November 17, 2005

Regis, Clark square off New Year’s Eve

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Popular TV personality Regis
Philbin, who hosted ABC's annual New Year's Eve special in
place of an ailing Dick Clark last year, will ring in 2006 as
anchor of a rival telecast on the Fox network.

The Fox deal, announced on Wednesday, sets up a New Year's
Eve battle between Philbin of the syndicated morning show "Live
with Regis and Kelly" and Clark, the "American Bandstand"
veteran who is returning to co-host the 34th edition of his
"New Year's Rockin' Eve" with Ryan Seacrest.

Both shows will be broadcast live from Times Square in

Clark, 75, sidelined from last year's ABC show by a stroke,
will be back this year with Seacrest, best known as host of Fox
hit talent show "American Idol."

ABC said in August that it had signed Seacrest, 30, to a
multiyear deal that essentially makes him heir to the show that
Clark has presided over since 1972. The annual special is
capped by the midnight descent of a giant, illuminated ball
over Times Square.

Seacrest hosted a New Year's Eve show on Fox last year but
drew only a fraction of ABC's audience.

With Clark's show in transition, Fox executives saw an
opening to claim a stronger ratings foothold on a holiday event
that ABC has dominated since Clark eclipsed Guy Lombardo's
long-running New Year's countdown on CBS in the 1970s.

"When Dick leaves, it will leave a hole in New Year's Eve,
and I'm hoping we can fill it with Regis," Fox executive vice
president Mike Darnell told show business newspaper Daily
Variety. "You need a sort of iconic name, and he's a perfect

Philbin, 74, proved to be a major ratings draw as host of
the game show mega-hit "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" for
several seasons on ABC.

"I'm very happy to be asked to welcome in the New Year on
TV. It's a once-a-year, one-of-a-kind show," he said in a Fox
statement. The Philbin-hosted "New Year's Eve Live" on Fox will
combine musical performances with celebrity interviews, a
retrospective on 2005's most memorable pop culture moments and
its own countdown to 2006.

But Nielsen's numbers show Clark remains the king of New
Year's Eve on U.S. television. Nearly 21 million viewers
watched the countdown on his last "Rockin' Eve" broadcast in
2003-04, while Philbin drew 18.2 million pinch-hitting for
Clark last year. Seacrest averaged just over 6 million viewers
on Fox last year.