HILTON TOWERS

The finale of The Simple Life 2, starring Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, produced strong ratings for Fox among 18-49-year-olds, as it ranked first in that key demo last week with a 4.6 rating and a 13 share, but the show came in at No. 12 among overall households as CBS again dominated the week in total audience. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation retained its usual top-rated position with a 9.6/16. Its spin-off, CSI: Miami placed second with an 8.6/14 (tied with its lead-in show, Two and a Half Men). In all, CBS again captured eight of the top ten positions, while NBC took the other two. Nevertheless, ratings for all the broadcast networks were typically abysmal for the summer rerun season, with CBS winning the week with a puny 5.9/11, followed by NBC with a 4.5/8. ABC placed third with a 3.6/7, followed close behind by Fox, which recorded a 3.3/6. (Viewers are expected to return to their sets beginning Friday, with the start of the Summer Olympics.) Meanwhile on cable, the finale of USA's The 4400, about 4,400 alien abductees who return to earth, attracted an out-of-this-world 6.1 million viewers -- more than any other show on cable.

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

1. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 9.6/16; 2. CSI: Miami, CBS, 8.6/14; 2. (Tie) Two and a Half Men, CBS, 8.6/14; 4. Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS, 8.0/13; 5. Without a Trace, CBS, 7.7/14; 6. 60 Minutes, CBS, 7.2/15; 7. Cold Case, CBS, 7.0/13; 7. (Tie) Law and Order: SVU, NBC, 7.0/12; 9. Amazing Race: 5, CBS, 6.6/11; 10. Law and Order: Criminal Intent, NBC, 6.4/11.

INSURANCE FIRM GETS NBC INSURANCE AGAINST OLYMPIC TERRORISM

Noting that "we are in the business of protection," the Allstate Insurance Co. said Tuesday that it had a clause inserted in its deal with NBC calling for it to be able to negotiate a cash refund should the summer Olympics be canceled or interrupted because of an emergency or crisis. Today's (Wednesday) Wall Street Journal reported that at least two other Olympics advertisers, General Motors and Home Depot, also have similar contingency clauses in their contracts. An NBC exec said that it was "rare" for the network to agree to such contract language, but told the newspaper: "These are customers, so we are always going to work something out to make them feel comfortable with advertising during these big events."

ECHOSTAR CHIEF PREDICTS CABLE CUSTOMERS WILL SWITCH TO SATELLITE

On a day when shares in satellite TV operator Echostar rose 8.4 percent, the head of the company, Charlie Ergen, predicted that cable customers will be switching to satellite in droves. "A year ago you could place a bet on cable and feel good about it," Ergen said during a conference call with analysts. "Today, you place a bet and your hand is shaking." On Monday, Echostar reported that its Dish Network service had signed up an additional 340,000 subscribers in the last quarter. With satellite service being offered at significantly lower rates than cable service, some analysts forecast that cable operators will soon be cutting their rates in order to compete. Today's (Wednesday) Daily Variety quoted Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Craig Moffett as saying "People are terrified of a price war and using it as an excuse to sell [cable] stocks."

AL-JAZEERA TO LAUNCH ENGLISH-LANGUAGE CHANNEL

Al-Jazeera, the controversial Arab news channel, said Tuesday that it plans to launch an English-language news channel as well as a channel that will air documentaries and one that will air children's programs. The plans were disclosed in an Op-Ed column in Britain's Guardian Newspaper by Maher Abdallah, head of the channel's international relations unit, in which he commented on the decision by the "U.S. appointed Iraqi prime minister Iyad Allawi" to shut down the channel's offices in Baghdad. Maher noted that "our offices have been closed in many an Arab capital before," but noted that since 2001, "we have had more harassment from US officials than from their Arab counterparts." Maher speculated that the shutdown came in reaction to al-Jazeera's report concerning comments by radical Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in which he described Allawi as an "American tail." Maher also suggested a "more sinister motive" -- that the regime was attempting to impose a news blackout in the rebellious city of Najaf while al-Sadr and his followers are overpowered.

JERRY SPRINGER STAGE SHOW HITS ROUGH TIMES

Although initially it garnered rave reviews, played to packed houses, and seemed destined for Broadway, the London West End production of Jerry Springer: The Opera has recently been struggling to attract audiences and may not recover production costs, the New York Post reported today (Wednesday). The newspaper said that as a result Allan McKeown, the co-producer of the London show, who was due to put up half the $11-13 million for the Broadway production, has bailed out of the U.S. version. One unnamed theater producer told the Post that it was unlikely the show would ever arrive on Broadway. "It's damaged goods now," he said. "It's an open secret that it's not doing well in London. I don't think there is any chance you could get back $13 million in New York."

THE WONDERFUL QUARTER OF DISNEY

Despite a 61-percent drop in operating income from its movie division, the Walt Disney Co. said on Tuesday that its net income rose 20 percent in the third quarter to $604 million, versus $502 million during the comparable period a year ago. Gross revenue was up 17 percent to $7.47 billion from $6.37 billion. The company attributed its improved performance to higher sales of consumer products, rising attendance at its theme parks, and increased revenue from its broadcast and cable networks. But Disney dissidents Roy E. Disney and Stanley P. Gold maintained that the company was actually "riding the wave of DVD sales from last year's theatrical film successes." In a statement, they observed: "Considering the dismal box office performance this year and the lack of obvious growth throughout the company, 2005 will not be a growth year and, in fact, the party may be over."

321 SOFTWARE TOSSES IN THE TOWEL

321 Software, whose software for copying DVDs won PC Magazine's award as the best product of 2003 but was denounced as a tool for piracy by the Motion Picture Association of America, reached a final settlement with the MPAA on Tuesday. Already in its death throes following an unsuccessful battle against the MPAA that resulted in its bankruptcy, 321 signed an agreement with the studios to cease selling its software anywhere in the world and to make "a substantial financial payment." The MPAA said that it would use the settlement funds for its antipiracy education program. In announcing the settlement, outgoing MPAA chief Jack Valenti said, "321 Studios built its business on the flawed premise that it could profit from violating the motion picture studios' copyrights." Software developers and PC publications who maintained that the 321 software had legitimate uses viewed the settlement otherwise. "Movie Studios Extract Pound of Flesh from 321," blared a headline in Britain's Computer Buyer magazine. The technology news service IDG News called the settlement a "postmortem deal," and observed that one of 321's final corporate acts would now be "paying off the companies that drove it to extinction."

JIMINY GLICK TO CLOSE TORONTO FILM FESTIVAL

Jiminy Glick in Lalawood, starring Martin Short as the clueless talk-show host whom he created for television, will officially close the 2004 Toronto Film Festival on Sept. 18, festival organizers announced Tuesday. The festival itself figures in the movie's plot.

TARANTINO: SPLITTING KILL BILL HURT ITS OSCAR CHANCES

Quentin Tarantino speculated Tuesday that the decision to split Kill Bill into two movies may have hindered its Oscar potential. He told the Associated Press that "if the film had been one big, giant epic," is star, Uma Thurman, "would have gotten a best-actress nomination, for sure."

MOVIE REVIEWS: PRINCESS DIARIES 2

In sizing up Disney's The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, which hits the screens today (Wednesday), Roger Ebert remarks that he had the choice of saying what he really thought about it or play it safe by writing that young girls will love it. He decides on the former, writing that he has spent a long time "evolving into the kind of person who could not possibly like a movie like this, and I like to think the effort was not in vain." Other critics take the opposite course. Michael Booth in the Denver Post cops out: "I'll take my daughter's lead on this one and say Princess Diaries 2: The Royal Engagement is gentle fun." Elizabeth Weitzman in the New York Daily News comments that the film "ought to charm its loyal subjects, or at least their less demanding little sisters." Megan Lehmann in the New York Post comments that it "has just enough fairy dust to charm its target audience." And Kevin Thomas in the Los Angeles Times raves that "it's Hollywood hokum at its most glamorous and effective." But John Anderson's review in Newsday comes with these warnings: "One, that small children will be bored. Two, that they will be bored. Three: that they will be bored. Four: Zzzzzzzzzzz... ." Manohla Dargis in the New York Times observes that director Garry Marshal shoots the film as he would a TV sitcom. "And as in those sitcoms shot in front of live audiences, Mr. Marshall's actors often play to the camera and wait for laughs, which can be a serious problem when the screenplay is as deeply unfunny as this one."