OLN CHANNEL ICES HOCKEY DEAL
The Comcast-owned Outdoor Life Network will carry NHL games for the next two seasons under a deal that will pay the hockey league $65 million this season and $70 million next season. ESPN, which had the right as the league's previous cable partner to match any third-party deal, decided to pass, citing poor ratings and the recent lockout that wiped out all of the past season. In addition, ESPN President George Bodenheimer said in a statement, "No financial model even remotely supports the contract terms offered. We wish the NHL all the best." NBC has signed a separate deal with the league for over-the-air broadcasts. However, it pays no rights fee -- only a share of profits from advertising. Meanwhile ABC and ESPN announced that they will carry all 64 games of the World Cup between June 9 and July 9 next year live and in high definition. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

FOX TROTS TO WIN WITH DANCE

Summer viewers clearly like their dancing shows, and while Fox's So You Think You Can Dance has not drawn the huge ratings as ABC's earlier Dancing with the Stars, it was nevertheless strong enough Wednesday night to win both the 8:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. hours, give Fox a win for the night, and boost the network's overall audience 64 percent above the same week a year ago. The first hour of Dance registered a 4.5 rating and an 8 share, while the second hour drew a 5.9/10. Meanwhile, NBC's attempt to revive the critically acclaimed comedy The Office by presenting four episodes back-to-back backfired, as the mini-marathon produced an average 2.8/5 and dropped the network to fourth place.

CBS NEWS INTERNS OFFER IDEAS FOR EVENING NEWS REVAMP

About 100 college students working as summer interns at CBS News were asked to submit strategies for attracting a younger audience to the nightly newscast, the New York Observer reported Wednesday. According to the weekly, the young panel criticized the current chats between anchor Bob Schieffer and network correspondents, urged additional foreign news coverage, and dismissed one CBS executive's suggestion that the news be made available as a podcast. One intern told the Observer: "Podcasting was a big deal to them. That's because podcasting just came out on ABC and NBC. ... That's just a tiny little thing to us. That sort of showed us that they would rather hear what they were already thinking." However, CBS exec Linda Mason said that the project was intended as an instructional assignment. "This was for them to learn. It was not for us. Frankly, we weren't looking for ideas for the evening news. We have a whole group of people working on that right now."

CBS EVENING NEWS: THE DEMO

CBS has begun taping "prototypes" for a new network evening newscast, experimenting with a variety of material and multiple formats, the New York Times reported today (Thursday), citing three unnamed CBS News employees. Although the demos were anchored by CBS White House correspondent John Roberts, CBS President Andrew Heyward told the newspaper that Roberts's participation should not be interpreted as a sign that he will succeed Dan Rather as permanent anchor of the news program. "This is not a test of who should be on the evening news," said Heyward. "It's a test of how best to present a broadcast that plays a distinctive and important role in today's crowded news landscape."

COSTAS PREDICTS SHORT-LIVED ROLE AS KING'S SUBSTITUTE

In his first week as Larry King's "permanent substitute," Bob Costas has seen ratings for the CNN hour plunge by more than half. On Tuesday night, he and guest Conan O'Brien may have particularly alienated King's audience by lampooning the veteran talk-show host's image. At one point Costas remarked to O'Brien: "What are the chances I actually make a return? I think Nancy Grace is in the bullpen right now. I was to do the only week. This is only Tuesday. You come on, basically deconstruct the host's body, the regular host's body. ..." O'Brien interrupted: "You're gone and I'm gone. I'll never be invited back on a legitimate Larry King show."

FOX NEWS DOESN'T PRODUCE MORE REPUBLICAN VOTERS, SAYS STUDY

A study by three economists has concluded that the Fox News Channel probably has no effect whatsoever on voter behavior. The study by Stefano DellaVigna of the University of California, Berkeley, and Ethan Kaplan of the Institute for International Economic Studies at Stockholm University, while accepting the view that Fox News brings a conservative bias to its political coverage, pointed out that by 2000 towns where Fox News was offered increased their vote share for the Republican presidential candidate by 6 percentage points from 1996 while those where FNC was not offered increased theirs by an even larger 7 percentage points. They came up with a similar finding for Congressional and senatorial elections. The study's authors concluded that viewers tend to "filter" biased media reports.

BBC AND ITV HIT BY LOWEST RATINGS EVER

The principal channels of the BBC and its commercial cousin ITV -- labeled BBC1 and ITV1 -- saw their ratings plunge to their lowest level in history last week as independent Channel 4 scored its highest ratings ever thanks to the season finale of the British version of Big Brother, the third "test" in the annual Ashes cricket match between England and Australia, and the debut of the American series Lost. On Friday night, Channel 4's telecast of the cricket match combined with the Big Brother episode drew 20.4 percent of the British audience. The channel had averaged a 9.8 percent share.

ICAHN MEETS PARSONS, BUT DOESN'T SEE EYE TO EYE

At a kind of 50-minute summit meeting on Wednesday, Time Warner chief Richard Parsons told corporate raider Carl Icahn that the company is "committed to moving as aggressively as is appropriate on its current course to create and deliver long-term value for all of the company's shareholders," Time Warner spokesman Ed Adler said following the meeting. Icahn said last week that he wants the company to spin off its cable business and buy back $20 billion of stock. Icahn has not commented on the meeting, but the London Financial Times, citing unidentified sources,reported today (Thursday) that after it was over, he embarked on an effort to muster support for his demands from major Time Warner shareholders, including the biggest, Gordon Crawford of Capital Research and Management. The FT pointed out that Crawford was the leader of the backlash against former AOL head Steve Case, who who was eventually forced to step down as Time Warner chairman.

BROSNAN: "ONE PHONE CALL" ENDED HIS CAREER AS 007

Pierce Brosnan says that he had been asked to play James Bond in a fifth film before the producers abruptly terminated negotiations. "One phone call, that's all it took," Brosnan said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. The actor acknowledged that his movie career never took off until he was cast as Bond in 1995 at the age of 42. Nevertheless, he said, "It never felt real to me. I never felt I had complete ownership over Bond. Because you'd have these stupid one-liners which I loathed and I always felt phony doing them." He said that when he was fired as Bond, it felt like a "titanic jolt to the system," but that afterwards he thought, "I can do anything I want to do now. I'm not beholden to them or anyone. I'm not shackled by some contracted image."

CALIFORNIA TO CONSIDER TAX INCENTIVES FOR FILMMAKERS

A hearing has tentatively been set for Monday in Sacramento on a bill that would provide significant tax incentives for producers to remain in California to shoot films, rather than produce them in other states, the New York Times reported today (Thursday). The bill is sponsored by Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez, who told the newspaper, "When you start losing middle-class jobs to other states, you've got to at some point figure out how to make an investment to keep those jobs in California." The bill, according to the Times, is crafted in such a way as to affect only the kinds of films that would likely be produced in other states. However, it faces opposition from some tax-payer groups, including the California Budget Project, whose executive director, Jean Ross, told the Times: "I think the question is, in a year when we have a state budget that cut $3 billion out of public education, is this the best use of scarce public resources?"

LACHLAN MURDOCH OPENS NEW COMPANY IN AUSTRALIA

Less than a month after resigning his posts at his father's News Corp, Lachlan Murdoch has registered a new company, Illyria Pty. Ltd., in Australia, listing News Corp's address as its principal place of business. The eldest son of Rupert Murdoch gave no indication what the company plans to do. At the time of his resignation, he signed an agreement not to compete with any News Corp business for two years.

HEAD OF PIXAR'S STORY DEPARTMENT KILLED IN AUTO CRASH

In a blow to Pixar Animation, whose success has been attributed to its story-telling skill as much as its computer creativity, Joe Ranft, head of Pixar's story department, was killed in an auto accident on Wednesday. The driver of the car also died when it plunged off Highway 1 in Mendocino County into the ocean. A third man escaped through the car's sun roof. Before joining Pixar, Ranft, 45, worked at Disney, co-writing Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King.