November 16, 2005

Regis, Clark square off in New Year’s telecast

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - 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 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's "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 network 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

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

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