Bertelsmann pledges $2 mil; U.S. pix pulled from int'l networks
Europe continues to be rocked by the aftermath of Tuesday’s terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
On Wednesday, German media giant Bertelsmann pledged $2 million in aid to the families of police officers and firefighters killed or still trapped in the ruins of the World Trade Center’s twin towers and promised more aid to come.
Thomas Middelhoff, chairman and CEO of the company which does a third of is business in the U.S and has offices in Times Square, said, “Our answer to terrorism can only lie in solidarity and the courage of our convictions, solidarity with the victims, the survivors, the families, with all U.S. citizens and with our colleagues in the U.S.”
He appealed to Bertelsmann’s 18,000 employees in the U.S., 5,000 of whom work in New York, to donate blood.
In Germany, the film and TV industry pulled sensitive pics and programs, out of respect. Broadcasters, including Prosieben and Sat1, hastily reskedded after canceling all action, catastrophe and events films, plus some comedy shows for the week.
Music channel Viva ceased broadcasting Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday morning, and MTV Germany aired music video clips only. Company said it was reluctant to abandon broadcasts as it didn’t want to encourage feelings of “panic and angst” and of “the world going under.”
Cinema chain Airplane Cinema canceled screenings of “Pearl Harbor,” and UCI Germany pulled trailers for “Spiderman” which features shots of the Twin Towers.
People on the move were also affected. The new head of the Berlin Intl. Film Festival, Dieter Kosslick, was in Mexico on his programming selection tour Tuesday and destined for L.A. when it was announced that U.S. borders were sealed and flights canceled.
Events in the U.S. galvanized British TV auds Tuesday night, with viewing of the coverage of the terrorist attacks peaking at over 16 million viewers at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., a share of approximately 70%.
Pubcaster the BBC cleared the decks for its coverage on flagship channel BBC1, and synched up to carry the feed from BBC News 24, the BBC’s answer to CNN. At 6 p.m., BBC1 had 9.4 million viewers compared to its main commercial rival ITV1’s 6.6 million. ITV1 beat BBC1 at 9 p.m. with 7.7 million to 6.7 million.
On average, BBC1 took a 33.3% aud share and ITV 27.9%. In times of crisis, Brits traditionally turn to the BBC.
Sky News, satcaster BSkyB’s 24-hour service, came in third in multichannel homes after BBC1 and ITV1. Peak viewership was nearly 1 million.
Malone, Murdoch cancel
Media moguls Rupert Murdoch and John Malone pulled out of the Royal Television Society’s Cambridge Convention which runs from today to Friday. The duo’s heavily trailed appearance at the U.K. TV industry’s top talking shop was to have been the centerpiece of the event.
Their decision to opt out was expected. American execs in the U.K. have expressed concern over what impact the unfolding events might have — on air travel within Europe, for example.
“We’re trying to maintain business as usual, as much as that’s possible in these times,” Josh Berger, senior VP and managing director for Warner Bros. Intl. Television Europe, said. “We do have sufficient lead times in terms of delivery of materials, so business at hand is not in question. The future, however, is a matter of great concern for those in the television business outside of America. People are genuinely concerned about (President) Bush’s next move and how that will impact their lives and work.”
Minor cultural quarrels between France and the U.S. faded into insignificance Wednesday in a massive outpouring of Gallic support for the victims of the apocalyptic events.
Vivendi Universal, whose French chief Jean-Marie Messier was in New York at the time of the terrorist attacks, joined other European congloms by donating cash to the rescue effort.
“People were crying in this office yesterday as they watched CNN,” a French exec confided. “Everyone is shocked and outraged at what has happened.”
At Warner Bros.’ Paris office, the same mood of stunned disbelief prevailed.
Phillipe Desandre, sales manager, told Daily Variety: “It was like a Tom Clancy had written the scenario, only, if it had been a film, it would have been too far-fetched. Just thinking about it turns your blood cold.”
WB execs were not surprised to learn that John Travolta’s “Swordfish” — in which the actor plays a former CIA anti-terrorist spy — did disastrously, notching up a third fewer admissions that would normally be expected.
Indeed all theater-screened movies suffered the same fate Tuesday, aud figures plummeting 25% of the same day last year.
Television audiences rocketed as millions, anxious for news of events in the U.S., tuned in to a second day of extended news coverage on all the major networks. More than 11 million viewers, 50% of the viewing public, watched TF1’s blanket coverage Tuesday.
(Adam Dawtrey, Erich Boehm, Steve Clarke, Stephen Gaydos, Liza Foreman and Alison James contributed to this report.)