WHILE BARBECUES SIZZLE, RATINGS FIZZLE
Three programs produced fireworks over the Fourth of July week; everything else fizzled. The three programs were the finale of ABC's Dancing With the Stars, which attracted 22.4 million viewers and was by far the most-watched show of the week; another was the season opener of Big Brother 6, which drew 8.5 million viewers; and the third was the season premiere of USA Network's Monk, which, with 6.4 million viewers, drew bigger audiences than many network shows last week. Otherwise, the week produced the smallest audiences of the year. Indeed NBC drew one of its lowest ratings ever with a two-hour showcase of Battlestar Galactica set to air on Sci Fi channel, an NBC corporate sibling. It turned out to be the lowest-rated show of the week on any of the major networks, drawing just 2.3 million viewers. The evening newscasts finished with virtually unchanged ratings, with NBC leading with 8.7 million viewers, ABC following with 8.2 million, and CBS trailing with 6.8 million. All of the networks experienced a spike in their ratings on Thursday following the terrorist attacks in London. The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:
1. Dancing With the Stars, ABC, 14.2/23; 2. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 9.7/16; 3. Without a Trace, CBS, 8.3/14; 4. Dancing with the Stars (Repeat), ABC, 7.0/13; 5. CSI: NY, CBS, 6.7/11; 6. 60 Minutes, CBS, 6.5/13; 7. Law and Order: SVU, NBC, 6.3/11; 8. Law and Order: Criminal Intent, NBC, 5.9/10; 9. CBS Sunday Movie: Open House, CBS, 5.7/10; 10. Big Brother 6 (Thursday), CBS, 5.5/10; 10. Law and Order (Wednesday), NBC, 5.5/9.

CBS LAUNCHING "CABLE PYPASS" OPERATION ON THE WEB

CBS News, which has been stymied in its efforts to become a player in cable news -- talks to link up with CNN have been going on sporadically for years -- has apparently concluded that the Internet is where people will be turning to watch breaking news. It announced what it called a "cable bypass" operation Tuesday, saying that it is overhauling its CBSNews.com website and turning it into what will, in effect, become a free, 24-hour news channel that will permit users to build their own newscasts from a list of stories that appeal to them -- some of them from the nightly newscasts, others from the network's news magazines, 60 Minutes and 48 Hours, and still others produced exclusively for the website. The stories will be listed in "The EyeBox," a kind of digital news jukebox spotlighted on the CBSNews.com's homepage. At a news conference Tuesday, CBS News President Andrew Heyward said, "We have an opportunity ... to create a whole new genre of broadband journalism." He suggested that the website will also mesh with the network's revamped CBS Evening News. "We are redefining the mission of CBS News and the people who work here to meet the demands of a 24-hour digital universe," Heyward said.

AOL TO BOOST CONCERT WEBCASTS

Hot off the heels of its success with webcasting the Live 8 concerts, which reportedly drew five million viewers, AOL, together with XM Satellite Radio and concert promoters Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), announced the formation of Network Live, which plans to deliver live rock concerts and comedy performances over the Internet, satellite radio, and cell phones. In a statement Network Live CEO Kevin Wall, who oversaw the AOL Live 8 webcasts, said: "We're creating the network of the future, being able to access entertainment digital content anytime, anywhere on any particular device."

BBC HEAD OUTRAGED BY FOX NEWS COMMENTS

BBC Television News director Roger Mosey has lashed out at comments made on Fox News Channel and on the Fox News website accusing the BBC of portraying Arab terrorists sympathetically. In a statement today (Wednesday) Mosey referred to an unnamed Fox "contributor" who said after the London bombings that "the BBC almost operates as a foreign registered agent of Hezbollah and some of the other jihadist groups." Mosey also referred to an opinion piece posted on the Fox website titled, "How Jane Fonda and the BBC put you in danger." Said Mosey: "I am writing this in a building which was bombed by Irish terrorists. My colleagues and I are living in a city recovering from the wounds inflicted last week. If I may leave our customary impartiality aside for a moment, the comments made on Fox News are beneath contempt."

FRIEDMAN FREED FROM PARAMOUNT

Paramount Vice Chairman and COO Rob Friedman, who often appeared to be the official voice of the studio, resigned Tuesday, the latest casualty in the studio's wrenching restructuring since Brad Grey took over as chairman in February. Friedman joined Paramount in 1997. The studio issued a perfunctory statement announcing Friedman's departure, saying that he was leaving to "pursue other interests." In an interview with today's (Wednesday) Los Angeles Daily News, media analyst Harold Vogel of Vogel Capital Management commented, "Normally when a new regime comes in, they want their own people. ... It's what happens on Wall Street and in Hollywood." The newspaper pointed out the irony that since former Paramount chief Sherry Lansing left, the studio has scored two of its biggest hits in recent years, both developed under her regime: War of the Worlds and The Longest Yard.

ILLINOIS OFFERS MORE TAX INCENTIVES TO HOLLYWOOD

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is expected to appear on the set of Universal's The Break-Up, starring Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston, on Monday to sign a bill extending tax breaks for movie producers and offering them even greater tax breaks for hiring minorities to work on the set. The law provides a tax credit of 25 percent of he first $25,000 in wages paid to Illinois workers and 35 percent for hiring workers from high unemployment areas. Reporting on the bill, today's (Wednesday) Chicago Tribune observed that since Blagojevich became governor in 2003, he "has wooed Hollywood like a teenage underdog in a melodrama trying to get the prettiest girl in school to notice him." The governor has met with considerable success, the newspaper observed, pointing out that when he took office the movie industry contributed $25 million to the state's economy. However, partly because of the tax incentives, that figure rose to $76.5 million in 2004 and $68 million during the first six months of 2005. In a statement on Tuesday, the governor said, "The film tax credit legislation has propelled Illinois back into the bright lights, once again making our state one of the premier locations in the world for major productions."

SONY TO INCREASE MOVIE RELEASES IN UMD FORMAT IN JAPAN

With PlayStation Portable devices still selling briskly, Sony said today (Wednesday) that it will launch a pilot rental program in Japan that will initially offer 17 titles in PSP's Universal Media Disc (UMD) format. The titles will be available only at the GEO video rental chain and will not be sold, Sony said. The movies include: Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid; Charlie's Angels; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Hellboy; Invisible; Kung-Fu Hustle; Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels; Once Upon a Time in Mexico; Resident Evil: Apocalypse; Spider-Man 2; SWAT; The Punisher; Thirteen Ghosts; and You Got Served.

NETFLIX AND TIVO GETTING CLOSER TO MOVIE DOWNLOADS?

Several blogs were buzzing Tuesday after the DVD rental service Netflix included -- apparently accidentally -- a section in some users' account information webpage giving them the opportunity to sign up for a "Netflix Player" that would allow them to download movies over the Internet. The websites speculated that the player is actually a TiVo device, inasmuch as Netflix and TiVo had signed an agreement last September aimed at delivering movies to subscribers via automatic downloads instead of by mail. The website BetaNews also pointed out that Netflix is advertising an opening for a director of product management, whose responsibilities include "developing a new Internet delivery model for movies."

UCLA TO ESTABLISH GAY FILM ARCHIVE

UCLA is teaming up with Outfest, the gay and lesbian film festival, to create an archive of gay movies. It will be housed at the UCLA Film and Television Archive and include films dating back to the 1970s. Many of the films will be restored to their original quality using funds from the UCLA Center for Community Partnerships. "Having a centralized location for the study of these films at UCLA will foster the critical and historical study of LGBT [lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender] struggles at a time when they have assumed an ever-larger role in American culture," said UCLA Film and Television Archive Director Timothy Kittleson.

ANOTHER TRAGEDY AT WALT DISNEY WORLD

For the second time in a month Disney World has temporarily shut down one of its thrill rides after a child became critically ill after riding on it. Sixteen-year-old Leanne Deacon first said that she felt lightheaded after riding the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, then fainted and was rushed to a nearby hospital, where her condition was listed as critical. Last month, a four-year-old boy lost consciousness on the Mission: Space ride and later died. Results from an autopsy have not yet been released. Earlier this month the Wall Street Journal observed that while Disney's thrill rides may be considered tame by the standards of most other theme parks, "Disney's family-friendly reputation puts it under a harsher spotlight when things go wrong." Shares in Disney traded unchanged at $25.41 Tuesday.

MALIBU LAWMAKERS REACH COMPROMISE OVER FILMING

The Malibu City Council appeared to reach a compromise between feuding members of the seaside movie colony Monday night. On the one hand it voted to bar filming in the city in the early-morning, prohibit the use of helicopters for filming, and limit the number of days a production company could remain at one location to 16. On the other hand, it permitted filming past 10:00 p.m. for the first time and allowed filming at a location to extend to 20 days if neighbors unanimously approve. "If the neighbors are OK, we're OK," Mayor Andy Stern told the Los Angeles Times. "We were struggling to get to a point where a person could use their house for filming a reasonable number of days a year without negatively impacting their neighbors." (The Times reported that some residents charge the studios as much as $10,000 a day for the use of their homes.) The rules came in response to complaints from some Malibu residents who alleged that they were being disturbed and inconvenienced by the growing number of productions there. A final vote on the bill is scheduled for July 25th