IT'S ALL GRAVY, NO TURKEY FOR CBS

Without a single turkey on its menu, CBS produced a feast for viewers during the Thanksgiving holiday, handily beating the competition, and placing eight shows in the Nielsen top ten. The network again came out on top in overall viewers and also in the 18-49-year-old demo. It's 9.3 rating and 15 share in households was 15 percent ahead of second-place NBC's 7.8/12. (The peacock network was particularly hurt by a music special featuring singer Justin Timberlake, which came in at No. 95 on the Nielsen list, losing out to CBS's rerun of the 1969 animated film Frosty the Snowman, which drew nearly three times the number of viewers.) ABC remained in third place with a 7.0/11, while Fox continued to trail with a 4.4/7.

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

1. CSI: Miami, CBS, 12.9/20; 2. 60 Minutes, CBS, 12.5/20; 3. Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS, 12.4/18; 4. Survivor: Pearl Island(Wednesday Special), CBS, 11.1/19; 5. Two and a Half Men, CBS, 110./16; 6. NFL Monday Night Football, ABC, 10.9/18; 7.Cold Case, CBS, 10.8/16; 8. CBS Sunday Movie: Finding John Christmas, CBS, 10.4/17; 9. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation -- Thanksgiving Special, CBS, 10.0/19; 10. Law and Order, NBC, 9.9/17.

SEARS HAMMERS OUT AD DEAL WITH ABC

Sears has signed a $1-million deal with ABC to become the principal advertiser on the upcoming reality series, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, due to premiere tonight (Wednesday). The show, which features six designers and twin contractors showing how facelifts can be performed on homes, will spotlight Sears tools and other merchandise. Reporting on the Sears/ABC deal, today's New York Times observed that it is "emblematic of the recent trend of marketers' becoming intrinsically involved in shaping the content of entertainment programming."

FCC STAFF APPROVES DIRECTV MERGER

Rupert Murdoch's plans to acquire satellite giant DirecTV hurtled a major barrier Tuesday when the FCC's staff recommended that the agency approve the merger, the Los Angeles Times reported today (Wednesday), citing unnamed sources. The staff report, however, recommended that conditions be placed on the final approval that would prevent Murdoch's News Corp from withholding Fox broadcast and cable channels from cable operators in order to drive viewers to DirecTV.

GRIFFIN SELLING HIS "GOLDEN GLOBES HOTEL"

Entertainer Merv Griffin is expected to announce a deal next week to sell his Beverly Hilton Hotel to an investor group led by Ted Kahan, former head of real estate for Marvin Davis, for $130 million, the Los Angeles Daily News reported today (Wednesday), citing unnamed sources. The hotel is the site of the annual Golden Globe telecast.

HUTTON PLANS TO KEEP REPORT ON KELLY DEATH UNDER WRAPS

Determined to avoid leaks, Lord Hutton intends to withhold his report into the suicide of British weapons expert David Kelly until the day before he makes it public, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported today (Wednesday). At that point, the British law lord intends to turn the 1000-page document over to Prime Minister Tony Blair, BBC Chairman Gavyn Davies, and BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan, the newspaper said. Lord Hutton is expected to focus on Gilligan's report that the British government had "sexed up" an intelligence dossier to make the case for war against Iraq by falsely claiming that it had evidence that Iraq could launch weapons of mass destruction against the West on 45-minutes notice. Kelly was later identified as Gilligan's source. According to the Guardian, Lord Hutton plans to keep his report under wraps until January (following the holiday recess of Parliament) so that it can be properly debated.

DISNEY: TARNISHED BY GOLD?

Wall Street analysts appeared divided Tuesday over whether the departure of Roy Disney and Stanley Gold from the Disney board will strengthen or weaken the position of Chairman and CEO Michael Eisner. Harold Vogel of Vogel Capital Management told the Associated Press, "Mr. Eisner did a very good job for a long time for the company. ... He now has stronger board and governance procedures than he ever had before." But Merrill Lynch's Jessica Reif Cohen, in a letter to clients, called the resignations "shocking and unsettling" and expressed worries that the Disney "board could evolve into a greater 'rubber stamp for entrenched management.'" Meanwhile, the company announced that John S. Chen, CEO of the software company Sybase, will join its board next month as an independent director. Little else was revealed about the company's board meeting, which concluded a two-day session in New York on Tuesday. Eisner, who attending the meeting, declined to speak with reporters.

KING-SIZE PRICES FOR RINGS MARATHON

Scalpers are doing a land-office business in tickets for the marathon screening of Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, preceded by expanded versions of the original Rings films, scheduled in 99 cities on Dec. 16. Today's (Wednesday) New York Daily News reported that tickets that sold for $30 when they were distributed at the Loews E-Walk theater on 42nd Street last Oct. 9 are now fetching as much as $350. The newspaper said that many marathoners are planning to show up at theaters exhibiting the trilogy as early as 7:00 a.m. to stake out the best seats -- even though the first screening doesn't begin until noon. The Daily News also reported that there will be "a big surprise" for fans at every theater.

FORMER SONY EXEC CONVICTED OF GRAND THEFT

A former Sony Pictures exec and another woman have been convicted of grand theft in Los Angeles after stealing nearly half a million dollars from the company and evading state income taxes. Georgette Studnika, who had held the position of Sony Pictures' vice president of music publishing, was convicted of setting up a phony company, Music Data Services, with friend Linda Brooks that supposedly was in the business of selling recorded music to film studios. She then authorized a number of payments to Music Data but received nothing in return, instead splitting the money with Brooks. Sony fired her after discovering the scam in 1999. The two women are due to be sentenced on Feb. 3.

SONY'S PASCAL NAMED MOST POWERFL WOMAN IN SHOWBIZ

The Hollywood Reporter has designated Sony Pictures Co-chairman Amy Pascal the most powerful woman in the entertainment business. Universal Chairman Stacey Snider took second place on the trade paper's chart, followed by (in order) CBS Entertainment President Nancy Telem, Paramount Pictures President Sherry Lansing, and Fox Broadcasting President Gail Berman. In announcing its selection of Pascal as this year's most powerful woman, the Reporter's Christy Grosz observed: "Not only has the studio hit the $5 billion mark globally for the second straight year, but the filmmaking risks Amy Pascal takes often translate into box office success, which is a great barometer for power in Hollywood."

VIDEO RENTAL BIZ UNHURT BY DVD SALES

Offsetting some of the dire predictions that DVD sales would put a squeeze on the video rental industry, the Video Software Dealers Association issued an analysis Tuesday indicating that the total number of DVDs and VHS cassettes rented in 2003 will approximately equal the number rented in 2002. The VSDA observed that for once a flat market should not be regarded as a sign of fiscal weakness, since rentals not only had to contend with attractive sales prices for DVDs and cassettes but also with video-on-demand, which was aggressively promoted by cable and satellite operators. Unmentioned in the VSDA's statement was the additional competition from online movie bootleggers.