ANOTHER TALENT SHOW IS HOT ON ARRIVALThe debut of the Simon Cowell-produced America's Got Talentdelivered huge ratings (for a summer show) for NBC over two hours of primetime Wednesday night, giving the fourth-place network an easy win for the night. The first hour of the talent contest at 9:00 p.m. registered a 7.3 rating and a 13 share, beating out Fox's So You Think You Can Dance, which recorded a 6.2/10. In Talent's second hour, it improved to an 8.0/14, beating out a rerun of CSI:NYon CBS and Loston ABC. Earlier in the evening, Fox took the 8:00 p.m. hour with its dance contest, drawing a 5.4/10, ahead of NBC's Dateline and CBS's Big Brothercasting special.


NBC's efforts to persuade the International Olympic Committee to switch the 2008 Olympic swimming finals from the evening to the morning so that they can air live in the U.S. during primetime has touched off widespread opposition from athletes in other countries. On Wednesday the Australian television network Channel Seven said that it had written to the sport's governing body, FINA, to protest against NBC's proposal. And record holder Libby Lenton told the Australian Press Association that she regarded NBC's proposal as "arrogance," adding, "It's not what's best for the sport or the athletes. If it ends up happening that's unfortunate because that's not what the Olympics are all about." The IOC executive board reportedly discussed the NBC request during its meeting Lausanne, Switzerland Wednesday but a spokesman indicated that it would not issue a decision until later this year.


Fox Business Channel will launch in early to mid-2007, Fox News Chairman/CEO Roger Ailes has told UBS Securities. According to a UBS analyst's report, Ailes said that he does not expect to persuade cable and TV operators to carry the channel by packaging it with other Fox channels in negotiations this year because, he told UBS analyst Aryeh Bourkoff, "Fox Business content will stand on its own." Ailes also observed that although ratings for the Fox News Channel are down somewhat from last year, he believes the channel continues to be "well positioned to again generate record profits." Asked about the soon-to-launch My Network TV, Ailes told UBS that he expects the new "telenovelas" network will average a 1.8 rating among adults 18-49 and produce $50 million in operating income during its first year.


Responding to an appellate court ruling in 2004 that it had not sought enough public comment when it deregulated broadcast ownership rules, the FCC voted Wednesday to hold six hearings across the country on the matter and to seek independent research on the issues raised by opponents of deregulation. Among other things, the proposed rules would lift the prohibition against media companies owning newspapers and TV stations in the same market. While proponents of deregulation, who include the three Republican members of the FCC, have observed that in a day of cable news channels, satellite TV and radio, and the Internet there would remain great diversity in news coverage even if a broadcaster owned a newspaper (or vice versa) in the same town, the two Democrats have stood fast against relaxing the rules. In a statement Wednesday, Democratic FCC Commissioner Michael Copps said that they would "step up the loss of local news and change forever the critical role independent newspapers perform for our country." And in an article on Adrianna Huffington's liberal blog, media consultant Norman Horowitz commented, "One might not concur with the politics of The New York Times, but who would like to see it owned by Rupert Murdoch, under the editorial control of Bill O'Reilly?"


While billionaire Jerry Perenchio's Univision was continuing to score record ratings for its World Cup coverage, Perenchio himself was experiencing a severe setback in his plans to sell the Spanish-language network. Although he had set Tuesday as the deadline for interested parties to submit bids, the day came and went without a single bid being presented. While Perenchio could waive the deadline, analysts pointed out that if bids are eventually submitted, they are likely to be well below what Perenchio had expected -- and perhaps even less than their current market value of $35.40 per share. Analysts pointed out that even if an acceptable bid is submitted, any deal would face formidable regulatory scrutiny, particularly inasmuch as both of the principal bidders have ties to the Valcon consortium which owns VNU, the parent company of Nielsen Research. Analysts regard such ties as representing a significant conflict of interest.


NBC News won six of the ten Edward R. Murrow Awards announced Wednesday by the Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA). The awards included Overall Excellence, Newscast (NBC Nightly News, "Hurricane Katrina: New Orleans in Turmoil), and spot news coverage (NBC Nightly News, "London Terror Bombings"). Court TV won the Murrow award for best news website. ABC won a single award for best investigative reporting for a 20/20report by John Stossel, "Cruelty to Owners," that challenged the actions of some local SPCA groups. CBS (Murrow's network) came away empty-handed.


CBS News correspondent Anthony Mason has acknowledged that producing Tuesday night's three-minute feature about the departure of former CBS Evening Newsanchor Dan Rather from the network "was an incredibly difficult thing to do." He told the CBS blog Private Eye, "You're writing for the front office, you're writing for the critics. You're also writing for the people you work with, your colleagues who are going to judge it in their own way and then, lastly, you're writing for Dan." He also observed that viewers at home would be watching to see "how the Evening Newsviews Dan Rather." Mason said that he was disappointed that Rather declined to be interviewed for the feature. "I would have loved to have talked to him," he said, adding, "I understand where he's coming from completely." On Wednesday, CBS Chairman/CEO Les Moonves said that he was "sorry it ended the way it did," referring to Rather's departure, but explained, "There was no bigger role for him to play anymore. ... He had a very distinguished career. I'm sorry he's leaving us." CBS MOVES TO THE BIG SCREENCBS Chairman Les Moonves provided new details Wednesday about his company's plans to begin producing movies in the $20-50-million range. Speaking in New York at a PricewaterhouseCoopers media conference, Moonves said, "We literally can get into the movie business risk-free," pointing out that it could sell the films it makes to itself for airing on the network, on its Showtime pay-TV channel, and on international TV. The key to success, Moonves observed, was to avoid gambling on expensive blockbusters, like Supermanor "$125-million movies." It would not be CBS's first foray into theatrical film production. In the early '80s, CBS Films produced such movies as the docudrama Harnessing the Sun,starring Joan Hackett; Martin Ritt's Back Roads, starring Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones; and John Frankenheimer's The Challenge, starring Scott Glenn.


For Sony's Blu-ray high-definition player, the delays just keep on happening. The company had originally announced that the player would hit retailers' shelves in May. It then postponed the introduction until July, then to August. On Wednesday, it said on its Wednesday that the new date will be October 25th. There has been speculation on the Internet that the reason for the delays is that Sony wants to make certain that it has enough Blu-ray drive mechanisms for its PlayStation 3 game consoles scheduled to be introduced in November. Meanwhile, Samsung has begun shipping a small number of Blu-ray players to consumer-electronics retailers, where they are due to go on sale next week. The South Korean company also announced today (Thursday) that it is working on a universal player that will play both Blu-ray and Toshiba's HD-DVD discs.


The membership of the Writers Guild of America West and the WGA East have formally ratified a jurisdictional and arbitrational agreement, overwhelmingly approving amendments to their respective constitutions. The agreement also provides for mutual information sharing on matters that affect each entity. Jurisdictional boundaries were drawn at the Mississippi River, with the East also agreeing to attend to members needs in the U.K., Ireland, and in Canada east of Manitoba. The West will cover all other areas of the world. In a statement, WGA-East President Chris Albers declared, "Now that these amendments have passed, the two Writers Guilds can focus on our many shared goals instead of a few conflicts that divided us for far too long."


The British Board of Film Classification has proposed to the government that online video receive the same sort of ratings certificates as those the board bestows on motion pictures. "If there's some sort of standardized labeling system that people understand, then they know that it's material they can trust," a BBFC spokesperson commented Wednesday. "Whether in a regulatory or an advisory capacity, we believe we have unique expertise and experience to offer," the board said in an annual report. But Simon Davies of Privacy International told the London Times: "It sounds like the most stupid intervention since the registration of fax machines and photocopiers in Communist China."