news digest


Discovery eyes more layoffs

Discovery Communications is planning another round of layoffs, according to sources, who indicated that the latest cuts will affect about 300 employees in the company's education, international and retail divisions. Citing company policy, a Discovery spokesperson said, "We don't comment on speculation about personnel moves that we may or may not be making." The news follows cuts in December at Discovery's education division, which affected about 80 people, as well as more recent cuts following a restructuring in February under new president and CEO David Zaslav that saw the departure of several top-ranking executives, including Discovery Networks U.S. president Billy Campbell, though broader layoffs had been expected (HR 2/6).

Gray new president of Samma

Production and postproduction technology veteran Mark Gray has been named president of Samma Systems, a division of Media Matters Llc. that manufactures products for automated migration of videotapes into the digital server environment. Gray was president and CEO of Kasenna from 2000-06.

NBC sets date for 'Real Wedding'

NBC has set April 23 as the big day for "The Real Wedding Crashers," giving the hidden-camera comedy series, inspired by the New Line feature film "Wedding Crashers," a plum 10 p.m. Monday slot debuting after the return of the hit series "Heroes" at 9 p.m. The hot six-episode series, produced by New Line Television and Ashton Kutcher and Jason Goldberg's Katalyst Films and Television, takes over the slot currently occupied by struggling drama "The Black Donnellys," which debuted Feb. 26, and previously occupied by another struggling drama, "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," which is on hiatus. Sources indicated that the remaining four episodes of "Donnellys' " initial 13-episode order could air at a later date, while "Studio 60's" return date has yet to be determined.

Private Label has audio for CineMedia

Private Label Radio, a division of DMI Music & Media Solutions, has struck a deal to be the exclusive audio provider to National CineMedia, which operates North America's largest digital in-theater network. Under the agreement, which allows record labels to promote new releases, Private Label Radio will broadcast its exclusive CinemaSounds preshow audio program in more than 14,000 movie theater auditoriums as well as in many of the lobbies of NCM's 1,000 affiliated theaters.

Music labels enter mix for EA game

Electronic Arts and Harmonix, the MTV-owned developer behind the "Guitar Hero" franchise, are partnering for "Rock Band," which enables players to perform in virtual rock groups using licensed songs from leading music publishers and record labels. "Rock Band" ships in the fall for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, and a Nintendo Wii version also is said to be in development.

'Shut Up' among winners at AFI Dallas

Steen Agro's "Shut Up and Shoot Me" was named the winner of the $25,000 Target Filmmaker Award for best narrative feature, and Socheata Poeuv's "New Year Baby" received the $25,000 Target Filmmaker Award for best documentary at the AFI Dallas International Film Festival, which concluded Sunday. Rob Stewart's docu "Sharkwater" took the HDNET Award, presented to the best film shot in HD. Audience Awards went to Steven Sawalich's "Music Within" for narrative feature film and Logan Smalley's "Darius Goes West: The Roll of His Life" in the docu category.