CBS EYES FIRST PLACE AGAIN
CBS, which was bowled over by ABC's coverage of the college bowl games two weeks ago, returned to the head of the class last week. It marked the 16th time in 17 weeks of the current season that CBS claimed the No. 1 position in overall ratings. The network also aired the top-rated show of the week, the AFC divisional playoff (New England vs. Denver). Still, ABC made a strong showing with the No. 2 show of the week -- Desperate Housewives -- the No. 3 show -- Lost -- the No. 5 -- Grey's Anatomy -- and No. 7 -- Dancing With the Stars. For the week, CBS averaged a 9.5 rating and a 15 share. ABC was second with a 7.5/12; Fox came in third with a 64/10, while NBC trailed with a 6.0/9. The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:
1. AFC Divisional Playoff: New England vs. Denver, CBS, 16.1/28; 2. Desperate Housewives, ABC, 13.9/20; 3. CSI: Miami, CBS, 13.0/21; 4. Grey's Anatomy, ABC, 12.1/19; 5. Lost, ABC, 11.9/18; 6. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 11.6/17; 7. Dancing With the Stars, ABC, 11.4/18; 8. NCIS, CBS, 10.8/17; 8. Two and a Half Men, CBS, 10.8/16; 10. Criminal Minds, CBS, 10.3/15.

IDOL BLOWS 'EM AWAY

The debut of Fox's American Idol on Tuesday produced the biggest audience for an entertainment program on the network in its history -- 35.5 million viewers, the network said Wednesday. The second night -- Wednesday -- also produced enormous numbers -- a 17.7 rating and a 27 share, down only slightly from Tuesday's 19.3/28, according to Nielsen Research. It also helped Skating with Celebrities, which followed with an 11.2/16. Skating was narrowly edged out by ABC's Lost, which drew an 11.5/17.

CBS WAITING AT THE K-K-K-KITCHEN DOOR

The new president of CBS News appeared to invite TV writers gathered at their annual winter press tour in Pasadena, CA to read between the lines, as he told them Wednesday that the new "anchorperson" of the CBS Evening News would probably come from outside CBS. "I'm not sure right now that we have anyone who has all the qualifications that an anchor should have," he said. Later, he remarked that fame was one of those qualifications, "Fortunately or unfortunately, it is a prerequisite," he said. His comments, which seemed to indicate that CBS News is focusing on landing Katie Couric, the NBC Today show co-host, to anchor its nightly newscast, came after McManus said in his opening remarks that he would not "really specifically address" CBS's plans to find a permanent anchor "for obvious reasons." When asked if he could confirm whether CBS has an interest in signing Couric, he replied, "That I can't do. I'm sorry." Later he said that he was also unable to discuss any timetable for replacing the current temporary anchor, Bob Schieffer. (Couric's NBC contract expires in May.) Still, reporters made the most of McManus's no-comments. The New York Times observed: "All his descriptions of the kind of person he is looking for fit Ms. Couric, especially his [comment] that the new anchor would come from outside the network's current news staff."

CBS ADMITS IT EDITED REPORT AT REQUEST OF FBI

CBS News said Wednesday that, at the request of the FBI, it had agreed to edit its report about how the FBI had developed a method to identify the origins of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) used by Iraqi insurgents. CBS correspondent Jim Stewart said on the CBS blog that the network had "shared with the FBI the basics of what it had found." Subsequently, according to the blog report, the FBI "objected to the level of detail CBS News planned to include in the report. The bureau argued that if CBS were to disclose certain facts, it could lead those who make the explosives to alter their methods" and kill more American soldiers. The decision to edit the story, Stewart said, came after a "lively" and "spirited" discussion involving himself, anchor Bob Schieffer, CBS News president Sean McManus, and CBS Evening News exec producer Rome Hartman.

CBS LOCAL STATIONS CONVERTING NEWS CAMERAS TO HDTV

CBS will begin converting its local news operations to high definition at each of its 17 owned-and-operated stations beginning in March, the company said today (Thursday). In a statement, CBS said that its Boston and Chicago stations will begin employing Sony's high-definition SDCAM Professional Disc system in March and that the remaining stations will begin converting to the Sony system throughout this year and next. Jeff Birch, Vice President, Engineering for the CBS stations said in the statement, "This conversion will keep our station group at the forefront of technology and provide a competitive advantage given the 22 million HD sets that are projected to be sold in 2006."

DISNEY DOES BIG BUSINESS SELLING TV EPISODES ONLINE

The Walt Disney Co. said that it has sold more than 1.5 million copies of episodes of the handful of ABC-TV and Disney Channel shows it is offering online via Apple Computer's iTunes Store. The individual episodes are available at a price of $1.99 per download. Disney CFO Tom Staggs said Thursday that the company is planning to sell them via other "on demand" websites as well. He said that ancillary sales of its shows could eventually generate $1 billion in additional profits for the company.

BROKEBACK REACHES TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN
The day after it won the Golden Globe award for best dramatic film of 2005, Focus Features' Brokeback Mountain climbed to the top of the box office Tuesday, beating out competition from movies playing in nearly four times the number of theaters. According to Exhibitor Relations, Brokeback earned $740,000 to prevailing over last weekend's box-office winner, Glory Road, which took in 675,000 at 2,222 theaters. Meanwhile, Brokeback received nine nominations for Britain's BAFTA film awards Wednesday, only one less than the acclaimed U.K film The Constant Gardener.

DISNEY REPORTEDLY IN TALKS TO BUY PIXAR

Appearing to be carrying out the longstanding Hollywood maxim, "if you can't sign them, buy them," the Walt Disney Co. is reported in "serious discussions" to acquire Pixar Animation. According to today's (Thursday) Wall Street Journal, which cited people familiar with the situation,the proposed all-stock deal would pay a nominal premium to Pixar's current market value of $6.7 billion, making Pixar chief Steve Jobs Disney's largest individual shareholder. The newspaper said that talks between Disney and Pixar "have gained momentum in recent months" and that they are now "at a sensitive stage."

BERLINALE ADDS COMPETITORS

Organizers of the 56th annual Berlin International Film Festival -- the Berlinale -- have announced the titles of 14 additional entries in this year's competition. Nine films had previously been announced, and three more films will be added before the festival opens on Feb. 9. Among U.S. films selected for the competition on Wednesday are Robert Altman's A Prairie Home Companion, starring Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Woody Harrelson, Kevin Kline and John C. Reilly; and Michael Winterbottom's documentary/drama The Road to Guantanamo. Among films screening out of the competition will be Bennett Miller's Capote, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman as writer Truman Capote, and James McTeigue's V for Vendetta, written by the Wachowski brothers.

CHINA TO PRESENT FILM IN "FOUR DIMENSIONS"

The Shanghai Science and Technology Museum has reportedly spent $140,000 to upgrade its IMAX theater in order to show what it calls a "four-dimensional" animated racing film during the Spring Festival holiday, Shanghai Daily reported today (Thursday). The animated film, Dog Meets Man, is due to open on Jan. 29, timed with the commencement of the Year of the Dog. In addition to the giant IMAX screen, equipment has been installed in the theater that will make chairs shake and blow man-made snow and wind at the audience, giving those in attendance the feeling that they are experiencing what it is actually like to be behind the wheel of a race car, the newspaper said.

AMAZON TO LAUNCH ONLINE TALK SHOW

Online megamerchant Amazon.com is expected to announce today (Thursday) that it will produce a new talk show, Amazon Fishbowl With Bill Maher, that can be seen only on Amazon's website. According to today's (Thursday) Los Angeles Times, the show will follow a traditional talk-show format, with Maher interviewing celebrity guests about their latest books, movies, and records. Although the program will not show conventional commercials, watchers will be able to hit a button and buy the merchandise that the guests are hustling. The first episode, to be taped at the Sundance Film Festival on Sunday, will feature author Stephen King, musician Rob Thomas, actress Toni Collette and writer Armistead Maupin. The Times said that King is eschewing all other broadcast interviews to promote his latest book, Cell, exclusively on the Amazon show.

ROBERTS TAKES "SALABILITY" TO BROADWAY

Julia Roberts, regarded as the film community's highest-paid actress, has shown that she is as bankable on Broadway as she is in Hollywood. Agence France Presse, the French wire service, reported Wednesday that the revival of Three Days of Rain, in which she stars,sold $7 million in advance sales from the time tickets were offered on Friday. AFP quoted experts as predicting that sales could reach $10 million before the first preview on March 28.

NETFLIX HIRES FORMER POSTMASTER GENERAL

NetFlix, the online movie renter that depends on the U.S. mail for its existence, has hired a former U.S. postmaster general as its COO. William J. Henderson is due to take over on Jan. 23. Henderson had held the COO post at the U.S. Postal Service from 1994 to 1998, when he became postmaster general, a post he held until 2001, when he retired.

SUNDANCE OPENS

The Sundance Film Festival is due to open today (Thursday) in Park City, UT, showcasing a greater number of smaller-budget films than in recent years, according to trade reports. Variety observed on Monday that 48 of the 118 features are from first-time directors. The opening night film is Friends With Money, starring Jennifer Aniston and Frances McDormand.

Cinemark Movie Club