RATHER HEADING FOR NICHE TV NETWORKDan Rather will go from the corridors of power at CBS News to a small niche of the TV business, anchoring an interview program on Mark Cuban's high-definition TV channel HDNet, the New York Timesreported over the weekend. Rather told the newspaper that he was also weighing several other offers, but "what I expect to do, what I hope to do, is bring this HDNet thing to fruition." There was no mention of the deal with Rather on Cuban's own website, which has been devoted in recent days to comments on how his basketball team, the Dallas Mavericks, has been performing in the NBA finals. But in an email message to the Hollywood Reporter,Cuban said, "We think he was being held back by the corporate structure of CBS. They prefer pretty faces, earnings per share and fluff to news with a payoff. Dan is hungry to do something unique and exciting. So we are talking about how he can do that with HDNet." Rather told the Timesthat he was intrigued by "the opportunity to build something from the ground up." Asked about CBS Chairman Les Moonves's remark that he wanted to do away with the "voice-of-God, single anchor," Rather replied, "My problem with the 'voice of God' thing was that it was meant disrespectfully." He also noted that he has seen the film Good Night and Good Luck, which Cuban co-produced, five times and that as part of the proposed deal he would be consulting with Cuban on future film projects.


MSNBC President Dan Abrams closed out his own Abrams Reporton the channel Friday night, with a message to viewers that began with the words, "Well, this is it." He denied, however, that the message was a farewell address, concluding: "This isn't goodbye," he said, "I'm not leaving you. While you won't see me for a particular hour on TV, I hope you'll recognize a little bit of me throughout the network. At least the good part of me. Thank you for everything. And, look out, because I am going to help make MSNBC the news channel."


Televangelist Pat Robertson has had his public relations representatives file a complaint with CNBC about his treatment by former Disney chief Michael Eisner during the taping of Eisner's CNBC TV show, scheduled to air on Tuesday. Today's (Monday) New York Postpublished excerpts from the emailed message, in which the Robertson spokesperson complained: "The interview was not at all what we expected. Mr. Eisner covered the business end of things as promised, but then challenged Dr. Robertson on some extremely controversial political issues including gay rights, Hugo Chavez and whether or not Jewish people go to heaven. We were all very disappointed that Mr. Eisner chose to go in this direction." The Postobserved that Eisner and Robertson had clashed in the past over the company's decision to offer health benefits for partners of gay employees and over Disney World's "Gay Days."


Audiences for the 2006 World Cup telecasts are overwhelming previous audience records with ratings up nearly 30 percent versus 2002, according to a study by the Initiative media analysis company. According to the study, last week's match between Brazil and Croatia attracted a global audience of 60 million, slightly ahead of the Italy vs. Ghana competition, which drew 59 million.


In what today's (Monday) New York Postdescribed as "a bizarre send-off," Connie Chung made her final appearance on her canceled MSNBC show with husband Maury Povich (Weekends With Maury & Connie) by singing a ditty off-key to the tune of "Thanks for the Memories" that ended with her collapsing to the floor. The lyrics included, "We came to do a show/for very little dough./By little, I mean I could make more working on skid row." And in an apparent swipe at Dan Rather, with whom she once co-hosted the CBS Evening News, she warbled: "The thing I love the most/about hubby as co-host/is all those other anchors were as dull as melba toast."


It is not unusual for the star of a movie to demand that certain changes be made in a film script before he'll sign on; what is unusual is for an actor to threaten to quit unless changes are removed. But that is what veteran actor Robert Duvall's says occurred in the case of Broken Trail, which makes its debut on AMC next weekend. In an interview with the New York Post, he said that three days before shooting was to begin, "I told them if they went with this script, I'm out. ... and I said, 'You'd better get it back to the way it was.'" Duvall told the Postthat the revised script had an unwarranted emphasis on gun fights and "very obvious, melodramatic" plot devices. "We had to get back to the way [screenwriter Alan Geoffrion] wrote it," he said. "So when we got it back, I went to work Monday morning." CARS' LEAD IS CUTCarsremained ahead of its competitors over the weekend, but the big gap in its lead shortened as it fell 48 percent at the box office to take in $31.2 million and lift its total domestic box office to $114.5 million. The figure coincided with analysts' predictions. Other results did not. Paramount's Nacho Libra,which had been expected to gross around $15-20 million, debuted in second place with $27.5 million. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, which was expected to place second, instead came in at No. 3 with $24.1 million. (The last sequel, 2 Fast 2 Furious, premiered with $50.5 million.) Two other newcomers performed weakly. The sci-fi romance flick The Lake Houseplaced fourth with $13.7 million, somewhat better than expected, while Twentieth Century Fox's animated Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties opened with $7.2 million, well below the original's $21.7-million debut. The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:1. Cars, $31.2 million; 2. Nacho Libra, $27.5 million; 3. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, $24.1 million; 4. The Lake House,$13.7 million; 5. The Break-Up, $9.5 million; 6.Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties, $7.2 million; 7. X-Men: The Last Stand, $7.15 million; 8. The Omen, $5.35 million; 9. The Da Vinci Code, $5 million; 10. Over the Hedge, $4.05 million.


Movies competed bravely against the World Cup overseas over the weekend -- and lost. The biggest money-maker was The Da Vinci Code which took in $15.2 million at 7,800 screens -- or less than $2,000 per screen. In second place was the latest X-Menmovie, which earned $14.9 million at 6,500 screens. If it didn't seem like a summer weekend at all, the weekend figures provided the reason -- despite all the blockbuster movies on the marquee, the box office hasn't performed as poorly since early March.


Apple Computer Chairman Steve Jobs, who successfully battled the record companies to hold the price of single records sold on the iTunes Music Store at $.99, has been unable to convince movie studios that they should sell movies on the iTunes site for a flat $9.99, Daily Varietyreported today (Monday). The trade paper said that the movie studios don't want to antagonize major retailers by allowing Apple to sell movies online for less than the stores sell them on DVD. Varietyalso quoted studio execs as predicting that Apple will announce a deal with the studios at the same time that it unveils a new video iPod with a larger screen.


Johnny Depp maintains that he has never paid attention to remarks from cult movie aficionados that he sold out when he accepted the lead in the original Pirates of the Caribbeanmovie. "Never, not once," he told Timemagazine in its current issue. "The idea of commercial success never bothered me necessarily. What bothered me was striving for that, and lying to get that." When the original film turned out to be a huge blockbuster, he said, he felt as if he had "infiltrated the enemy camp. ... Even now, with the dolls and the cereal boxes and snacks and fruit juices, it all just feels fun to me, in a Warholian way. It's absurd." Depp told Timethat he's not ready to abandon his Jack Sparrow character yet. (He's still wearing gold veneers on his teeth that he doesn't plan to remove until he completes production of the next Piratesmovie, the magazine said.) Asked about the possibility of additional sequels, he commented, "If they had a good script, why not? I mean, at a certain point, the madness must stop, but for the moment, I can't say that he's done."


A Motion Picture Association study has concluded that 93 percent of all films sold in China are pirated, costing studios worldwide $2.7 billion. China's own film industry was hit hardest by the piracy, the study said, with losses of around $1.5 billion, while major U.S. film studios lost around $565 million.