RATINGS: BASEBALL LOSES, BRATS WIN

Last week's Nielsen ratings produced a slew of unexpected results. On the negative side, Fox's coverage of Major League Baseball's All-Star game produced the lowest numbers ever recorded for the annual event. Just 12.3 million viewers tuned in versus 29.5 million for the top-rated 1983 contest. Another disappointment were the piddling numbers for CBS's Rock Star: INXS, a reality series in which amateur singers compete to land a job as the new front-man for the INXS band. Yet another flop was ABC's effort to combine news with entertainment in a five-part documentary miniseries about online dating, titled Hooking Up. Worse yet were the results for ABC's The Scholar, a reality series that drew just 3.5 million viewers.On the positive side, ABC's Brat Camp, a series that follows a group of troubled teenagers through the rigors of a wilderness camp, turned out to be a surprise hit, placing fourth on the weekly Nielsen ratings list.

The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:

1. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 8.8/15; 2. Without a Trace, CBS, 8.4/15; 3. MLB All-Star Game, Fox, 8.1/14; 4. Brat Camp, ABC, 6.8/12; 5. Law and Order: SVU, NBC, 6.6/11; 6. NCIS, CBS, 6.3/11; 7. All-Star Pregame, Fox, 6.2/12; 7. Law and Order, NBC, 6.2/11; 9. 60 Minutes, CBS, 6.0/12; 10. Big Brother 6- (Tuesday), CBS, 5.6/9; 10. Law and Order: Criminal Intent, NBC, 5.6/9.

NEW RULES FOR PRODUCT PLACEMENTS?

With the amount of money spent on product placements on TV growing 46.4 percent in 2004 over 2003, an FCC commissioner has suggested that such ads could face renewed regulatory scrutiny. In an interview with the Associated Press, Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, a Democrat appointed by President Bush, commented: "Viewers shouldn't be unwitting victims of a stealth campaign to manipulate their minds. ... If they know that somebody's trying to persuade them about something, they can take that into account." Broadcasters contend that the law merely requires them to identify the advertisers, but some groups have complained that such notices usually speed by in the closing credits and generally go unnoticed by viewers.

NINE CRIME DRAMAS IS NOT TOO MUCH, SAYS CBS EXEC

With CBS adding two new crime dramas to its schedule next season -- Jerry Bruckheimer's Close to Home and the Mandy Patinkin-Thomas Gibson starrer Criminal Minds -- reporters participating in the semiannual TV critics tour in Los Angeles on Tuesday peppered CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler with questions about the network's heavy load of crime shows due to air next season. (The two new ones are being added to the seven the network already airs.) Tassler denies that the network is overly saturated with crime dramas. "Our viewers haven't told us that," she said, maintaining that they "have struck a chord with our audiences," as ratings for them have borne out. "We will rely on our viewers to tell us when they've had enough [of crime dramas]," she remarked. Tassler indicated that she herself was a big fan of Joan of Arcadia and that she was disappointed that the drama failed to draw a sizable audience. "Joan was a sad loss for us," she said.

BOCHCO DEFENDS IRAQ WAR DRAMA SERIES

Steven Bochco has defended his upcoming dramatic series Over There about soldiers fighting in Iraq against critics who say that the war is too raw an issue to be exploited as TV entertainment. In an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, Bochco responded: "My answer is that every day, thousands of crimes in America - assaults, rapes, molestations, murders - create legions of victims, and nobody would ever say, 'Gee, you can't do NYPD Blue... or any other cop show about an ongoing urban war." Bochco, who indicated that the drama will not have a political slant, also said that creating the series for cable proved to be a "wonderful and liberating" experience for him. "To have that freedom in terms of language and violence makes a big difference in the cumulative impact of the show," he said.

AD SALES FOR WINTER OLYMPICS ARE COLD FOR NBC

A general slowdown in ad sales combined with high price tags have resulted in slow-going for NBC sales execs trying to land advertisers for next year's Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy, the online MediaDailyNews reported Tuesday. Larry Novenstern of the ad agency Deutsch Inc. pointed out that NBC is also attempting to package its cable coverage of the Olympics with its broadcast coverage, thereby placing an even higher price on the ad inventory. "It's not like in the old days when there was just [the NBC broadcast network] to buy," Novenstern remarked. According to the report, NBC has sold only 75 percent of its goal of $800 million. The network declined to comment on the report, saying only that sales for the Olympics are on pace.

FORMER CNN STAR HEMMER JUMPS TO FOX NEWS

Former CNN American Morning co-host Bill Hemmer, who was replaced on the program last month after it failed to attract ratings that came anywhere near those of Fox News Channel, has joined the channel that beat him. In an interview with today's (Wednesday) Washington Post, Hemmer said that he was "thrilled" to be joining Fox, which he called "the cable news leader." Further thumbing his nose at his previous employer -- he had worked for CNN for nearly a decade -- Hemmer said: ""I've watched Fox News grow for nine solid years. I find it to be an aggressive network. I find people show up every day to win, and that appeals to me . . . For several years, Fox has been the New York Yankees, and that's a tough lineup to crack. I just feel fortunate to be given the opportunity to play on that team."

NIKE FOUNDER MAKES RUN AT FEATURE CARTOONS

Nike founder Phil Knight has changed the name of the commercial animation company he now controls -- it's best known for its California Raisins ads -- and plans to produce a feature-length animated film, USA Today reports. Knight's company, now called Laika, is moving ahead with a $70 million feature, Caroline, that will combine computer and stop-motion animation and could be in theaters by 2007, the newspaper said. He faces formidable competition from DreamWorks Animation, Pixar, Blue Sky and the major studios, which all have computer-animated features in the works. But interim CEO Bob Harold told USA Today: "When Nike was small, Phil didn't want to be Adidas. He wanted to beat Adidas. He knows who the competition is."

IGER MEETS WITH JOBS OF PIXAR, JOBS OF APPLE

Steve Jobs may be switching hats in his meetings with incoming Disney CEO Robert Iger. Jobs, who is chairman of both Pixar and Apple Computer, has reportedly engaged in preliminary talks with Iger about working out a deal that would continue Pixar's successful partnership with Disney. In addition, reports spread on the Internet Tuesday that he may also be meeting with Iger to discuss ways of licensing Disney movies and ABC television shows for a video iPod that Apple is said to be developing. Jobs is said to be particularly interested in bringing classic Disney cartoons to the iPod. The Wall Street Journal said Tuesday that Apple is also seeking to license video content to sell online at its iTunes store.

AMERICANS EMBRACING MOVIES-ON-THE-GO

Autobytel Inc.'s Automotive Information Center is reporting that 22 new automobile models are featuring DVD as standard features. Moreover, recent months have seen a proliferation of portable devices for playing movies, not the least of which is Sony's PlayStation Portable -- a game machine that is increasingly finding enthusiasts who regard it as an all-in-one mobile entertainment device. In an interview with USA Today, Benjamin Feingold, president of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, remarked: "The movie business needs to migrate with lifestyles, and increasingly our lifestyles are mobile."

ACTOR CAUGHT ON TAPE BOASTING OF TIES TO INDIAN MAFIA

Prosecutors in Mumbai (Bombay), India are expected to step up their investigation of the alleged inroads organized crime has made into the Bollywood film industry after newspapers and television reported on telephone conversations in which Salman Khan, a leading Bollywood actor, boasted of his ties to the underworld and threatened actress Aishwariya Rai, his former girlfriend. "The underworld keeps tabs on you," he is heard to remark at one point on the tape. Khan has claimed that the tape of the conversations was doctored. Rai has not commented on them. Reporting on the scandal, the London Financial Times commented that it was unlikely that the tapes would disrupt the film business in Mumbai. Pooja Shetty, a director of Adlabs Films, told the newspaper: "In the past investors have asked us about the industry's flirtation with the underworld but at the end of the day the only response is to show them your balance sheet."

CAMCORD A MOVIE; LOSE YOUR CAMERA

Security staffs in Tokyo theaters are confiscating the video cameras of anyone caught trying to use them to record a movie on the screen, the Tokyo daily Yomiuri Shimbun reported today (Wednesday). Moreover, the newspaper reported, notices warning patrons that filming inside a theater is banned are being posted in Tokyo theaters, and the major Japanese film distributors have cooperated to produce an animated short film that is being screened throughout the country showing a girl shedding tears that turn into skulls, as an announcer says, "Films are stolen, and so are impressive moments. Precious things are being tainted."