expected to make even steeper cuts, removing 1,475 of the 14,000 positions across its organization worldwide.
Here’s Plepler’s memo in its entirety:
Given the recent press coverage regarding cost containment efforts across Time Warner, I wanted to let you know how this affects HBO.
We have a long history of tightly managing our overhead so that we’re able to maximize investment in the creation, distribution and marketing of content. We also shift resources when necessary toward areas with the greatest potential to drive revenue growth and to enhance our brand.  We reviewed 2015 budgets and staffing plans with this in mind and reduced cost and redundancy wherever possible to preserve our ability to invest in our future. This will unfortunately include the elimination of some positions.  Where relevant, your department head will share details with you in the weeks ahead.
I understand that the news of staff reductions is unsettling.  Rest assured that we will manage this difficult process with the fairness and respect you would expect from our company.
A hallmark of our long-sustained success has been the commitment to making very difficult decisions even during times of growth and optimism.  As I said at today’s event, this is the most exciting inflection point, domestically and internationally, in the modern history of HBO. It’s fair to say that by any metric: subscriber growth, content deals, the ever-extending reach of our brand or industry buzz; we are at the top of our game – and as I also made clear, we are just getting started.   All of this is possible for one simple reason, the talented people that make up this company.
All best,

Correction: An earlier draft of this article incorrectly characterized the subscriber levels of the domestic HBO pay-TV channel as having “plateaued.” The channel actually registered its biggest growth surge in 20 years, adding 2 million subs in the first half of the year, according to SNL Kagan.



Film Review: ‘Glen Campbell … I’ll Be Me’

A poignant look at country singer-songwriter Glen Campbell's 'Goodbye Tour' and his battle with Alzheimer's disease.

In 2011, while country crooner and legendary guitarist Glen Campbell prepared to tour in support of his latest album, his family revealed that he had received a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Remarkably, the Campbells not only proceeded with a “Goodbye Tour,” but also allowed filmmaker James Keach to document the progression of Glen’s illness and its effect on their lives and work. “Glen Campbell … I’ll Be Me” blends intimate and unflinching medical details, poignant performance footage and a survey of its subject’s place in musical history through well-chosen archival footage and interviews with other iconic performers. A limited release through U.S. distributor Area23a begins Oct. 24 and will expand in the weeks to come, while festival kudos at Nashville and Vancouver could spell more awards attention down the road.
Just as the “Goodbye Tour” repped the last chance for Campbell’s multitudes of fans to see him live, this observational docu offers a final opportunity to witness the singer in lucid moments, with his artistry movingly intact. He was moved into a specialized Alzheimer’s treatment facility in March 2014, three years after filming began in 2011. At that time, Campbell was 75 years old and had been married for nearly 30 years to his fourth wife, Kim, a bedrock of strength 23 years his junior. The couple has three children, talented musicians Cal, Shannon and Ashley, all of whom are in his backup band.
Kim’s commentary about what’s going on (sometimes directly to the camera) functions in lieu of narration. In one early scene, Glen and Kim watch documentary footage chronicling his salad days and superlative achievements — among them five Grammys; induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame; his own TV series, “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour”; and a co-starring role in the original “True Grit.” When Kim has to tell Glen who’s who, the moment not only epitomizes the sad losses of an Alzheimer’s sufferer and the patience required of a caregiver, but also cleverly provides background about the musician’s life and career.
As members of their medical team explain to Glen and Kim, Alzheimer’s is a progressive type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior as the hippocampus shrinks and atrophies. Yet the doctors can only marvel at the extraordinary wiring of Glen’s brain, which allows him to continue performing complicated guitar solos and sing with perfect pitch even while he suffers more typical symptoms.

Although Glen quickly becomes, in the words of Kim, “unrehearseable,” the family and band members decide to go on the road for as long as the good outweighs the bad. We see the strain this causes every member of the tour, not least Kim, but it’s is trumped by the palpable love that surges from the audience toward the stage. Even if Glen at times doesn’t appear to know where he is or what he’s doing, he feels the emotion and gains energy and focus.

Even as they go through the emotional and professional wringer, Campbell’s offspring don’t regret participating in the tour. Son Cal notes, “When he connects to something that gave him joy, it’s like he’s himself again.” Daughter Ashley, who performs a lively dueling guitar/banjo riff with her father onstage, also accompanies her parents to Capitol Hill and makes a touching appeal before a Congressional committee for more funding to fight the disease, which is growing exponentially. Director Keach also recruits a slew of top musicians, including Bruce Springsteen, the Edge, Chad Smith and Kathy Mattea, whose own lives have been touched by Alzheimer’s, to comment on Campbell’s courage.
As the tour extends over nearly two years to 151 concerts, we begin to observe its diminishing returns, particularly as Campbell moves into the later phases of the illness, characterized by frustration, anger and paranoia. But even as he suffers a complete meltdown onstage, the audience is with him and for him. A scene of Campbell’s final recording with members of his former crack session band, the Wrecking Crew — the song his “Not Gonna Miss You,” a ballad he wrote for Kim — heartbreakingly demonstrates the man’s profound understanding of the disease, something that does not always come across in the filmed footage.
Stylistically, “Glen Campbell … I’ll Be Me” is nothing special; indeed, the homevideo shots are mostly pedestrian. Yet the sheer joy, even magic, captured in the concert footage preserves the artist’s sublime musicianship and the ineffable relationship between performer and audience. In the end, his family’s willingness to document his decline, in the hope that it will draw more attention and resources to fighting the disease, burnishes and extends Campbell’s legacy in enduring fashion.

Film Review: ‘Glen Campbell ... I’ll Be Me’

Reviewed at Vancouver Film Festival (Arts & Letters), Oct. 1, 2014. Running time: 105 MIN.  


(Documentary) An Area23a release of a PCH Films production in association with Volunteers of America. Produced by Trevor Albert, James Keach. Executive producers, Scott Borchetta, Susan Disney Lord, Jane Seymour, Stanley Schneider, Julian Raymond. Co-producer, Kayla Thornton.


Directed by James Keach. Camera (color, HD), Alex Exline; editor, Elisa Bonora; music, Julian Raymond; sound (5.1 surround), Milos Zivkovic, Logan Aries, Alex Exline, Dwight Chalmers, Marianna LaFollette, Cody Peterson, Carlos Pulido; associate producers, Jeff Pollack, Debra Pearl, Carl Jackson, Cindy Sinclair.


Glen Campbell, Kim Campbell, Ashley Campbell, Cal Campbell, Shannon Campbell, T.J. Kuenster, Ry Jarred, Siggy Sjursen, Kiefo Nilsson, Dr. Ronald Petersen, Bobbie Gale, Jay Leno, Jimmy Webb, Brad Paisley, The Edge, Clancy Fraser, Bill Maclay, John Carter Cash, Sheryl Crow, Kathy Mattea, Scott Borchetta, Dr. Hart Cohen, Chad Smith, Keith Urban, Steve Martin, the Band Perry, Blake Shelton, Paul McCartney, Bill Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Hal Rogers, Chris Smith, Richard Shelby, Bruce Springsteen, Richard Landers, Stanley Schneider, the Wrecking Crew, Gerald Campbell, Jane Campbell, Sandy Campbell, Kelli Campbell, Debby Campbell-Cloyd, Sandie Gillard, Richard Landers.

I met with Glen after photographing his concert during the summer of 2012. We talked about how the tour was going and his plans to meet with his friend George H. Bush the following week. Glen could not have been more down to earth and gracious with his time.



Oscar de la Renta, Who Clothed Stars and Became One, Dies at 82

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Legendary fashion designer Oscar de la Renta died on Monday at the age of 82, ABC News reported. The cause of death was complications from cancer, his wife confirmed to The New York Times.
De la Renta was born in the Dominican Republic in 1932. He left home at the age of 18 to study painting in Madrid, Spain but decided instead to pursue fashion design. He eventually worked as an apprentice to Cristobal Balenciaga, Spain's most celebrated couturier.
The young designer made a name for himself when he dressed former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in the 1960s. After launching his own line, de la Renta became known for creating elaborate, feminine gowns that were often worn by first ladies including Nancy Reagan, Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton. He dressed socialites in his couture creations, and his gowns were red carpet staples as celebrities including Oprah, Sarah Jessica Parker and more wore his designs year after year. Most recently, de la Renta collaborated with Amal Clooney on her wedding gown, which was accompanied by a spread in the November issue of Vogue.
"Style begins by looking good naked," he told The Telegraph in a 2013 interview. "It's a discipline. And if you don't dress well every day, you lose the habit. It's not about what you wear, but about how you live your life."
De la Renta was married twice. His first wife, Françoise de Langlade, was a former editor of French Vogue. She died of bone cancer in 1983. The couple had been married for 16 years. The designer adopted a son soon after his first wife's death and married socialite Annette Engelhard Reed in 1989. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2006.
De la Renta presented his Spring 2015 collection at New York Fashion Week in September. When reviewing the show, New York Times fashion director and chief fashion critic Vanessa Friedman wrote of the designer and his collection, "He has a respect for the classic forms (lunching suits, tea dresses, straight trousers — even full-blown ball gowns) that is almost palpable, not to mention an appreciation of the power of decoration and the allure it can bestow."
Last week, the fashion house announced that it had named Peter Copping as creative director.
In a tribute film recorded by friends in 2013, de la Renta said, "I feel very privileged, lucky, that I have had a wonderful life. And that I have been always been allowed to do what I loved."