MINERS "RESCUE" REPORT BLOWS UPThe international news media in general and cable news networks in particular were left mortified early this morning after their initial reports that the trapped West Virginia miners had been rescued turned out to be false. CNN's Anderson Cooper was updating a report about the rescue when a woman emerged from the church where the relatives of the miners had been celebrating and interrupted his broadcast, telling him that she had left the church because fights had broken out inside, then, as reported by the TVNewser blog, said, "Only one made it out alive. ... There's eleven that apparently did not make it." Cooper then asked, "Where have you gotten this information?" then, after hearing other family members crying down the road, remarked, "This is unbelievable ... I'm completely stunned." The woman continued, "It's disgraceful. It's awful. But it needs to be known. ... The story needs to change." TVNewser reported that on MSNBC, correspondent Ron Allen sounded "shaky and emotional" as he reported from the church: "They're coming out. They are distraught. One relative is saying there are not a lot of survivors. I need to make sure I can confirm all this." Allen then said that the reporters' source for their initial reports that the miners had been rescued had been the families. On CNN, Cooper asked, "How in God's name did this information get given to family members?" The Associated Press reported later that the misinformation apparently spread after some family members overheard cell phone calls at the command center indicating that the 12 miners had been found and that rescuers were checking their vital signs.


In an apparent response to NBC's recent deal with Apple Computer to make available an array of its hit shows for downloading from the iTunes Store, the Walt Disney Co. announced Tuesday that it was expanding its own deal with Apple. The company said that its ESPN/ABC Sports unit will provide "condensed versions" of the Fiesta, Sugar, Orange and Rose Bowls the day after they air. In addition, Disney will provide episodes of Wildfire from ABC Family Channel, episodes of Kim Possibleand Proud Familyfrom the Disney Channel, episodes of America's Funniest Home Videosand School House Rock from ABC, and the classic Disney cartoons The Three Little Pigsand The tortoise and the Hare. Each download will cost $1.99. In addition, ABC News will provide without charge (but with ads) segments from Good Morning America and World News Tonight.


ABC's telecast of the Rose Bowl Game between USC and Texas from Pasadena tonight (Wednesday) is expected to break the ratings record for college bowl games. Borrowing a metaphor from a different sport, Loren Matthews, ABC Sports senior vice president/programming, told USA Today: "And if we get snow in the Northeast, we've got a home run!" The newspaper said that the network will deploy 30 cameras to cover the game; however, it quoted ABC producer Mark Loomis as saying, "You don't need a lot of gimmicks for this one. We've put out more machinery than we've ever had -- but no fancy tricks." Meanwhile, the network's telecast of the Orange Bowl Tuesday night threw the opposition for a big loss. The game between Penn State and Florida State averaged a 12.1/18, peaking in the 9:00 hour with a 13.7/20, according to Nielsen overnights. Second-place CBS was well behind with a 7.5/11, while NBC was in third place with a 6.6/10. Fox trailed with a 4.9/7. The competition was particularly tough on NBC's returning Scrubs, which averaged a 4.8/7 in the 9:00 hour with back-to-back episodes.


ABC has dropped out of negotiations with the PGA Tour, Golf World Magazine reported Tuesday, citing a person with knowledge of the negotiations. "It all comes down to dollars," a source later told the Associated Press. ABC declined comment. Paul Azinger, who broadcast the tour with Nick Faldo last year, told Golf World, "I'm highly disappointed for a lot of people." He said that he was particularly disappointed for ABC golf producer Mark Loomis. "He took a big chance with Faldo and me, and it worked. Unfortunately, the network was unwilling to write the check."


Without mentioning the change at the helm on the air, ABC News debuted its latest version of World News Tonightfeaturing the team of Elizabeth Vargas and Bob Woodruff Tuesday night, with Woodruff reporting from Iran and Vargas, from New York. "The two had little interaction," commented David Bauder of the Associated Press. Joanna Weiss of the Boston Globenoted that if they continue to report from separate locations, it "eliminates any chance of developing the chemistry that has been the Holy Grail of local newscasts and network morning shows. And it raises the question of why ABC chose two anchors in the first place." Chase Squires in the St. Petersburg Times also seemed unimpressed. "There was nothing to radically distinguish the broadcast -- for better or worse -- from any other," he wrote. But David Bianculli in the New York Daily Newscalled it a "solid newscast" and concluded: "As with all news operations, months and years, not days, will be the true indication of excellence -- but ABC World News Tonight started its new year and the post-Peter Jennings era quite capably."


News Corp-controlled DirecTV has become the latest producer of digital video recorders to announce that it will offer a service allowing customers to transfer recorded programs to portable media devices. The company said Tuesday that it plans to showcase its DirecTV 2Go service at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which opens Thursday, but the announcement did not indicate when the service will actually be introduced.NARNIA WINS BY A WHISKERFinal box-office figures for the holiday weekend showed that Disney's The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobeearned a little more than Universal's King Kongin total gross but a little less than Kongon a per-theater basis. Narnia, which played in 3,853 locations, brought in $33.71 million or $8,750 per screen, while Kong, which played in 3,627 locations, counted $31.83 million in ticket sales and averaged $8,775 per screen. The top ten films over the four-day holiday weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):1. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Disney, $33,712,024, 4 Wks. ($225,703,346); 2. King Kong, Universal, $31,826,925, 3 Wks. ($175,559,825); 3. Fun With Dick and Jane, Sony, $21,025,463, 2 Wks. ($64,607,789); 4. Cheaper by the Dozen 2, 20th Century Fox, $18,857,703, 2 Wks. ($54,684,215); 5. Rumor Has It, Warner Bros., $11,790,273, 2 Wks. ($26,865,647); 6. Family Stone, 20th Century Fox, $10,297,267, 3 Wks. ($46,334,354); 7. Memoirs of a Geisha, Sony, $10,215,915, 4 Wks. ($30,633,403); 8. The Ringer, Fox Searchlight, $8,050,428, 2 Wks. ($21,652,504); 9. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Warner Bros., $7,635,442, 7 Wks. ($277,083,157); 10. Munich, Universal, $6,436,850, 2 Wks. ($15,949,005).


Disney's Buena Vista Home Video on Tuesday released Disney Rarities, a collection of 31 animated shorts, many of which were produced by the Walt Disney Co. during the silent-film era between 1923 and 1928. It includes a live-action/animated short, Alice's Wonderland, produced in 1923 and featuring a child actress, Virginia Davis, who played Alice. The extras package includes an interview with Davis today.


Sony Pictures Home Entertainment on Tuesday announced the first 20 titles that it will release in high definition for its Blu-ray Disc system. They will be released as soon as the first Blu-ray players hit the market in the spring. Among the titles are The Fifth Element, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Desperado, For a Few Dollars More, The Guns of Navarone, Hitch, House of Flying Daggers, A Knight's Tale, Kung Fu Hustle, The Last Waltz, Legends of the Fall, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Robocop, Sense and Sensibility, Stealth, Species, SWATandXXX. The company also said that, in the future, it plans to release high-definition versions of all movies being put out on conventional DVD. Meanwhile, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment said today that it, too, plans to release 20 films in the Blu-ray format this spring. The films, it said, will include Fantastic Four, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Behind Enemy Lines, Kiss of the Drago and Ice Age. In a statement company president Mike Dunn said, "The release of our films on Blu-ray will provide consumers with in-home entertainment beyond anything they have imagined."


Members of the Australian film industry have expressed guarded optimism about plans by an international group of actors, directors, producers and investors to create a new major Australian film studio aimed at producing big budget blockbusters. The group was assembled by Bangkok-based investment company Mullis Capital Independent, with the goal of raising as much as $100 million for film productions. One of those backing the project, Simon McKeon, executive chairman of the Melbourne office of investment bank Macquarie Bank, told the Australian Associated Press, "A studio in the U.S. is all about sustainability. It's not just revolving around just one film. We have never really done that in this country before. It requires uncompromising focus on the best that the industry has to offer. If we do that, the funds will flow -- and the returns."