NBA FINALS SCORE FOR ABCThe good news for ABC was that this year's NBA finals between the San Antonio Spurs and the Detroit Pistons went the full seven games, the first time that had happened since 1994. The bad news was that the average ratings dropped 30 percent below last year's. ABC, however, pointed out that the ratings were up 26 percent over 2003 and that the final game on Thursday produced an 8.5 rating and a 15 share, the second-highest ratings for a closing game since 2000 (exceeded only by last year's game, which featured the Los Angeles Lakers and the Pistons).


A television commercial for Honda diesel engines, created by the London unit of the U.S.'s Wieden & Kennedy ad firm and Nexus Productions, won the top Film Grand Prix award at the 52nd Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival. At a news conference, Film Jury President John Hunt described the spot, titled, "Grrrr," as "unique, adding that the jury was particularly taken with the original song composed and sung for the spot by Prairie Home Companion's Garrison Keillor. "The soundtrack is beautiful, the animation. ... It entertains you as it sells you and the idea is blindingly simple."


CNN chief Jonathan Klein has decided to shut down the news network's long-running The Capital Gang, a weekly political debate featuring syndicated columnists Robert Novak and Mark Shields, Time's Margaret Carlson, the National Review's Kate O'Beirne, and Bloomberg News' Al Hunt. In its place will be an expanded On the Story with a studio audience at George Washington University in Washington D.C., although the host, Christiane Amanpour, will preside from CNN's studios in London via satellite. While the original Storyfeatured only CNN's female reporters, male reporters will be included in the expanded, hour-long version. They'll be quizzed by the GWU audience. Klein told today's (Monday) Philadelphia Inquirer that all his recent programming shifts "are getting us back to our roots of covering real news. It's not like we're creating a reality show or adding a live band."


The growing political polarization of the American public was highlighted in a new survey that found that 67 percent of Republicans believe the print and TV press is excessively critical of the administration and that 54 percent of Democrats believe the press is too soft on it. The survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press also found that 47 percent of Americans believe that the news media are "weakening the nation's defenses" by their critical reports about the miitary. Clashing with the results of TV ratings, the survey also found that 18 percent of Americans watch CNN most often versus 16 percent for Fox News.


With media giants increasingly grabbing TV production business away from independent producers, Carsey-Werner, whose past hits include The Cosby Show, Roseanne, Third Rock from the Sun, and That '70s Show, announced Friday that it will leave the TV business and focus on movie making. The company has endured a streak of bad luck with such flops as Whoopi, The Downer Channel, and Normal, Ohio,and none of the recent programs developed by the company were picked up by any network for the 2005-06 season (although That 70s Show is due to return for a final season),


Saturday's planned telecast of the Live8 concerts is expected to draw the biggest audience in history, its promoters announced Saturday. The telecast, which will have a potential audience of 5.5 billion people, will originate in London, Philadelphia, Paris, Rome, Berlin, Johannesburg, Tokyo and Toronto. Kevin Wall, executive producer of Live8, told the London Sunday Observer: "This monumental live broadcast is without doubt the largest global live transmission in history. Everyone in the world will have the opportunity to view and interact with this groundbreaking event and we will come together to have our voices heard and eliminate extreme poverty."


Paul Winchell, remembered by oldtimers as the ventriloquist who appeared with his dummy Jerry Mahoney on TV variety shows in the 1940s and '50s, and by a younger generation as the voice of Tigger in the Winnie the Poohmovies, died in Moorpark, CA Friday at the age of 82. In 1986 Winchell was awarded $17.8 million after winning a lawsuit against Metromedia, who he said, attempted to resolve a dispute over the ownershp of the tapes of his Winchel Mahoney Time show by destroying the tapes. Winchell also wore another hat as an inventor, creating in 1963, after studying pre-med at Columbia, what is believed to be the first prototype for an artificial heart with Dr. Henry Heimlich (of Heimlich maneuver fame). He held 30 patents.BOX OFFICE SLUMP HITS 18 WEEKSThe combination of Batman, Herbie the love bug, and Samantha the witch were not enough to lift the box office out of its chronic slump this weekend. All performed reasonably well, with Batman Begins holding the top spot for the second week with an estimated $26.8 million in ticket sales to bring its total to $121.7 million. Sony's Bewitched,with Nicole Kidman playing Samantha, opened in second place with about $20.2 million. Disney's Herbie: Fully Loaded starring, Lindsay Lohan, opened at No. 4 with $12.8 million ($17.8 million since its Wednesday debut), just behind the third week of Fox's Brad Pitt-Angelina Jolie comedy thriller Mr. & Mrs. Smith, with $16.8 million, which has now taken in $125.4 million. The only other new film this weekend was George Romero's Land of the Dead from Universal, which took in $10.2 million, qualifying for the fifth spot. Overall sales were down from last year for the 18th weekend in a row, falling 16 percent to $116.7 million for the top 12 films. The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:1. Batman Begins, $26.8 million; 2. Bewitched, $20.2 million; 3. Mr. and Mrs. Smith, $16.75 million; 4. Herbie: Fully Loaded, $12.75 million; 5. George Romero's Land of the Dead, $10.2 million; 6. Madagascar, $7.3 million; 7. Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith, $6.25 million; 8.The Longest Yard, $5.5 million; 9. The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D, $3.4 million; 10. Cinderella Man, $3.3 million.


Efforts to prevent the bootlegging of pictures or video from Paramount/DreamWork's War of the Worlds annoyed guests attending Thursday night's New York premiere,the New York Timesreported today (Monday). The newspaper noted that security guards posted at the Ziegfeld Theater even required Steven Spielberg, who produced and directed the movie, to check his cellpone before entering the theater. According to the newspaper, guards "confiscated" cell phones and handbags of all those arriving at the Ziegfeld, and long lines developed after the screening as guests attempted to retrieve them, many waitng a half hour or longer. A spokeswoman for Paramount told the Times: "We're committed to doing everything we can to protect our films against piracy." But syndicated columnist Liz Smith commented today: "Yes indeed, Paramount and DreamWorks miscalculated the hyper-security efforts."


With the first high-definition DVD players due to be introduced in the U.S. and Japanese markets by the Christmas season, the time for an agreement between the developers of two competing systems appears to be quickly running out, setting up the likelihood of a format war like the one between Betamax and VHS in the 1980s, the Los Angeles Timesobserved today. Josh Peterson, director of strategic alliances for Hewlett-Packard, which backs Sony's Blu-ray system, told the newspaper that a format war "looks more and more inevitable every day. We're approaching the point of no return." Toshiba's HD DVD system is scheduled to be introduced for the holidays, but the Times observed that Sony is expected to include a Blu-ray system in PlayStation 3 after the first of the year and that consumers are likely to hold off buying a high-definition DVD system until Sony's video game console hits the shelves. However, the Timesinterviewed several retailers who expressed reluctance to devote shelf space to two competing systems. And James Penhune of Strategy Analytics told the newspaper: "When you introduce an element of confusion, you're encouraging the consumer to put off the purchase."


Lucasfilm on Saturday opened the doors of its new Letterman Digital Arts Center at San Francisco's Presidio, a 23-acre four-building complex that includes technical equipment linked together by some 600 miles of fiber-optic cable. Next month, most of the company's employees are expected to move into the new facility from the Lucasfilm complex in Marin County, although the Marin properties will continue to house the company's sound stages, where actual filming will continue. (The San Francisco facility, incidentally, is not named after the talk-show host but after Major Jonathan Letterman, the medical director of the Army of the Potomac, who is considered the father of military medicine. The Letterman Army Hospital once stood at the approximate location of the new Lucasfilm headquarters.)


Drawing attention to what an exclusive club the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences actually is, the academy has released the names of the 112 individuals it has invited to join this year. They include Paramount chief Brad Grey, Sony Pictures chief Michael Lynton, Pixar chairman Steve Jobs, DreamWorks cofounder Paul Allen, and actors Will Ferrell, Jamie Foxx and Charlotte Rampling.