MIKE WALLACE SIGNING OFF
Mike Wallace, who turns 88 on May 9, is stepping down as a regular 60 Minutes correspondent to become Correspondent Emeritus. In an interview with today's (Wednesday) Philadelphia Inquirer, Wallace remarked: "The time has come. ... When it becomes a real pain in the back to travel a lot; when your hearing and your memory aren't what they used to be, you're not as well prepared or qualified to do the job. Little by little, you try to be sensible about it." Nevertheless, he said, "I'm slowing down, not coming to a complete halt," and indicated that he still intends to conduct interviews occasionally for the program. He said that his therapist helped him reach his decision. "When I talked to my shrink, he'd say, 'You've got to get prepared, start to think about these things. You don't want to start thinking about them when you're told, "Hey, this is it."'" Wallace is often credited with introducing the tough, confrontational interview to television. And although today's Daily Variety reported that he has interviewed every president from John Kennedy to George W. Bush, Wallace recently noted that he had actually interviewed every president since Truman and complained that Bush was the only exception. In an interview with today's Boston Globe, veteran TV news producer Av Westin recalled once asking Wallace why people would bother sitting down with him on camera. "He said, 'Because they always think they can beat me and they can't.'"

SAWYER BOOTING GIBSON FOR ABC NEWS ANCHOR

The New York Observer has thrown cold water on reports that Diane Sawyer has been pressing ABC News executives to take over as anchor of World News Tonight. In fact, the publication quoted one ABC News staffer as saying, "Diane was lobbying last week for Charlie to get the job," referring to Charles Gibson, her co-host on Good Morning America. The Observer said that it was quite true that, as rumors said, Sawyer had been meeting with the network's news execs during recent weeks. However, according to the staffer, "The great irony of that whole thing ... [was] as the rest of the world was talking about how she was lobbying to get the job for herself, it was quite the opposite. The magazine also reported that ABC has quietly abandoned a highly touted new feature -- a nightly live West Coast feed "owing to the strain it put on the rotating fill-in anchors."

HOUSEWIVES HURT SOPRANOS -- AND VICE VERSA

Tony Soprano, it now turns out, got shot down in more ways than one last Sunday. According to the latest Nielsen figures, Sunday's sixth-season opening episode of The Sopranos averaged 9.5 million viewers, down a whopping 22 percent from its average last season. The dropoff was attributed to competition from ABC's Desperate Housewives, which itself took a big hit in the ratings because of the Sopranos' competition, recording 22.2 million viewers, its smallest audience since December 2004.

IDOL COMES ON STRONG

Three episodes of Fox's American Idol gave the network a ratings win for the week, both in overall numbers and in adult viewers 18-49. Nevertheless, CBS continued to score strongly, placing third with CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Without a Trace and CSI:Miami. The David Mamet-created drama The Unit also debuted in tenth place. For the week, Fox averaged an 8.1 rating and a 13 share representing 13.5 million viewers. CBS was so close behind that it recorded the identical ratings and share figures. However, it averaged 12.6 million viewers. With an average of 9.1 million viewers, ABC placed third, registering a 5.9/10, while NBC trailed with 8.3 million viewers, which translated to a 5.5/9. The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:
1. American Idol (Wednesday), Fox, 17.2/27; 2. American Idol (Tuesday), Fox, 16.7/25; 3. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 16.6/25; 4. American Idol (Thursday), Fox, 15.4/24; 5. Grey's Anatomy, ABC, 13.9/22; 6. Desperate Housewives, ABC, 13.6/20; 7. Without a Trace, CBS, 13.2/22; 8. House, Fox, 12.5/19; 9. CSI: Miami, CBS, 12.3/20; 10. The Unit, CBS, 11.6/17.

IDOL IS PURE GOLD ON TUESDAY NIGHT

Going into its final rounds, Fox's American Idol outdid itself Tuesday night as it averaged an 18.4 rating and a 27 share, peaking in the 9:00 p.m. hour with a 19.5/28. All other networks were left in the dust, with second-place CBS scoring a 9.4/14, about half the audience for Fox. Among adults 18-49 the Idol numbers added up to a 13.5 rating, more than the total of the other networks combined.

HOOPS ON YOUR IPODS?

CBS provided further details Tuesday of its plans to allow viewers to watch the NCAA's "March Madness" basketball competition via their computers and video iPods. The network said that "condensed" versions of all 63 games of the championship tournament will be available either individually for $1.99 or together (a "season pass") for $19.99. The national semifinals and championship game will be available unedited. Sean McManus, head of CBS News and CBS Sports, said in a statement, "This is how CBS envisioned the future when we made the unprecedented bundled-rights deal with the NCAA in 2003."

2006: THE YEAR OF DIGITAL CINEMA?
Theater owners, who have long been depicted as the roadblock to digital exhibition, now appear ready to welcome it. Speaking Tuesday in Las Vegas during opening ceremonies of ShoWest, the annual exhibitors' gathering, National Association of Theatre Owners President and CEO John Fithian said, "We stand now at the dawn of the biggest technological revolution since the advent of sound. Digital cinema starts right now, in the year 2006, and it couldn't come at a more important time." Fithian also suggested that the failure of the Steven Soderbergh movie Bubble in January may have caused studios to reconsider plans to close the window between the time a movie is released in theaters and the time it is on DVD. Bubble bombed at the box office and drew relatively tiny sales on DVD. It was, said Fithian, a "radical, misguided" experiment, but, he added, it "caused studios and exhibitors to sit down and talk with the creative community about this issue. It got us all together." Later, he remarked, "The reality is the window is not changing. The vast majority of Hollywood knows this windows model works."

GLICKMAN PRESENTS WAYS TO BOOST MOVIE MARKETING

MPAA chief Dan Glickman told the ShoWest exhibitors convention in Las Vegas Tuesday that his organization intends to launch a marketing campaign aimed at boosting ticket sales. "Everyone knows how to sum up box office in 2005. It was down," Glickman said. "This is not breaking news. What is important in 2006 is how we respond to the changing marketplace." However, today's Los Angeles Times reported that many exhibitors had already concluded that the downtrend was primarily due to the poor quality of many films in 2005. Peter Brown, chairman of the AMC theatrical chain, told the newspaper, "There are some movies that I said, 'Even if you could see it for free, you wouldn't.'"

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE STUDIO GIVES EXHIBITORS A PEEK

Exhibitors attending their annual ShoWest convention in Las Vegas on Tuesday were given a sneak preview of two key scenes from Paramount's Mission: Impossible III sequel, starring Tom Cruise and recent Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote). As reported by the Associated Press, one of the scenes includes a scene in which Hoffman's villainous character delivers a "chilling threat" to Cruise's. Do you have a wife, a girlfriend?'' Hoffman asks Cruise. "Because if you do, you know what I'm going to do next? I'm going to find her. I'm going to find her, and I'm going to hurt her. I'm going to make her bleed and call out your name. ...And then I'm going to kill you right in front of her."

UNIVERSAL MAY ANNOUNCED THIS WEEK SNIDER'S SUCCESSOR

Universal Studios President Ron Meyer has asked Marc Shmuger and David Linde to succeed Stacey Snider as chairman of Universal Pictures, the Wall Street Journal reported today (Wednesday), citing people familiar with the matter. The newspaper said that contract negotiations between the company and Shmuger, currently vice president of the pictures unit, and Linde, co-head of the art-film unit, Focus Features, are currently in progress.. An announcement of the promotions could be announced before the end of the week, the newspaper said.

MGM BUILDING THEME PARK IN SOUTH KOREA

MGM plans to build a $1-million theme park in South Korea to be named MGM Studio City, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported today (Wednesday). The newspaper said that the park will be built on land provided by the port city of Pusan and is expected to open in 2011. The complex, it said, will include a film academy with movie sets and an entertainment school, leisure facilities, shopping centers, restaurants, and accommodation.

SONY DELAYS BLU RAY

Representing a significant blow to Sony in general and to its Blu-ray high-definition DVD system in particular, the company announced today (Wednesday) that it has been forced to delay the launch of PlayStation 3 until November while it finds way to upgrade the copy-protection feature of its Blu-ray technology. Toshiba is expected to launch its first DVD players compatible with HD-DVD, which is competing with Sony's Blu-ray.