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In the Loop

Clash of the Titans

It's an aphorism in power centers like New York and L.A., and wherever Survivor
is played: "It's not personal, it's business." But with NBC chief Jeff Zucker and CBS head Leslie Moonves, it's personal.

And last January, Donald Trump joined the fray. He called Moonves "the most highly overrated person in television" during NBC's winter press tour. Then he endured his share of potshots during CBS's sales presentation.

The fierceness of the Moonves- Trump rivalry was in full bloom at last week's upfront in New York. During NBC's presentation, one taped skit had Trump assigning three NBC saleswomen the task of kidnapping Moonves (played by an actor) and luring him into submission by screaming, "Les, there's a reporter who wants to put your name in the paper!"

For his part, Moonves showed a clip of a Dave Letterman game called "Trump or Monkey." People are shown photos that are blacked-out, except for a small tuft of hair and asked to pick which is Trump and which is a monkey.

When the lobs weren't personal, they were professional. Zucker gleefully said when the NBC-Universal merger was completed [B&C,
May 17] that Viacom doesn't have to worry about integrating its cable nets with CBS. "Most of their cable viewers are still in school, and most of the TV viewers are in nursing homes."

Moonves targeted Zucker in turn. A Beatles cover band sang (to the tune of "A Day in the Life"): "I read the trades today-hoo boy!/Jeff Zucker said some of his programs "sucked."/ Forgive me, I just have to ask/If these shows made him yawn/ What in Heaven's name made him decide/to put the damn things on?/We'd love to turn them off."

The funniest dig was the ad lampooning "NBC's quality TV" with clips of Fear Factor's most stomach-turning moments. Afterward, Moonves intoned: "Product placement, anyone?"

Rock on

CBS CEO Leslie Moonves promised a "big surprise" at the end of the CBS upfront, and The Who's three-song set didn't disappoint. Then, the big question made the rounds at the Tavern on the Green party: How much did that cost? Answer: No cash changed hands. Insiders say the rock stars are so pleased with the exposure (and the license fees) that CBS's CSI
franchise has given them ("Who Are You?" is the theme song to CSI; "Won't Get Fooled Again" leads into CSI: Miami), they agreed to play for travel costs and other benefits. It didn't hurt that the set fit neatly into the group's schedule: The Who plays Madison Square Garden this week.

Just the Facts

NBC's Jeff Zucker is on an honesty jag. In his enthusiasm for the network's new Thursday-night lineup, he acknowledged he's oversold the quality of past Must-See TV. "I've given you a bunch of crap on Thursday night," Zucker admits. "This is an honest recognition that this Thursday night is stronger than we've been in a long, long time."

Another moment of candor was accidental. With reality show Average Joe moving from 10 p.m. ET to the supposedly family-friendly 8 p.m. slot, Zucker was asked if the show faces any content issues. "There were no content issues with Average Joe. It was a content-free program." Amid the laughter, Zucker quickly amended: "Issue-free."

Missing in Action

When CBS announced that 48 Hours Mysteries
would return next fall, it didn't say the show would be sans Leslie Stahl as anchor. When the newsmag begins its 18th season, it will be anchorless. "We wanted the show to be structured less like a traditional newsmagazine," says Executive Producer Susan Zirinsky. "It's one way we stand out from the pack."

CBS News insiders say Stahl isn't happy that her 48 Hours gig is gone, although her 60 Minutes status is secure. Zirinsky, who handpicked Stahl, wants her to continue to contribute to the show. "Leslie is great," says Zirinsky. "I hope there are things we can do together."