ABC REALIZES ITS HOOP DREAMS Game 1 of the NBA finals on ABC Sunday night shot down all competition, including the Tony Awards and the season finale of HBO's The Sopranos. Final ratings figures indicated that the basketball contest posted a 15.3 rating and a 20 share, representing 13.4 million viewers. (The Sopranos, which is not included in the broadcast ratings because it is carried on pay-TV cable, drew 11 million viewers, down 12 percent from its last season finale.). For the week, the NBA ratings results boosted ABC to second place among overall viewers and among adults 18-49 (tied with CBS) and to first place among men 18-49 -- its best finish since February when it carried the Oscars. Although NBA ratings were hot, ratings for the NHL's Stanley Cup finals, also on ABC, were anything but. The games between Tampa Bay and Calgary averaged a 2.6/5, peaking with a 4.2/7 for the final Game 7, down 9 percent from last year's final between New Jersey and Anaheim. The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:1. NBA Finals: Detroit Pistons vs. L.A. Lakers, Game 1, ABC, 15.3/20; 2. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 14.9/19; 3. CSI: Miami, CBS, 14.1/18; 4. Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS, 13.4/16; 5. Two and a Half Men, CBS, 13.3/16; 6. Without a Trace, CBS, 13.2/15; 7. Law & Order, NBC, 12.3/14; 8. Crossing Jordan, NBC, 11.5/13; 9. Miss Universe Pageant, NBC, 10.4/12; 10. Law & Order (8:00 p.m. Wednesday), NBC, 10.2/12.


A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press has confirmed what was already readily apparent -- that Fox News attracts mostly Republicans or conservatives, while CNN appeals mostly to Democrats. According to the survey, 35 percent of Fox News viewers identified themselves as Republicans, while 21 percent said they were Democrats. For CNN, the numbers split: 28 percent Democrats and 19 percent Republicans. The survey noted that when Fox News Channel came on the air in 1996, CNN's audience was more Republican than Democratic.


Ratings for the four major all-news channels -- Fox, CNN, Headline News, and MSNBC -- have risen 20-30 percent since Sunday, the day Ronald Reagan died, as viewers tune in to coverage of the various ceremonies and civic rituals associated with the funeral. Chicago Tribunewriter Steve Johnson observed in today's (Wednesday) edition that "Ronald Reagan will dominate television screens for the next three days to almost the same degree that he did when he was president" as the broadcast and cable networks cover the final ceremonies, beginning with the departure of Reagan's casket from the Reagan library in California this morning and ending with live coverage of the funeral service on Friday and the casket's return to California. CNN anchor Aaron Brown told the Tribune: "This is a perfect example of what cable news is for. ... We are in these moments the corner square. It's an opportunity to come and share the common experience."


Shares in TiVo, makers of the personal digital recorder that allows viewers to watch their favorite programs at any time after they're broadcast (and skip commercials), plummeted 14 percent on Tuesday after News Corp's DirecTV said it had sold its 4-percent stake in the company. Although DirecTV issued a statement insisting that it would continue to have a "strong relationship" with TiVo, published reports indicated that DirecTV's new owner, News Corp, may begin employing a competing digital recorder from NDS Group, which it also controls.


Actress Alex Kingston issued a statement Tuesday saying that she was quoted out of context by a British magazine, which said that she was being written out of E.R. because she was too old. The magazine, Radio Times, published by the BBC, quoted Kingston as saying: "I understand [the show] needs to keep reinventing itself to keep going and apparently I, according to the producers and the writers, am part of the old fogeys who are no longer interesting." In her statement on Tuesday Kingston said that her comments "were spoken tongue in cheek." The statement did not explain her additional speculation in the magazine story that she was being written out of the show because her salary had risen to $100,000 an episode and that the producers could pay younger talent less. Instead, she said that she and the producers were "in mutual agreement that the storyline for my character had run its course."


Following the shooting of two of its journalists in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, the BBC on Tuesday said that it will allow its reporters to be accompanied by armed guards when reporting from areas of extreme danger. The BBC maintained, however, that Sunday's shooting did not figure in its decision and noted that the policy would apply only to "exceptional circumstances," such as reporters who venture forth into perilous sectors of Iraq. MEL RILED BY MONEY CHANGERS In a lawsuit, Mel Gibson's Icon Productions has accused the parent company of the Regal, Edwards and United Artists theater chains, of refusing to pay it $40 million, representing 55 percent of the ticket sales for Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. The suit also seeks punitive damages. According to the suit, Newmarket Films, which distributed the film for Icon, reached a tentative agreement in February with Regal Entertainment Group, controlled by billionaire investor Philip Anschutz, stipulating that receipts would be divided along "studio terms" -- that is, Icon would receive 55 percent of ticket sales; Regal, 45 percent. However, the suit claims, in May Regal reneged on the deal and offered Icon 34 percent. A spokesperson for Regal said that the company has a policy of not discussing its business arrangements with film companies. Analysts observed that traditionally exhibitors pay a smaller share of grosses to independent distributors since their films rarely fill their theaters. Passion, however, grossed $370 million domestically.


U.S. Cellular announced Tuesday that it is introducing a new feature for its customers called "Ebert Mobile Movie Reviews," which will allow cell-phone users to access the critic's reviews of current and "classic" films anywhere in the U.S. "This service lets anyone get Roger Ebert's take on just about any movie out there," Alan D. Ferber, vice president of marketing for U.S. Cellular, said in a statement. "It's fast and easy and all right there on your cell phone." Software for the service was developed by San Diego-based eMbience, Inc. Ebert is the film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times.


The contretemps between the Walt Disney Co. and its Miramax subsidiary over whether Miramax produces profits heated up Tuesday as Disney President Robert Iger restated the claim that Miramax has been unprofitable in three of the past five years. Disney CEO Michael Eisner had originally made the claim last week -- a claim that was denied by a Miramax spokesman who pointed out that Disney had paid Miramax Co-chairmen Bob and Harvey Weinstein bonuses predicated on Miramax's showing a profit. Speaking to a media conference in New York Iger said, "They're not taking into account standard overhead, distribution fees, bonuses that we pay Bob and Harvey. Nor are they applying current accounting rules. ... So, yes, there are two sides to the story, but I think our side of the story is a rather credible side." Iger's comments appeared to ratchet up the rancor between the two sides. On Tuesday night, Harvey Weinstein, introducing a screening of Fahrenheit 9/11, a movie that Disney refused to distribute, remarked that he was considering taking out an ad saying: "Two executives looking for company to run. Résumés on request."


A veteran Disney animator, who quit in 2001 after 20 years with the company, has posted a blistering message on the anti-Michael Eisner website, lambasting Eisner for his recent comment that the day of hand-drawn ("2-D") animation has come "to an end, just like black and white came to an end." Dave Pruiksma, who created numerous principal characters in Disney animated features, commented: "What makes Michael Eisner think he is even qualified to make a judgment against classical animation? After all, he made a similar judgment in 1985, when he first came to the studio. He was ready, even then, to throw in the towel on feature animation and, if anyone had listened to him at that time, there would have been no Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast or Aladdin or perhaps even Pixar!" Pruiksma added: "Thankfully, smarter heads prevailed and the renaissance of classical feature animation was allowed to unfold." When Pruiksma quit Disney two years ago, he issued an equally scathing statement accusing Disney management of failing to include animators in the creative process, pushing projects into production before they were fully thought out, and wasting "millions and millions of dollars."


Raising questions about whether Euro Disney will ever be able to operate profitably and pay its creditors too, the French theme park announced that it had reached agreements on new waivers from the Walt Disney Co., which owns 39 percent of the company, and its lenders over its $3-billion debt. Stock in the theme park, which traded for as much as 10.25 euros in 1992, had fallen to a low of .31 euros on Friday. Amid speculation that a refinancing plan would be arranged, the stock has risen about .06 euros this week.