A BRIGHTER SHADE OF GREY

ABC continued to fortify its hold on first place on Sunday nights by scoring a 15.1 rating and a 23 share for Desperate Housewives, then following that up with a 12.5/20 for Grey's Anatomy at 10:00 p.m., the highest rating yet for the new hit series. No other programs even came close. CBS led in the 7:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. hours with 60 Minutes (8.2/16) and Cold Case (8.8/15), but they only helped deliver a distant second place finish for the network, which averaged a 7.0/12 for the night versus a 9.9/16 for ABC. NBC was hardly in the race at all, averaging a 4.4/7, barely beating a 3.5/6 for Fox.

NEWS FROM A NIGHTCLUB?

ABC's news division will be given the first shot at coming up with programming at 11:35 p.m., the time period now occupied by Nightline, to effectively compete with Jay Leno and David Letterman, Anne Sweeney, president of Disney-ABC Television Group, has told the New York Times. The newspaper said that in recent weeks ABC News has been testing several program formats at its streetfront studios in Times Square, one of which featured a nightclub setting complete with "faux fog" that presumably was intended to represent cigarette smoke. However, ABC News chief David Westin has reportedly ruled out each of the proposed substitute programs and plans to continue to air a somewhat revamped Nightline with a new host once Ted Koppel departs in December.

TV RATINGS ARE MEANINGLESS, CLAIMS PTC STUDY

Brent Bozell's Parents Television Council, which has single-handedly generated most of the indecency complaints filed with the FCC since the Janet Jackson episode, claimed Sunday that the television networks often apply the wrong ratings to their programs. Parents can use the ratings, along with V-chip technology incorporated into virtually all TV sets since 1999, to block certain TV shows from being viewed by their kids. PTC said it reviewed 528 hours of 638 network shows between November 2003 and May 2004. Bozell said Sunday that the study confirmed that "the TV ratings are meaningless." He charged that shows with "foul language, violence and inappropriate sexual dialogue or situations do not use the appropriate content descriptors."

WILLIAMS CLAIMS HOUSEWIVES IS MORE LURID THAN HE IS

Robin Williams continues to be rankled by ABC's decision to censor his planned performance of a satirical song at February's Oscar telecast. In an interview with TV Guide, Williams said, "This is the same network that has Desperate Housewives, [a show] where a woman has an affair with a high-school kid. ... They're worried about [me singing lines like] 'Pinocchio gets his nose done' or 'Casper's in the Ku Klux Klan'? What they wanted to censor had nothing to do with words, but everything to do with corporate logos." Williams also told the magazine that he didn't watch NBC's recent made-for-TV movie, Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of Mork & Mindy. "It's weird," he said "If they're going to make a bad movie about your life, then [you should] wait for the Cartoon Network [version]."

QUEER EYE IS AN EYE-OPENER FOR STUDENTS, STUDY SHOW

University of Minnesota researchers have concluded that TV shows like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Will & Grace, and Six Feet Under have had the effect of reducing prejudice against homosexuals among viewers. Some 150 students participated in the study, conducted by communications professors Edward Schiappa and Dean Hewes and graduate student Peter Gregg. "If they find gay characters attractive, physically or socially, this can contribute to them reducing their levels of prejudice," Schiappa told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "We're not talking about changing bigots into saints here. We're talking about an overall scale of 10 to 20 percent of subjects whose attitudes changed." However, several religious groups maintain that such programs are designed to promote a gay agenda. Tom Prichard, president of the Minnesota Family Council, told the newspaper that if they "are trying to condone the lifestyle, that's what I would object to."

TOM SNYDER DIAGNOSED WITH LEUKEMIA

Former late-night TV host Tom Snyder has disclosed that he is battling leukemia. In a message posted on his website, www.colortini.com. Snyder, who last hosted Tomorrow on NBC and before that was a TV anchor in Los Angeles and New York, said that he had been diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. "My doctors assure me this is nothing to worry about, and I have to accept that, I guess. They say this kind of leukemia is not fatal, that people can live with it for thirty years. Notice, they don't say people will live thirty years. But they 'can' live up to thirty years. Considering I will be sixty-nine years old next month I ain't looking for thirty years, but fifteen more would be nice!"

YOUNG JAPANESE ENTREPRENEUR WINS PLACE AMONG MEDIA ELITE

The battle between Japan's Fuji television and upstart Internet company Livedoor over control of radio's Nippon Broadcasting System ended today (Monday) with Fuji agreeing to buy Livedoor's 50-percent stake in Nippon and buy a 12.75 percent stake in Livedoor itself. Under the agreement, Fuji, Livedoor, and NBS would also form a loose alliance. "I'm sorry to have caused a stir over the past two months," 32-year-old Livedoor President Takafumi Horie told a news conference in Tokyo. The young entrepreneur's brash assault on the fortress of Japanese broadcasting had been the subject of front-page news reports in Japan since it was launched. "I'm excited because we've agreed to conclude a tie-up aimed at linking broadcasting and communications, which has been my goal for the past decade," he said today. Fuji-TV President Koichi Murakami declined to discuss possible areas of cooperation with Livedoor except to say, "We'd like to make the most of Livedoor's Internet expertise and experience."

MGM GOES OUT NOT WITH A ROAR BUT A SCREAM

It may not have been the sort of film that the ghosts of MGM founders Marcus Loew, Samuel Goldwyn and Louis B. Mayer would approve of as MGM's last wide release as an independent studio, but The Amityville Horror has proved to be a big hit -- grossing $23.3 million in its first weekend, some $6 million more than it cost to make. Last week's winner, Paramount's Sahara, starring Matthew McConaughey, dropped a modest 27 percent, placing second with $13.1 million. Fox's Fever Pitch, the romantic comedy starring Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore, slipped to third place with $8.8 million. Miramax/Dimension's Sin City dropped to fourth place with $6.7 million. Overall, this year's box office continued to trail last year's for the eighth consecutive week, with ticket sales for the top 12 movies estimated at $73.9 million, down 13 percent from a year ago. In an interview with the Associated Press, Exhibitor Relations chief Paul Dergarabedian remarked: ""This is a major slump. ... I think the industry is holding its collective breath for the turnaround. What is going to be the movie that reverses this down trend? Thankfully, summer looks really good." The summer movie season officially starts in two weeks.

The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:

1. The Amityville Horror, $23.3 million; 2. Sahara, $13.1 million; 3. Fever Pitch, $8.8 million; 4. Sin City, $6.7 million; 5. Guess Who, $4.9 million; 6. Beauty Shop, $3.8 million; 7. Robots, $3.55 million; 8. Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous, $2.9 million; 9. The Pacifier, $2.4 million; 10. The Upside of Anger, $1.9 million.

CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL TO PROBE THEATER CLEARANCES

The California Attorney General's office is looking into charges that the big movie chains have maneuvered to prevent independently operated single-screen theaters and multiplexes from being able to offer top studio productions, the Los Angeles Times reported today (Monday). The newspaper said that the chains now demand exclusive screening rights within a certain radius around their theaters for potential blockbusters, leaving the independents with cast-offs. A spokesman for Attorney General Bill Lockyer confirmed that an antitrust investigation is underway aimed at looking into the question of whether clearance deals represent "a reasonable business decision, or is it purposeful conduct to eliminate competition?"

HEFTY COMPENSATION FOR VIACOM BIGGIES

Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone and Co-presidents Tom Freston and Les Moonves received total compensation last year of about $52-56 million, according to an SEC filing. "The compensation is beyond breathtaking, and it dwarfs what their competitors are earning," compensation specialist Brian Foley told today's (Monday) New York Times. "If any one of the men had gotten that payment as chief executive, it would still have been a story, but the fact that all three got it is amazing."

SONY PICTURES TO CONVERT FILMS TO DIGITAL

Sony Pictures Entertainment is expected to announce at the National Association of Broadcasters convention today that it will convert its entire library of movies and television shows to the digital format. Ascent Media Group of Santa Monica will be performing the transfers using Hewlett-Packard technology. The fact that HP computers rather than those from Sony itself will be used is certain to raise eyebrows in the industry. Today's (Monday) Los Angeles Times quoted Sony Pictures exec Jeff Hargleroad as saying that the move is designed to help the studio respond faster to the demand for digital versions of its movies and TV shows. The Ascent system, which will store the product on high-capacity hard drives will also hold descriptions of scenes, making searching easier than in the past. Ascent exec Vikki Pachera said that for example, a filmmaker will be able to search the library for scenes with the Eiffel Tower in them.

KOREA LEAVES ITS MARK ON WORLD CINEMA

Korea has emerged as a leading producer of motion pictures for the world market, with 194 movies exported to 62 countries in 2004, according to the Korean Film Council. The government body said that the films earned $58.3 million in overseas markets, with Japan accounting for $40 million of that amount. The Bangkok Post observed today (Monday) that in the past year, "it has become the norm that at least one new Korean film opens in Thai theaters almost every weekend." The newspaper went on to comment: "In a stunning achievement, Korean cinema of recent years has managed to reconcile the classic dilemma of the movie industry: it has offered both commercially successful titles ... as well as heavier stuff that has become film festival faves."