IT'S A BIG DEAL FOR NBC
NBC's game show Deal or No Deal returned to the top of the ratings heap last week, beating out games of a more physical sort, the NBA finals on ABC. Still, the NBA telecasts proved to be a potent audience draw for ABC, with Sunday's game landing in fourth place and Thursday's, in sixth. The games saw an audience increase of 13 percent over the first two games of the 2005 NBA Finals. NBC also scored strong ratings for Thursday's premiere of its new drama Windfall (although it finished behind a rerun of CBS's Without a Trace and the NBA telecast. CBS's telecast of the Tony Awards also got a new lease on life. After dropping to all-time low ratings over the past two years, the theatrical awards show increased its audience by 10 percent. The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:
1. Deal or No Deal (Monday), NBC, 11.2/19; 2. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 8.4/14; 3. CSI: Miami, CBS, 8.3/14; 4.NBA Finals (Sunday), ABC, 8.0/14; 5. Without a Trace, CBS, 7.9/14; 6. NBA Finals (Thursday), ABC, 7.8/14; 7. Apprentice 5, NBC, 7.2/12; 8. So You Think Can Dance (Wednesday), Fox, 6.7/11; 9. 60 Minutes, CBS, 6.6/13; 10. CSI: NY, CBS, 6.4/110.

NBC REMAINS AHEAD IN NIGHTLY NEWS, TOO

In the evening news race, NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams once again led the field with 7.82 million viewers, down 5 percent from the comparable week a year ago. ABC's World News Tonight With Charles Gibson averaged 7.05 million, down 11 percent from last year at the same time (and its lowest figure since 1987). The CBS Evening News With Bob Schieffer registered 6.72 million viewers, up 4 percent from a year ago (and the only network newscast to gain viewers). Meanwhile, ABC, which was first to report on the killing of al-Qaeda-in-Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi last week, was also the first on the air with the story of President Bush's trip to Iraq Tuesday. The news was reported by Charles Gibson, who later anchored a special report at 9:30 a.m. after the first video of the president's visit arrived.

WOODRUFF RETURNS TO ABC NEWSROOM

ABC newsman Bob Woodruff, who was seriously injured in Iraq last January, returned to the ABC newsroom Tuesday to visit his colleagues, telling them tearfully, "I've missed you all." He said that after spending 36 days in a medically induced coma while his head injuries were being treated, "I woke up in this hospital and I looked up and I just thought about you guys and I thought about everything I wanted badly to come back to." Although recent reports had indicated that Woodruff's speech had not returned to normal and that he was walking haltingly, the New York Post reported today (Wednesday) that "he spoke in a clear, unaffected voice and appeared to move around the office easily." Woodruff's visit was covered as an item Tuesday night on ABC's World News Tonight, the newscast that he co-anchored before his injury.

MARINE CORPS LAUNCHES PROBE OF VIDEO

The Marine Corps. has launched an investigation into a four-minute video that began being distributed on the Internet this week showing what appears to be a serving marine singing about killing Iraqi civilians. The video of the song, titled "Hadji Girl," was first posted on the YouTube video website, and tells of the man falling in love with an Iraqi girl, only to be confronted by her father and brother pointing weapons at him, "I grabbed her little sister and put her in front of me./As the bullets began to fly, the blood sprayed from between her eyes, and then I laughed maniacally. ... Then I hid behind the TV and loaded my M-16; I blew those little [expletives] to eternity." Laughter is heard in the background. The song ends: "They should have known they were [expletive] with the Marines." The singer is dressed in military fatigues, but a spokesman for the Marine Corps. said Tuesday that it could not be immediately determined whether the man is an actual Marine or even whether it can be established that it was made in Iraq. The spokesman added that the video "is clearly inappropriate and contrary to the high standards expected of all Marines."

KAPLAN PITCHES HIMSELF TO TAKE OVER GOOD MORNING AMERICA

Recently fired MSNBC President Rick Kaplan met with ABC News executives Tuesday to discuss the possibility of his taking over as executive producer of Good Morning America when current EP, Ben Sherwood, leaves on Oct. 1, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported today (Wednesday). The newspaper, citing unnamed sources, also reported that although NBC News President Steve Capus delivered the word to Kaplan that he was out at MSNBC, the actual decision to remove him was made by NBC Universal Television Group CEO Jeff Zucker. Capus told the newspaper that he "fully didn't expect Rick to go as quickly as he did" but that he "thought it was inevitable, at some point."

AT& T SAYS IT WILL TAKE WHATEVER TV PROGRAMMING IT CAN

Cable channels may be balking at proposed rules that would require them to carry additional channels that broadcasters would be able to develop when they switch frequencies from analog to digital, but AT&T said Tuesday that it welcomes the channels on its planned fiber-optic phone network. "We're the new kid on the block and we need as much content as we can get and we're all for [multicast must-carry], Robert Quinn, senior vice president for federal regulatory affairs at AT&T, told Reuters. The phone giant said that it plans to launch its service in 15-20 markets this year.
NOTE:
In Tuesday's edition, we noted that the BBC had shut down public big-screen showings of the World Cup in London and Liverpool because of violent clashes that occurred in crowds watching them on Saturday. The item referred to "British soccer fans, who have a reputation for what the British call 'hooliganism.'" One reader objected to our first use of the term "British," pointing out that the behavior should have been attributed to English fans -- and that it is not typical among the British of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

CARS SPEEDS UP
Disney's decision to postpone the release of Cars from November -- when previous Pixar movies have been released -- to June -- when schools are out -- could result in offsetting what analysts have called a disappointing weekend opening. On Monday, the film earned $6,445,000 -- far above the $3,802,000 that The Incredibles, the last Pixar release, earned on its first Monday in November, 2004. Likewise on Tuesday, Cars took in $5,820,000 versus $3,213,000 for the first Tuesday of The Incredibles. While initial reports had noted that the $60.1 million that Cars earned last weekend was well below the $70 million that analysts had expected, the film could exceed the gross for the first week of The Incredibles, Pixar's biggest hit, going into next weekend if mid-week ticket sales continue at the same clip.

CBS TO MAKE MOVIES?

CBS executives are thinking about going into competition in the film business against its onetime corporate sibling, Viacom's Paramount, CBS Chairman Les Moonves told an investors conference in Santa Monica, CA Tuesday. "It's something that might be fun, as content gets used over and over again," he said. He added that movie production "might be an interesting business to get into" if it were "disciplined" -- with budgets below $50 million and deals in place for reuse on the CBS network, the CBS-owned Showtime pay-TV channel, DVD sales and international distribution. CBS and Viacom are controlled by Sumner Redstone's privately held National Amusements.

MORE TROUBLES FOR SONY'S BLU-RAY

The roll-out of Sony's Blu-ray high-definition DVD system became even more confusing Tuesday when the company said that it would release its first seven movies in the format on June 20, despite the fact that it had announced only a few days earlier that its own Blu-ray players would not hit the market until mid-August. The date would appear to have been set to coincide with the commercial availability of Samsung's Blu-ray player. However, reports appearing later in the day on Tuesday indicated that Samsung has postponed release of its own Blu-ray player until September.

"SYNERGY" IS NOT SO BAD A WORD, SAYS NEWS CORP PRESIDENT

Saying that he couldn't understand how "synergy" became a maligned term, News Corp President and COO Peter Chernin disclosed Tuesday that the company plans to employ its TV and cable networks, satellite operations, home video, Internet, and publishing divisions to promote next year's theatrical release of The Simpsons: The Movie. Chernin told the Deutsche Bank Media & Telecommunications Conference in New York that corporate synergy could result in hundreds of millions of dollars in additional revenue over the next two years for the film. Chernin said that it represents "an opportunity to go both ways. ... We can not only use those parts of the company to help us launch that movie, but we can use the movie to help us increase the value of the brand" on other News Corp platforms. As for talk by analysts that giant media companies have not been able to get a handle on uniting their companies for a common cause, Chernin said, "I for one don't get it, this notion that these things don't work together. ... I don't mean to be overly critical, but it's not that hard to manage these synergy things. You sit there and get people in a room, you say: 'Look guys, there are two rules. No. 1, don't do anything to damage your business to help somebody else. No. 2, hey idiots, if on the margins something's going to help the sister company, figure out a way to help them.'"

LUCAS TO SELL BIRTHPLACE OF ILM

Time was when Star Wars space ships and futuristic cities were created not in a computer but in a model shop, which became the birthplace of George Lucas's Industrial Light & Magic. Today (Wednesday) Daily Variety said that the physical production unit of ILM is about to be sold to Mark Anderson, a 15-year veteran model maker at the company. It will be renamed Kerner Optical, after the street on which it is located in San Rafael, and become a preferred subcontractor for ILM.