ABC'S LOST LOSES -- BIG TIME

A new episode of CBS's Criminal Minds drew nearly twice the audience of a rerun of ABC's Lost Wednesday night and helped lead the network to a win for the night. Criminal Minds scored a 10.0 rating and a 16 share in the 9:00 p.m. hour, while the Lost episode drew a 5.4/8. In the same hour, Fox's Trading Spouses moved into third place with a 4.2/7, beating the Martha Stewart edition of The Apprentice, which came in fourth with a 4.0/6. CBS's CSI: NY scored the night's highest rating, a 10.6/18 at 10:00 p.m.

NBC TO AIR FIRST PRIMETIME FOOTBALL STUDIO SHOW

NBC said Wednesday that it will precede its Sunday Night NFL Football telecasts next year with a studio show, Football Night in America, to be hosted by Bob Costas and produced by Emmy winners David Neal and Sam Flood. In a statement, NBC Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol called Football Night in America "network television's first primetime football studio show" and said it will provide viewers with "their first complete look at all the day's games and be the first to react to news and issues generated that day." The program will replace the Sunday-night edition of Dateline, which is expected to expand to two hours on Friday nights.

FOX NEWS REPORTERS ENCOURAGED TO RAISE RELIGIOUS ISSUES

Fox News Channel Vice President John Moody has encouraged network anchors and correspondents to raise religious issues during interviews and to suggest that conservatives who have expressed strong religious convictions are unfairly attacked by their liberal detractors, a former Fox News producer and writer said Wednesday. In a letter posted on Jim Romanesko's message board at the Poynter Institute, a Florida journalism school and think tank, Charlie Reina, who spent six years at the news channel, observed that Moody, who reportedly writes a daily "editorial note" to the channel's staff, provides anchors "a clear blueprint of what's expected of them." Reina described Moody as "a scholar and biographer of Pope John Paul II ... a devout Catholic, who seldom holds back on matters of the church." One of Moody's daily memos suggested a question of the day: "Can a man of deep Christian faith be appointed to a federal job, or will his views be equated with racism, intolerance and mean-spiritedness?" After a bombing at a Baghdad hotel housing reporters, Moody's memo advised them to "offer a prayer of thanks for their safety to whatever God you revere (and let the ACLU stick it where the sun don't shine)." Such views from on high, Reina concludes, are part of a confrontational strategy by the network that includes its current attack on "the war against Christmas" conducted by "a shameless management willing to use even Christmas for its own political ends."

SAUDI PRINCE SAYS HE HAS DIRECT LINE TO MURDOCH

Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has claimed that when he saw a screen banner reading "Muslim Riots" during a recent Fox News report from France, he "picked up the phone and called [Rupert] Murdoch -- [and told him], 'These are not Muslim riots; these are riots out of poverty. ... Within 30 minutes, the title was changed from 'Muslim Riots' to 'Civil Riots.'" The Saudi prince's remarks were reported Wednesday by the conservative WorldNetDaily website, which quoted an FNC spokeswoman as saying that while she was not aware of the prince's phone call, "We had several calls from people around the world and discovered the issue was a little more complicated than how it was being characterized." WorldNetDaily further claimed that the Saudi prince "owns shares of the Fox News Channel" and has accused the U.S. media "for being generally 'pro-Israel'" -- a charge taken up by Fox commentator Sean Hannity on Tuesday night. Hannity called the prince "a bad guy" and condemned Harvard and Georgetown universities for each accepting $20 million from him to fund their Islamic studies programs. Prince bin-Talal owns 5.46 percent of voting shares in News Corp, making him the fourth-largest voting shareholder in the parent company of Fox News Channel.

WEBCAST TO HIGHLIGHT STERN'S LAST DAY ON TERRESTRIAL RADIO

While Howard Stern's last day on terrestrial radio will no doubt receive some coverage in the mainstream media, Yahoo! indicated Wednesday that it plans to cover it the way conventional television might cover a historic event. In a statement, Yahoo! announced plans to "webcast the activities of the self-proclaimed King of All Media in and around New York City once he has left the radio station, beginning at 9:00 a.m. ET. Stern will be escorted on a Yahoo!-branded double-decker bus after his show and brought to an exclusive special event at the Hard Rock Cafe, all of which will be webcast live from Yahoo!." On Monday, Stern is due to begin broadcasting via the Sirius Satellite Radio network.

THE RETURN OF CBS RADIO

As part of Viacom's rebranding effort as its splits in two -- one half to retain the name Viacom; the other to be called CBS Inc. -- the radio unit, now called Infinity Broadcasting, will change its name to CBS Radio. It will continue to be headed by Joel Hollander. Infinity Radio was founded in 1981 by radio executive Mel Karmazin, who built it into a powerhouse of 185 stations before selling it to Viacom in 2000 and merging it with CBS's existing radio network and stations, as he became Viacom's president and COO. Infinity also distributed Howard Stern's morning program, its biggest money maker. Following Stern's $500-million deal to join Sirius Satellite Network, Karmazin, who had maintained a strained relationship with Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone, quit Viacom and eventually took over as CEO of Sirius.

WILL DISNEY BUY PIXAR?

Despite the expressed hopes that Disney CEO Robert Iger and Pixar Chairman Steve Jobs would reach an agreement before the end of the year, talks are dragging on longer than expected, and a deal may not be forthcoming until next year -- if one materializes at all, the Wall Street Journal reported today (Thursday), citing people familiar with the talks. Besides discussing what fees and/or percentages Disney ought to pay Pixar for distributing its movies, the two sides are also discussing the possibility of Disney buying Pixar outright and, in effect making it Disney's animated division, the Journal said. Credit Suisse First Boston analyst William Drewry, who favors such a plan, said that under it, Jobs could become a member of the Disney board and a significant shareholder. But Kevin Landis, chief investment officer at Firsthand Funds in San Jose, CA, warned that "in buying [Pixar], there's the risk you destroy what makes it special." Other analysts also pointed out that Pixar shares are up 28 percent this year and that the company's market value may be prohibitively high for Disney.

PARAMOUNT WOOING "HOTTEST PRODUCER IN TV"

Showing no let-up in his efforts to restore the prominence of Paramount in the movie and TV industries, Chairman Brad Grey has begun wooing J.J. Abrams, who, as the producer of ABC's Lost and Alias, is regarded as "the hottest young producer in television," the Los Angeles Times reported today (Thursday), citing three sources close to the talks. Landing Abrams, the Times observed, would represent "a coup for Grey -- and a major loss for Disney," which owns ABC.

COMPUTER SCIENTIST SAYS HE CAN PREDICT HITS

Oklahoma State University information scientist Ramesh Sharda has reportedly developed a computer system that can tell studios whether a movie will be a box-office hit even before a foot of film has been shot. According to Britain's New Scientist magazine, Sharda's "artificial neural network" analyzes seven key parameters: the "star value" of the cast; the movie's MPAA rating; its release date and competition; its genre; use of special effects; whether it is a sequel; and the number of screens on which it will be shown. Applying that data to 834 movies released between 1998 and 2002, Sharda claimed that the system precisely predicted the films' earnings 37 percent of the time and within a close range 75 percent of the time.

LUCAS ENDORSES SALE OF LEGO ATTACK CRUISER

An 8-foot model of a Star Wars Rebel Attack Cruiser made entirely of Lego blocks was being offered on eBay Wednesday, complete with a certificate of authenticity signed by George Lucas, the Lego Group said. Proceeds from the sale will benefit Habitat for Humanity's hurricane relief effort. According to the posting, the model includes "functional elements and secret treasures." Bidding, which opened at $2,500 on Wednesday, had risen to $6,100 by mid-morning today (Thursday), with nine more days left to go in the bidding.

GLICKMAN VOWS TO CLEAR BOOTLEG DISKS OFF ASIAN SHELVES

In a speech in Beijing Wednesday, MPAA chief Dan Glickman announced the launch of Operation Big Broom, aimed at sweeping bootleg videos off vendors tables in Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand. Glickman said that the MPAA was redoubling its efforts during the holiday season and that it will be working closely with local law-enforcement authorities on the crack-down. Glickman said that last year, the MPAA's efforts resulted in the confiscation of more than 49 million pirated disks.

Cinemark Movie Club