COMCAST MAY AIR NEW DVD'S
Comcast is proposing a new pay-per-view strategy to studios under which they would offer movies for on-demand viewing at the same time they are released on DVD, then deliver a copy of the DVD to the viewer a few days later, according to Video Business magazine. According to the publication, Comcast plans to offer the movies to their cable subscribers for a fee of about $17 as much as six weeks in advance of their appearance on regular pay-per-view. In an interview with Video Business, Russ Crupnick, an analyst with NPD Group, described the strategy as "instant rental with ownership."

CBS AND ABC IN TIGHT RACE DURING WEEK 3

The third week of the new season remained a two-way race between CBS and ABC, with CBS winning in overall household numbers and ABC winning among the key 18-49-year-old demographic group. CBS also boasted the No. 1 program in households (CSI: Crime Scene Investigation) while ABC claimed the No. 1 program among younger viewers (Desperate Housewives). Ironically, ABC saw the audience for its new hit series Commander in Chief increase in its second week -- the only new show to see such a rise this season -- but, unlike its other big hits, including Lost, Desperate Housewives, and Grey's Anatomy, the show primarily attracted older viewers. NBC's efforts to stage a comeback appeared largely ineffective, with only My Name Is Earl landing in the top twenty (tied at 19). The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:
1. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 17.8/27; 2. Desperate Housewives, ABC, 15.9/23; 3. Without a Trace, CBS, 13.7/22; 4. Lost, ABC, 13.1/20; 5. CSI: Miami, CBS, 12.3/19; 6. Grey's Anatomy, ABC, 11.9/19; 7. Commander in Chief, ABC, 11.1/16; 7. Law and Order: SVU, NBC, 11.1/18; 9. NCIS, CBS, 10.8/17; 9. Survivor: Guatemala, CBS, 10.8/17.

COMMANDER IN CHIEF KEEPS COMMANDING LEAD

The third week of ABC's Commander in Chief saw the show retaining most of its audience as it remained the top-rated show Tuesday night. The new drama posted a 10.6/16, down somewhat from last week's 11.1/16. But it was well ahead of second-place CBS, which drew a 7.1/10 with The Amazing Race, and Fox's coverage of the American League Championship Series between the Los Angeles Angels and the Chicago White Sox, which scored a 6.6/10. NBC placed fourth in the hour with the sitcoms My Name Is Earl and The Office. Ratings were down drastically for the ALCS telecast, which averaged a 7.5/11 for the night versus a 12.4/18 for the comparable game between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees a year ago.

ZUCKER "EMASCULATED THE NEWS DIVISION," SAYS NBC REPORTER

Angered by deteriorating ratings for the Today show, NBC Universal Television Group President Jeff Zucker informed NBC News President Neal Shapiro last May that his contract would not be renewed in 2006, then leaked a report to the New York Times that Shapiro had quit, according to a report due to appear in the upcoming issue of Radar magazine, excerpts of which were circulated on various blogs on Tuesday. The report, written by former Chicago Tribune TV writer John Cook, quotes an unnamed NBC News correspondent as saying that Zucker, who had not selected a successor to Shapiro, left the news division "essentially leaderless." The source added that Zucker's action "emasculated the news division. This was Jeff losing his temper and leaking news of Neal's demise before it happened." The article also quotes a "well-placed source" as saying that NBC Universal CEO Bob Wright "was alarmed by Zucker's clumsy handling of the news division transition."

MARTHA: RATINGS? SHMATINGS

Appearing on Larry King's CNN interview show Tuesday night, Martha Stewart dodged a question from King about ratings for her Apprentice television show as deftly as she dodged questions about allegations of insider trading when they originally were posed. When King asked her why the show wasn't "doing better," Stewart replied: "Well, I'm not an expert on ratings at all or timing of programs. I am very pleased with The Apprentice. I'm pleased with the way it turned out. I think that any company like ours that can have a promotional vehicle like The Apprentice: Martha Stewart behind it or in front of it is phenomenal."

DIVERSITY STILL ELUDES TV NETS, SAYS STUDY

Although African-Americans account for 30 percent of the U.S. population, they account for only 10 percent of employed television writers. And while women account for 50 percent of the population, they account for 27 percent of the TV writers. Those findings were released Tuesday in a Writers Guild of America, West study, "Catching Up With a Changing America?," which surveyed the guild's 3,015 employed television writers. UCLA sociology professor Darnell Hunt, the report's author and director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA, told today's Los Angeles Times that the study showed that "Women and minorities have made very minimal gains." Todd Boyd, a professor at the USC School of Cinema-Television, told the newspaper that the guild's findings mirrored a "particular culture and until that culture is changed, you're not going to see any drastic changes in overall representation."

CRAIG TOPS BOND'S LIST

Two London newspapers, the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror, are reporting that the producers of the James Bond movies have selected the relatively unknown actor Daniel Craig, 37, to play the superspy in the 21st Bond film, Casino Royale. The Mail said that producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson plan to announce their selection of Craig at a news conference this week. The reports seemed to throw cold water on rumors that spread recently that Pierce Brosnan was once again being considered to play Bond and that he had in fact emerged as the front-runner in the casting race. The apparent selection of Craig came only days after his name appeared in tabloid articles linking him with Sienna Miller, the former fiancée of Jude Law, who according to the articles, had an affair with Craig in revenge for Law's alleged affair with a babysitter, Daisy Wright.

HAND-DRAWN CINDERELLA A HUGE HIT AGAIN

Seeming to raise new questions about Disney's decision to abandon hand-drawn animation, the studio has seen its 55-year-old Cinderella rise to the top of the DVD charts, selling 3.2 million copies in its first week. The two-disc "Platinum Series" DVD, released by Disney's Buena Vista Home Video, generated more than $64 million in sales, according to Home Media Retailing magazine, which quoted industry insiders as predicting that it will become one of the year's top-ten sellers. Revenue from rentals was not specified.

ICAHN SCORES TIME WARNER MANAGEMENT FOR OUSTING TURNER, LIEBERFARB

In his blistering letter to Time Warner shareholders attacking the company's management and board, reported on Tuesday, corporate raider Carl Icahn was particularly critical of the company's decision to isolate Ted Turner and fire Warren Lieberfarb as president of Warner Home Video in 2002. (Lieberfarb, considered the "father of DVD," has sued the company claiming wrongful termination.) Icahn quoted Sanford Bernstein analyst Tom Wolzien as saying at the time, "These twin departures signify a fundamental shift to the bland by a company that now has no place for genius or contrary points of view."

SCHWARZENEGGER TO MOONLIGHT AS ACTOR?

Apparently following in the footsteps of another muscular politician, Minnesota's Jesse Ventura, who moonlighted as an announcer for the shortlived XFL football league while serving as governor in 2001, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is reportedly ready to make a return to the screen in sequels to the Terminator and True Lies, the website Moviehole.net reported Tuesday, citing Eliza Dushku, who played Schwarzenegger's daughter in True Lies 2, and John Rosengrant, a special effects expert at Stan Winston Studios, who, the website said, is engaged in preliminary work on the Terminator feature.

FLORIDA COLUMNIST CASTIGATES JEB BUSH FOR DISNEY TIE-IN

A Florida newspaper columnist has condemned the decision by Gov. Jeb Bush to distribute copies of C.S. Lewis's Christian allegory The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to schools in the state as part of its "Just Read, Florida!" program. Frank Cerabino of the Palm Beach Post observes that the books are due to be distributed in December at the same time as the release of the Disney movie of the same name, "which just so happens to be co-produced by Walden Media, which just so happens to be owned by a Colorado billionaire, who through his family and foundation has donated nearly $100,000 to the Republican party." Noting that Lewis had acknowledged that he intended his book to symbolize the story of Christ, Cerabino remarks, "What's the state of Florida doing in this cabal of Christian commerce? Oh yeah, that's right. We're opening up the public schools to some backdoor catechism lessons in the guise of getting kids to read."