A SLAM DUNK FOR CBS

CBS's ratings lead over its rivals for its coverage of the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship Tuesday night was as wide as the game itself was close. The network scored a 10.3 rating and a 15 share for the pregame show from 9:00 p.m. to 9:15 p.m., then averaged a 16.0/23 between 9:15 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. CBS's total audience was larger than Fox and NBC's, which placed second and third respectively, combined. The numbers were also far higher than last year's final game, which averaged an 11.2/17.

PETER JENNINGS HAS LUNG CANCER

ABC News announced this morning that Peter Jennings, anchor of its World News Tonight, has been diagnosed with lung cancer. In a statement, ABC News President David Westin said that Jennings, who will begin chemotherapy for the disease next week, will continue to anchor the news "to the extent he can do so comfortably" and that Charles Gibson and Elizabeth Vargas will likely fill in for him when he cannot. He added that Jennings is "already bringing to this new challenge the courage and strength we've seen so often in his reporting from the field and in anchoring ABC News. I know that all of us will give him every bit of support that he needs and asks for." Jennings himself said that the diagnosis had come as "quite a surprise."

ABC TO RELAUNCH ABC NEWS NOW

ABC News, which tested its Internet video operation ABC News Now during the election season last year but ended it in January, plans to relaunch it in July. "We need to have news available to our audience whenever they want it, however they want it," ABC News President David Westin said. Today's (Tuesday) Los Angeles Times reported that ABC News is also in talks with cable and satellite operators to carry ABC News Now, which, in addition, will air on the network's over-the-air digital outlets. The newspaper quoted Robert Thompson, director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University, as saying, "The disadvantage is that this is already a really crowded market" for broadcast news.

FIFTEEN-SECOND SPOTS INCREASING NETWORK "CLUTTER"

Fifteen-second network commercials, which became commonplace in the 1980s but waned in the 1990s when advertisers concluded that they contributed to commercial break "clutter," have been making a comeback. A study by Media IQ reported by MediaPost on Monday shows that 15-second spots now account for more than 36 percent of all commercials carried overall by the major broadcast networks and 51 percent during the daytime period. Brian Cauley of Media IQ told the trade publication that in the food category, 15-second spots account for 63 percent of network commercials. There's "no doubt pod clutter is a growing problem," said Cauley. "Networks are culpable with their expanding commercialization and increasing use of network promos. But little is said of the growing reliance by advertisers on the 15-second copy length. Each year, the numbers of :15s increase, and :30s decrease."

WWE WRESTLING TO RETURN TO USA

Hoping that professional wrestling will inject its programming with the equivalent of a dose of steroids, USA Network will bring back WWE RAW to its lineup this fall. The channel had been the home of WWE wrestling from 1993 to 2000, when it moved to Spike TV, then known as TNN. "This will help us get to No.1 status," USA chief Bonnie Hammer told today's (Tuesday) New York Daily News. NBC Universal, which owns the USA cable net, also landed rights to air RAW on its Spanish Telemundo network over the next three years.

JAG IS CANCELED AGAIN -- AFTER NINE YEARS

JAG, the series that was famously canceled by NBC after its first season in 1996, only to be picked up by CBS and develop into one of the network's most popular series for the ensuing nine years, has been canceled again. CBS and Paramount Network Television issued a joint statement Monday saying that the final episode will air on April 29. "We've had an amazing run, particularly for a series that was once canceled," creator/executive producer Donald P. Bellisario said in the statement. CBS Chairman Les Moonves credited JAG for becoming "a very influential part of the network's turnaround."

BOX OFFICE MORE SINFUL THAN EXPECTED

Not only did Miramax/Dimension's Sin City outperform predictions by several box office analysts over the weekend, it also outperformed studio estimates. Final figures released by Exhibitor Relations Monday showed that the film earned $29.1 million, $1 million more than had been estimated. On the other hand, MGM's Beauty Shop earned $12.8 million, compared with Sunday's $13.5 million estimate. Sony's Guess Who was less than $100,000 behind Beauty Shop, to place third The overall box office was down versus last year for the sixth consecutive week.

The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):

1. Sin City, Miramax/Dimension, $29,120,273, (New); 2. Beauty Shop, MGM, $12,801,465, ($16,647,604 -- From Wednesday); 3. Guess Who, Sony, $12,716,557, 2 Wks. ($41,040,531); 4. Robots, 20th Century Fox, $9,825,372, 4 Wks. ($104,420,872); 5. Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous, Warner Bros., $8,134,453, 2 Wks, 31,127,190); 6. The Pacifier, Disney, $5,800,206, 5 Wks. ($96,117,665); 7. The Ring Two, DreamWorks, $5,689,130, 3 Wks. ($68,046,127); 8. The Upside of Anger, New Line, $4,025,000, 4 Wks. ($8,603,771); 9. Hitch, Sony, $2,906,879, 8 Wks. ($171,266,743); 10. Ice Princess, Disney, $2,749,671, 3 Wks. ($18,753,334).

BROSNAN MAY RETURN AS 007 AFTER ALL

Pierce Brosnan, who reportedly had been ousted from the role of James Bond by MGM and EON, the company that produces the Bond movies, may return to the role after all, according to reports appearing in British tabloids today (Tuesday). Many quoted a posting on the Dark Horizons website from someone claiming to be an MGM insider, who wrote: "The buzz is that, ultimately, the filmmakers would like Pierce Brosnan back [for the upcoming Casino Royale]. All the stuff we heard about Brosnan being out is just a ploy from both camps. The negotiations between Brosnan and EON came to an end because, in the last year, things were up in the air, thanks to all the organizational changes taking place," (a reference to Sony's acquisition of MGM). "Sony are not in a gambling mood," the message continued. "They could lose more with an unknown actor, or with an experienced but unpopular actor. They're well aware that you just can't place any actor in this role." The report comes only days after it was widely reported that Clive Owen was being courted to play Bond, something that Owen himself has denied. In the latest development, the Scottish website FerryAve.com reported today that Scottish soap star Gavin Carlys had landed the Bond role. "I suppose I just got lucky," Carlys was quoted as saying. "I'm happy I was chosen for the role. I test-screened my bollocks off."

PORN PRODUCERS SUE PIRATES

Piracy has hit the porn industry even harder than the predominant movie studios, the New York Post's "Page Six" column observed today (Tuesday), noting that 1 Night in Paris, the top-selling sex tape starring Paris Hilton and Rick Salomon, has been particularly hard hit. On Monday, the newspaper reported, a lawyer for World Wide Red Light District, which owns the rights to the video, sued a Woodland Hills man who, he said, had been making and selling counterfeit DVDs of the porn movie. "We're about to file a number of other lawsuits," Piccionelli told the Post, "and we are offering rewards to people who identify copyright infringers."

WAS MADONNA CUT FROM A FILM SHE WAS NEVER IN?

British news reports said today (Tuesday) that director Guy Ritchie had removed a cameo performance by his wife Madonna from his latest film Revolver. Most of the reports cited a report by the World Entertainment News Network, which quoted an unnamed source as saying, "Perhaps Guy did not want Madonna's kiss of death on his latest movie, or perhaps he just decided the scene wasn't quite right, but either way Madonna does not make the final cut." However, Ritchie told Britain's Empire magazine in February that reports that he had given Madonna a cameo role in the movie were "completely made up." He added facetiously, "That's rare, isn't it?"

FRANCE GIVES CHINESE A TASTE OF LE CINÉMA

A "French Film Festival" is currently making a tour of China, presenting eight features (with Chinese subtitles) to audiences in five cities, the Xinhua news agency reported today (Tuesday). The festival has already been presented in Beijing and Shanghai and is due to arrive in Chengdu, in Western China, next Wednesday (April 13). Tickets have been priced low -- less than $5.00 for a single admission, or about $22 for all eight films.