CBS SOLIDIFIES HOLD ON THURSDAYS

CBS retained the title of Must-See Network Thursday night -- a title it nabbed from NBC -- as it won every half-hour period in primetime, according to Nielsen Research. In the 8:00 p.m. hour, CBS's Survivor: Vanuatu scored a 12.3 rating and an 18 share, representing 21 million viewers. NBC's Friends spinoff Joey was in second place with a 10.0/14, representing 13 million viewers, followed at 8:30 by Will & Grace with a 9.9/14, representing 12 million viewers. In its first week in the tough time period, Fox's The O.C. made a respectable showing with a 6.4/9 or 9 million viewers, to place third. ABC's Extreme Makeover settled for fourth place with a 4.9/7. At 9:00 p.m. CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation remained unbeatable with a 20.9/29. NBC's The Apprentice followed with a 12.6/18. At 10:00 CBS's Without a Trace, with a 15.3/23 again outscored NBC's veteran E.R., which earned a 13.5/21.

IS MALONE OUTFOXING MURDOCH?

Analysts are scratching their heads over Liberty Media chief John Malone's decision to increase his share of voting stock in Rupert Murdoch's News Corp to 17.3 percent. It was not clear whether Malone might be developing a strategy for a takeover of the media organization, as some analysts suggested. Other analysts surmised that Malone's move might herald a friendly merger between News Corp and Liberty. In April, Malone said that he would be interested in trading some of his equity interest in News Corp for assets that would fit in with his plans to expand his international cable operations -- giving as an example News Corp's DirecTV Latin American business. Malone is the largest individual shareholder in News Corp, aside from Murdoch and his family, which own 29 percent of the voting stock. Murdoch and Malone are known to be close friends, and Murdoch said on Thursday that he wasn't "losing any sleep over" Malone's transaction.

BUSH SECOND TERM WILL SEE TOUGHER CONTENT REGULATION, SAY ANALYSTS

In the wake of President Bush's reelection, the FCC is expected to crack down harder on on-air indecency, Billboard magazine reported today (Friday), citing unnamed FCC staffers. One staffer told the trade publication that he expects the "ramp up" on enforcement to occur following pressure from family activist groups. "We've been reluctant to do a lot more on this issue, but it's going to be tougher to ignore," the staffer said.

SINCLAIR SAYS CONTROVERSIAL KERRY FILM WAS WORTH MILLIONS

Sinclair Broadcasting claimed Thursday that its controversial special last week about John Kerry's anti-Vietnam War activism paid off in publicity that was "probably worth tens of millions of dollars." In a conference call with analysts, Sinclair chief David D. Smith remarked: "What's the promotional value of being on Good Morning America for five minutes? What's the promotional value of being on every cable news channel literally for a period of six to eight days and being the topic of conversation. What's the effect of being in the print media a multiple number of times?" Before Sinclair backed off on its original plan to air the anti-Kerry documentary Stolen Honor: Wounds that Never Heal, numerous advertisers, responding to protests from Kerry backers, pulled their spots from Sinclair stations. However, overall, Smith said, "We made more revenue during that show than we would across the entire platform normally."

NBC TO LAUNCH LOCAL WEATHER CHANNELS?

NBC is preparing to launch a weather channel in New York City on Nov. 17 that could eventually spawn other local weather channels across the country, published reports said today (Friday). The New York Post reported that a message announcing the debut of the channel has been posted on Time Warner Cable's channel 731. The newspaper observed that such a channel would be nothing new; however, it added, the others "don't have the backing of a multi-resource network like NBC."

REPORTER JUMPS THE GUN AT BUSH NEWS CONFERENCE

At President Bush's news conference on Thursday, Washington Times reporter Bill Sammon broke an erroneous report that Yasser Arafat had died after CBS correspondent John Roberts passed him his BlackBerry device on which the information was bulletined, the Washington Post reported today (Friday). After being recognized by the president, Sammon said, "I know you haven't had a chance to learn this, but it appears that Yasser Arafat has passed away." The president responded tersely, then, moments later, A.P moved a second bulletin saying that aides to Arafat were denying the story. Sammon told the Post that he had assumed that all of the networks had already flashed the story before he asked the question. When informed that they had not, he responded: "Great, so I broke it to the nation, too." Roberts told the newspaper that, since he had already asked a question before the initial bulletin moved, he passed his BlackBerry to Sammon. "I probably would have couched [the question] a lot more," he remarked. "I would have said, 'There are reports, and if the reports are true...."

MPAA TO SUE PIRATES

As expected, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) announced Thursday that it plans to take legal action against people trading movies via peer-to-peer networks on the Internet. "We believe if we don't act now, the consequences will be devastating for the film industry," MPAA chief Dan Glickman said during a news conference held at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. (College students, using high-speed Internet connections at their dorms, are thought to be the primary culprits in online movie trading.) At the news conference, the MPAA cited the supposed success of the music industry in thwarting piracy by filing more than 6,000 lawsuits against filesharers. However, some analysts question the tactic, pointing out that 2.5 million people per day continue to use the FastTrack.com network alone and that any attrition in record trading can be attributed to low-cost legitimate sites such as Apple's iTunes and the growth of new trading sites that provide greater anonymity. A spokesperson for one peer-to-peer site, who requested anonymity, told the publication E-Commerce Times, "The problem can be solved by partnering with providers of peer-to-peer applications. It's efficient, effective, and the way to go, especially with video, which requires a large amount of bandwidth. But relying on older technology is typical of the industry. If it had its way, movies would still be shown on 16mm film."

WAL-MART LATEST TO CUT DVD SUBSCRIPTION PRICES

Wal-Mart responded to the latest round in price cuts by Netflix and Blockbuster for online DVD rentals by undercutting both rivals. It said that it would immediately mark down its monthly subscription price to $17.36 from $18.76. Some analysts suggested that all three services may be engaged less in fighting one another than in taking preemptive action to block a similar service that Amazon.com is believed to be developing.

STAR WARS TRAILER DEBUTS

The first trailer for Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith is due to screen tonight (Friday) in thousands of theaters. It is also being made available for free downloading by subscribers to America Online. The preview, lasting one minute, 40 seconds, provides the first look of a red-eyed Anakin Skywalker as he surrenders to the Dark Side. There are also glimpses of a space battle that opens the movie and numerous light-saber clashes, including one between Anakin and his mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Movie PictureMOVIE REVIEWS: THE INCREDIBLES

If movie audiences react to The Incredibles the way critics have, Pixar's unbroken string of hits will remain intact. "They could've called it The Amazings. The Terrifics. or The Unbelievables and still not have been guilty of exaggeration," Joel Siegel remarked on ABC's Good Morning America. Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal elevates that praise, writing that "The Incredibles is the year's best movie so far, and by far; it's hard to see what might still come along to surpass it. Pixar's latest animated feature ... heaps delight on delight until you think you can't take any more without a pleasure break." But A.O. Scott in the New York Times argues that the movie ought to evoke more than hyperbole. "At last, a computer-animated family picture worth arguing with, and about!" he remarks at one point, then, after extolling the film for 90 percent of his review, concludes on a negative note by remarking: "The climax is loud and unimaginative -- a situation cribbed from Spy Kids 2 tricked out with noise and fireballs. This, of course, is what the public demands, and while it may help the movie succeed as large-scale entertainment, it does so at the expense of some of its daring idiosyncrasy. The lesson is sobering, and a little dispiriting. If every movie is required to be spectacular, then no movie really can be." Most of the reviews, however, present undiminished praise for the film. Chris Kaltenbach in the Baltimore Sun writes that director Brad Bird "channels so much creativity, heart and sense of wonder into The Incredibles, it's impossible not to like it, admire it and want to urge everyone to go see it, maybe two or three times." And Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times suggests that the film is likely to become a classic. "Some 60 years ago, the Walt Disney Co., Pixar's current partner, made Pinocchio, still considered a pinnacle of hand-drawn animation," Turan writes. "The Incredibles, a pinnacle of computer art, wants to be a real story in just the same way as that celebrated puppet wanted to be a real boy. The torch between art forms and between generations couldn't be passed in a more fitting, satisfying way."

Movie PictureMOVIE REVIEWS: ALFIE

Critics appear to have different conclusions about what the latest version of Bill Naughton's stageplay Alfie -- this one starring Jude Law in the Michael Caine role -- is all about. Wesley Morris in the Boston Globe calls the movie "a Vanity Fair pictorial ... a ditsy portrait of a happy-go-lucky bachelor. The movie has only flattering things to say and is driven by images of Law looking never less than scrumptious." Steven Rea in the Philadelphia Inquirer calls it a "lad-mag fantasy sprung to life." Eleanor Ringel Gillespie in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution remarks that "Law is splendid as a swaggering ladies' man whose ego serves as a shield against the harsher realities of life. His grin is devastating, and his eyes alone do more acting than Vin Diesel has done in his entire career." Sid Smith in the Chicago Tribune enthuses: "What a bright, entertaining, cleverly updated and utterly satisfying comedy the new Alfie turns out to be. Jude Law may have been rash in believing he could erase Caine's memory, but erase it he does, in one of the best exploitations so far of his edgy, cheeky, snake-like matinee seductiveness." On the other hand, Geoff Pevere in the Toronto Star clearly prefers Caine's original Alfie. As for the movie itself, Pevere writes: "It's lost its edge, focus and original purpose. ... Back in the mid-1960s, Alfie Elkins was one of the reasons a women's liberation movement was necessary. Today, he's just another bad date with a surplus of personal grooming products." But Roger Ebert in the Chicago-Sun Times suggests that there's little purpose in comparing the two films. "We don't go to see Alfie in order to make a sociological comparison of the two films," he writes. "Indeed, most of the audience members on opening night may not even know it's a remake. On its own terms, it's funny at times and finally sad and sweet."