NBC RINGS OUT OLYMPICS WITH A BANG
NBC's coverage of the Summer Olympics attracted 198 million unique viewers (as of Saturday), up from 185 million four years ago, when the Olympics were televised from Sydney, Nielsen Media Research said Sunday. (The closing ceremonies telecast Sunday night averaged an 11.4 rating and a 19 share, peaking in the 9:00 p.m. hour with a 14.3/22.) The 9 percent increase over the more than two weeks of coverage allowed the network in the end to sell spots that it had set aside for "make goods," in case it was unable to deliver the ratings it had guaranteed advertisers. With ratings significantly ahead of 2000's, the network is believed to have taken in $75 million, some 50 percent above the $50 million that it had forecast that it would earn. On the other hand, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. conceded Sunday that it fell somewhat short of its forecasts. Although it had guaranteed advertisers 649,000 viewers for the Games, it averaged 605,000, 10 percent below the CBC's average in 2000.

FALL BEGINS TODAY ON NBC

Hoping to ride the momentum of its Olympic Games success, NBC is launching its fall schedule tonight (Monday), some three weeks before the usual season launch. NBC Universal TV group president Randy Falco told today's New York Daily News: "For 17 days we will have had almost every American sampling our goods," referring to promos for the new shows that were aired during the Olympics. "Now we have to deliver." Some analysts are expressing skepticism about the prospects of NBC's fresh products, particularly the animated Father of the Pride, which has received some negative early reviews. Even Joey, the Friends spinoff, has been receiving a number of knocks, including one from Stacy Lynn Koerner of ad-buying firm Initiative, who told the Daily News, "We believe fans won't find the same experience they had with Friends." She described the characters on the Matt LeBlanc-starring show as "less likable." And, in an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Preston Beckman, Fox's program-planning chief, remarked, "With Friends gone at the top of the night, it's like their foundation is starting to crumble a little bit. ... With all due respect to Joey, it's not Friends."

REPUBLICANS EXPECTED TO LIFT FOX'S CONVENTION RATINGS

Fox News, which placed second to CNN during the Democratic National Convention, is expected to make a big comeback during this week's Republican National Convention. Fox spokesman Robert Zimmerman told CBS MarketWatch.com, "We are No. 1, and we are planning to win this." A CNN spokeswoman sounded less confident about its own ability to challenge Fox this week, saying only, "Our goal throughout the political season has been to provide viewers with the most complete and comprehensive coverage from the most experienced political team in the business." Surveys indicate that Republicans and conservatives favor Fox by a large majority over CNN.

BURGER KING BURNS OFFER TO PARIS HILTON

On the eve of the release of Paris Hilton's first CD, Paris Is Burning, she may not actually be burning, but she is probably at least char-broiled after word that Burger King may be backing out of an offer to feature her in its new advertising campaign. Advertising Age is reporting on its web site that franchisees had complained about The Simple Life's star being associated with the family fast-food chain. "Given the extreme baggage she carries, it was killed," an executive close to the company told the trade publication, referring presumably to the porn tape of her that has been circulating on the Internet. However, another Burger King executive said that the campaign was killed because of "timing issues."

LEWINSKY SAYS SHE GLADLY ACCEPTS CHECKS FROM JOURNALISTS

During a panel on "checkbook journalism" in Edinburgh, Scotland, Monica Lewinsky commented Saturday, "You'd be an idiot not to get the money. ... Advertisers, television stations, news anchors -- everyone else is making money. Your story is a commodity." Lewinsky, who reportedly was paid more than $700,000 to be interviewed by Britain's Channel 4 network, said that she had halted most TV interviews until the release of Bill Clinton's recent autobiography, in which the former president said that he had had an affair with Lewinsky "because I could." She then made a round of talk shows and news conferences to respond to Clinton's remarks in the book.

ABC SCREENS LOST PILOT ON WAIKIKI BEACH

A screening on Waikiki Beach of the 90-minute pilot episode of the new ABC series Lost drew more than ten thousand people Saturday night, Honolulu City Deputy Managing Director Malcolm Tom estimated Sunday. Fourteen members of the cast joined the crowd, signing autographs and posing for pictures. The series, filmed in Hawaii, concerns a group of passengers who survive a plane crash on a Pacific Island. Tom said that he expected a similar-sized crowd at Sunday night's premiere of another locally filmed series -- NBC's Hawaii.

FORMER BBC CHIEF DYKE BLISTERS BLAIR

The BBC and the Blair government have refused to respond to a blistering attack on them by former BBC Director General Greg Dyke in his memoirs, Inside Story, being serialized in the London Sunday Observer. Dyke charged that Prime Minister Tony Blair had attempted to bully the BBC into backing his support for the war in Iraq. He also called for the resignation of the BBC's governors who asked him to quit following the release of the Hutton report, which concluded that a BBC reporter had broadcast unfounded accusations against the Blair government and that editorial oversight had been defective. In his memoirs, Dyke charged that Blair "unleashed the dogs" at the BBC after the Hutton report was released. "History," he said, "will not be on Blair's side. It ... will show the whole saga is a great political scandal."

HERO CUTS WIDE SWATH AT BOX OFFICE
Hero, Zhang Yimou's martial-arts saga starring Jet Li, turned out to be nothing short of heroic as it vanquished all of its competition at the weekend box office to earn $17.8 million, by far the most ever taken in by a foreign-language film in its debut. The results startled analysts, who had forecast that the film would earn less than half that amount, and cheered the Walt Disney company, which has suffered from a dearth of hits this year. Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid also performed somewhat better than expected as it earned $13.2 million to place second, according to studio estimates. The rest of the marquee features failed to make much of a showing. The serial killer thriller Suspect Zero debuted in tenth place with $3.4 million, while Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2 didn't even make the top-ten list as it opened with $3.3 million. The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:
1. Hero, $17.8 million; 2. Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid, $13.2 million; 3. Without a Paddle, $8.7 million; 4. Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, $8.1 million; 5. Exorcist: The Beginning, $6.7 million; 6. Collateral, $6.3 million; 7. Open Water, $5 million; 8. Alien vs. Predator, $4.8 million; 9. The Bourne Supremacy, $4.6 million; 10. Suspect Zero, $3.4 million.

TICKET SALES FALL FOR SECOND YEAR

Ticket sales during summer 2004 dropped 1.8 percent from 2003, which, in turn, was down 2.6 percent from 2002, making this the first time since 1995, '96, and '97 that the box office has dropped during consecutive summers, the Los Angeles Times reported today (Monday), citing figures from box-office trackers Exhibitor Relations. Because of higher ticket prices, overall domestic box office revenue is expected to rise close to $3 billion, a 3.6 percent increase over last summer. Only 11 movies passed the $100-million mark this summer versus 17 a year ago and 14 in 2002.

REPORTERS SECRETLY TAPE MOVIES IN LONDON THEATERS

In an effort to expose security lapses at British movie theaters, the London Sunday Telegraph sent reporters to five of London's busiest theaters last week where they used camcorders to record the movies on the screens. The reporters claimed that they were never challenged as they taped I Robot, Shrek 2, The Stepford Wives, The Village, and Soul Plane. The manager of one theater later said she was not surprised that the reporters had been able to tape the movies. "To be honest, it is not really something we look out for," she told the newspaper. "In the two years that I have worked here we have never caught anyone but we don't consider it a priority. ... Short of scanning people when they come in like at airports or having ushers patrolling the aisles and ruining the film for everyone, I don't know what we can do."

MIRREN TO STAR AS QUEEN ELIZABETH

Director Stephen Frears (My Beautiful Laundrette, High Fidelity, Fail Safe, Dirty Pretty Things) disclosed Sunday that he is seeking backing for the production of a theatrical motion picture that will explore the relationship between Queen Elizabeth and the late Princess Diana. In an interview with Britain's Guardian newspaper, Frears also revealed that the acclaimed British actress Helen Mirren has agreed to play the role of the Queen.

SHREK 2 BESTED ONLY BY TITANIC AT AUSSIE BOX OFFICE

Shrek 2 has become only the second film in history to gross more than $50 million at the Australian box office, the Sydney Morning Herald reported Saturday, noting that the only film to earn more was 1999's Titanic ($57.6 million). According to the newspaper, almost 25 percent of the Australian population has purchased tickets to see the green ogre.