RATINGS DESCEND INTO SUMMER PATTERN

Basketballs weren't the only thing dribbling on TV last week. So were the number of viewers. Despite relatively high numbers for the final two NBA championship games between the Antonio Spurs and the Detroit Pistons and the continued ratings success of Dancing With the Stars, most shows saw a huge drop in viewership. Katie Couric's interview with runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks placed among the top ten shows of the week, even though it garnered only a 6.4 rating and an 11 share. CBS won the week among overall viewers with an average 5.2 rating and a 10 share. ABC placed second with a 4.8/9. NBC came in third with 4.3/8, followed by Fox with a 3.2/6.

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

1. NBA Finals Game 7, ABC, 11.9/22; 2. Dancing With the Stars, ABC, 10.4/18; 3. NBA Finals Game 6, ABC, 8.8/15; 4. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 8.5/15; 5. Two and a Half Men, CBS, 7.4/12; 5. Without a Trace, CBS, 7.4/13; 7. CSI: Miami, CBS, 7.3/12; 8. Law and Order, NBC, 7.0/12; 9. Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS, 6.9/11; 10. Katie Couric Special: Runaway Bride, NBC, 6.4/11.

NO MORE PAX IN OUR TIME

PAX TV, the network with the smallest audience, will become the network with the smallest name when it changes it to i on Friday. The network said that by using the lower case "i," the network would reflect its new programming strategy as "independent television." NBC, which holds a 33 percent stake in the network, expressed indignation at the change, saying it had not been informed of it in advance. It added, "While we have no direct input regarding Paxson programming, we continue to disagree with the direction Paxson management is taking the company. ... Our concern is Paxson's strategy will erode our financial investment."

GAY CHANNEL DEBUTS -- WHERE ARE THE PROTESTS?

Conservative religious and family groups have remained surprisingly silent in advance of the debut of Viacom's gay channel Logo on Thursday. The channel is due to roll out in 10 million homes on basic cable in major markets serviced by Time Warner Cable, Adelphia, Cablevision and RCN. (Although a spokesperson for the channel said Tuesday that it was confident Comcast would also carry the channel at launch, Comcast issued a statement Tuesday denying that it would do so.) However, as today's (Wednesday) Los Angeles Times observed, "Logo faces one stumbling block most start-ups never have to contend with: to some, its very existence might prove offensive." In fact, the operator of the pay-TV channel Q, which also targets the gay population, has predicted that the backlash for Logo is coming. Frank Olsen, president and CEO of Q, told the Times that he deliberately made Q a subscription network rather than a basic cable channel in order to protect it from conservative pressure groups. "Sometimes you cannot push your agenda too far," Olsen told the newspaper. "I don't know how you can be a gay station and not offend people.... I don't know if the Christian right is willing to accept this."

NBC REPORTS ON BOGUS TERROR ALERT

The Department of Homeland Security raised the U.S. terror alert from yellow to orange in December 2003 after the CIA reported that technicians at its Directorate of Science and Technology had concluded that terrorists had embedded secret codes in the news crawl on Al-Jazeera's Arab-language channel, NBC News reported on Tuesday. It added that the technical staff had specifically identified target coordinates and listed flight numbers. At the time Homeland Security Chief Tom Ridge stated, "These credible sources suggest the possibility of attacks against the homeland around the holiday season and beyond." The decision to elevate the alert resulted in the cancellation of almost 30 international flights, the network said. In the end, the Office of Homeland Security determined that the CIA's conclusion had no basis in fact. In a statement, al-Jazeera said that it felt vindicated by the report after being repeatedly accused by the Bush administration of supporting terrorism. "We've always said these are politically motivated allegations," a spokesman for the Arab network said.

ABC-TV TO AIR TWO-HOUR LIVE8 SPECIAL

The Live8 concerts, aimed at raising awareness of poverty in Africa and urge increased humanitarian aid to the Third World, have been picked up by ABC-TV -- or, at any rate, portions of them have. The network said Tuesday that it plans to air a two-hour special featuring highlights from the shows being staged in Philadelphia, London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, Toronto, Tokyo and South Africa. Promoters have said that the concerts will be broadcast in about 160 countries and potentially reach 5.9 billion viewers, making it the biggest live entertainment event in history. Six of the eight concerts will be streamed simultaneously on AOL.

Movie PictureMOVIE REVIEWS: WAR OF THE WORLDS

Movie executives hoping that Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds, starring Tom Cruise, would pull the box office out of a record 18-week slump, are likely to read today's (Wednesday) reviews of the movie with some consternation. Although minor critics had unanimously praised it in early reviews posted on the Rotten Tomatoes website, several reviews by the major critics are about as cold as the Martian ice cap. Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times begins his review by remarking: "War of the Worlds is a big, clunky movie containing some sensational sights but lacking the zest and joyous energy we expect from Steven Spielberg." But Ebert's remarks seem delicate compared with those of the New York Post's Lou Lumenick, who particularly assails "the lamest ending yet to a Steven Spielberg movie," which he says is "so cheesy it was greeted with gales of laughter at a screening the other night -- and this disappointing War of the Worlds limps to a conclusion that mercifully insures there will not be a sequel." The scene in question takes place in a destroyed Boston, and Boston Globe critic Ty Burr says that the audience that he saw the movie with also burst into laughter. "Then the crowd fell silent -- more silent than I've experienced in a packed theater in many moons -- as the smoking ruins of our city came into focus. War of the Worlds, it turns out, is serious stuff, at times more so than it knows how to handle." Michael Sragow in the Baltimore Sun pins the blame on Cruise, comments that "the actor's relentless drive to be taken seriously pushes this escapist apocalypse past its tipping point, into irredeemable weightiness." A more charitable comment on the movie comes from A.O. Scott in the New York Times, who writes that while this may be a "lesser Spielberg movie," it nevertheless "succeeds in reminding us that while Mr. Spielberg doesn't always make great movies, he seems almost constitutionally incapable of bad moviemaking." Indeed several critics are dishing out high praise. "If you must see just one Steven Spielberg movie in a lifetime, see War of the Worlds," writes Liam Lacey in the Toronto Globe & Mail. Bruce Westbrook in the Houston Chronicle calls the movie "a towering accomplishment -- the most thrilling and action-packed Spielberg film in the director's broad legacy." Acknowledging "occasional flaws and misjudgments," Stephen Hunter in the Washington Post remarks that the film is nevertheless "a brilliantly told tale. It really rips along; it seizes you in its first seconds, holds you spellbound for two short hours and expels you, breathless and spent. It's your best summertime movie rush in many years." And then there's the review by Glenn Whipp in the Los Angeles Daily News, who suggests that War of the Worlds might well be the best and worst of Spielberg films. He writes: "Fantastic and banal, terrifying and occasionally dull, pure Spielberg and yet at times anonymous, War of the Worlds delivers multiple viewing experiences."

DVD SALES DECLINE INTO SINGLE-DIGIT GROWTH

For the first time since the DVD hit the market eight years ago, sales and rentals of the disks recorded single-digit growth for the 12-month period ending March 2005, according to a report presented at the Home Entertainment Summit in Los Angeles Tuesday. The report by Digital Entertainment Group said that DVD software sales grew by 9.8 percent with revenue up by $2.2 billion. "Lots of markets would dream of that kind of growth. It's a matter of putting it in perspective," Peter Staddon, executive vice president of marketing for 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, told today's (Wednesday) Los Angeles Daily News. The report found that sales of TV shows on DVD were stoking the market, with growth of 49.5 percent during the period.

BLOCKBUSTER CHIEF OUTLINES PLANS TO COMPETE AGAINST RIVALS

Blockbuster chief John Antioco has acknowledged that it is likely that the video rental industry will decline at an annual rate of 4 percent "for the foreseeable future." In an interview with Home Media Entertainment, Antioco remarked, "That's not a good scenario for anyone." Antioco also conceded that some of Blockbuster's competitors are offering consumers lower prices, especially companies like Wal-Mart, which use DVDs as loss-leaders. "We are not attempting to go head-to-head with the mass merchants; we're not trying to compete on price," he said. "Instead, we are working to differentiate ourselves as a complete source for home entertainment -- movies and games; rent, buy and trade; in-store or online. There is no one retailer today ... that offers the unique combination of ways to access movies that Blockbuster does. That is the competitive advantage we are seeking."

CANADA RECORDS HUGE DROP IN MOVIE ATTENDANCE

In the one-year period ending March 31, 2004, movie attendance in Canada dropped 4.6 percent from the previous fiscal year and profits plummeted 15.8 percent, according to a report by Statistics Canada Tuesday. Norman Verma, an analyst with the polling company, said it would be hasty to paint the decline as a trend, particularly inasmuch as at the time Canadians were frightened by the rise of the SARS epidemic and were refraining from going into any place where there might be large crowds.

MOVIES DOING BETTER ABROAD THAN AT HOME

Over the past 12 months, 32 movies have grossed more than $100 million overseas, an all-time record, Nielsen EDI reported Tuesday during Cinema Expo in Amsterdam. It noted that the number of movies crossing the $100-million mark overseas now exceeds the domestic figure.