NBC CAN'T BRING HOME THE GOLD
Final primetime ratings for last week showed a 37-percent decline in the number of viewers for NBC's coverage of the Turin Winter Olympics compared with the Salt Lake City Games four years ago. Among viewers 18-49, the demographic group most prized by advertisers, the drop was far greater -- a whopping 45 percent. Ratings for the closing ceremonies on Sunday were particularly dismal, with only 14.8 million tuning in, about half the number who tuned in four years ago. The top three programs for the week turned out not to be Olympics coverage at all but the Wednesday and Tuesday editions of Fox's American Idol and Sunday's season finale of ABC's Dancing With the Stars. Also beating out the Olympics in the top ten were ABC's Grey's Anatomy at No. 6; the Thursday special edition of American Idol at No. 7 and Thursday's semi-final round of ABC's Dancing With the Stars at No. 9. CBS, the usual weekly overall winner, had strategically decided to air reruns against the Olympics. Analysts could only speculate about how much further the Olympics telecasts would have fallen if CBS had decided to challenge them with original programming.

IDOL BACK IN TOP FORM

With no competition from the Olympics, American Idol returned full-strength on Tuesday, scoring a 15.9/24 in the 8:00 p.m. hour and an 18.6/27 from 9:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. In the process, the show clobbered NBC's latest great hope, the game show Deal or No Deal, which managed to register only a 6.1/9 at 8:00 p.m. (The game show, airing every night this week at 8:00 p.m., was also beaten by CBS's hit NCIS, which produced a solid 9.7/14.)

MOONVES WARNS CABLE COMPANIES: CBS WANTS TO BE PAID

CBS chief Les Moonves appeared adamant Tuesday in his insistence that the network be paid by cable operators for carrying its programs. At a Bear Stearns media conference in Palm Beach, FL, he indicated that the first contract renewal under which a fee for retransmission could be charged will involve a relatively small cable company reaching 3-5 million customers and will be negotiated in about six weeks. However, he said, he expected larger deals, coming up in 2008 and 2009, could "amount to hundreds of millions in revenues to the CBS network" for retransmission rights. Moonves declined to field questions about the lawsuit filed earlier in the day against former CBS Radio talk-show host Howard Stern, but did remark, "The good news is that not as many people will hear him as would have a year ago," referring to the much smaller audience that Stern is able to attract on the Sirius satellite radio platform.

PRODUCT PLACEMENT ADS CONTINUE TO MULTIPLY

Product placements now represent nearly 11 percent of all programming minutes on primetime network TV MediaPost reported on its website Tuesday, citing a study by TNS Media Intelligence. According to the study, the average half-hour TV show contains four minutes and 25 seconds of "branded appearances." The figure is considerably higher with reality shows, which averaged 11 minutes and five seconds of product-placement content per hour, with the recently canceled The Apprentice: Martha Stewart taking the crown with 33 minutes and 51 seconds. The "champ" among sitcoms was CBS's King of Queens with an average 18 minutes and 13 seconds per hour, about two minutes more than the regular commercial time on the program.

TV SHOWS BEING DOWNLOADED BY THE THOUSANDS

Television networks are becoming increasingly concerned about the growing number of TV shows being posted illegally on file-sharing networks, the Los Angeles Times reported today (Wednesday). "It's a serious problem," Peter Levinsohn, president of Fox Digital Media at News Corp., told today's (Wednesday) edition of the newspaper. "There is a voracious appetite for this content." The problem is exacerbated by the notion that, unlike records, DVDs, and movies, TV shows are free. However, as network executives are quick to point out, TV shows are intended to be free only to those who watch the commercials that run in them -- and those commercials are often eliminated when they're posted online. Thus far, the number of people downloading TV shows amounts to only a few hundred thousand, the Times observed. "The television business deals in tens of millions of people," Law & Order producer Dick Wolf told the newspaper. "When you are talking thousands of people ... that's less than the change that falls off the table. But that's for now."

HI, HO, HI HO, IT'S BACK TO WORK WE GO!
The Pixar team of Ed Catmull and John Lasseter, who will be taking over feature animation production at the Walt Disney studios, is apparently wasting no time attempting to restore energy and morale there. Word spread Tuesday on websites devoted to animation that Catmull and Lasseter plan to bring back to the studio some of the animation talent who were let go or who resigned in the wake of Disney's decision to abandon hand-drawn animation and focus on computer-generated animation instead. The two reportedly have specifically singled out the veteran writer/director/producer team of John Musker and Ron Clements as ranking high on their list of persons they wished to rehire. On Tuesday it was announced that Disney had signed composer Alan Menken to a multipicture deal and had assigned him to write five songs for the upcoming live-action/hand-drawn animated film Enchanted. On Tuesday, the website o-meon.com ("for grown-up geeks") quoted a Disney animation staffer as saying, "We're just so damn happy all of this is happening. ... We just can't believe that everything we've been trying to tell [Disney management] for years if finally coming true. We finally have a chief executive in Bob Iger who understands what creativity means to the company!"

SNIDER MAY BE FORCED TO TAKE YEAR-LONG PAID VACATION

Stacey Snider may have been successfully wooed by Paramount to become co-chairman and CEO of DreamWorks, but her former colleagues at Universal are not about to let the marriage take place until Jan. 1, 2007, when her current contract expires. "Snider could face a 10-month paid vacation in limboland," Daily Variety remarked in reporting on Universal's decision to relieve Snider of her duties but not release her from her current contract. The trade publication indicated that Paramount apparently has no plans to buy out the remaining months on her contract.

RECENT MOVIES IN HI DEF COMING TO CABLE -- AT A PRICE

Twentieth Century Fox is willing to make its movies available in high definition over cable and satellite within 60 days after they are released in theaters for $25-$30 per view, News Corp President and CEO Peter Chernin told a Bear Stearns media conference in Palm Beach, FL Tuesday. Asked about such a seemingly stiff price, Chernin observed that some 1 million Americans purchased home theater systems worth $25,000 each last year and that such users would be "desperate" for high-definition fare. (He did not cite a source for that figure.)

NEW LINE YANKS RACY RUNNING SCARED VIDEO GAME

After its movie, Running Scared, bombed at the box office over the weekend, New Line has apparently concluded that there is no longer any value in courting controversy concerning the racy online game that it offered to promote the film. The studio, without comment, has pulled the game, which includes a scene in which the lead character (played by Paul Walker in the movie) performs oral sex, and other scenes featuring repeated use of the f-word. The game had drawn fire from several conservative family activist groups -- in particular, the National Institute on Media and the Family, whose founder, Dr. David Walsh, urged members to register their protests with New Line. "New Line Cinema should be ashamed that it thought it could get away with this tactic, without being held accountable," he said. On Friday, New Line removed the sexually explicit parts from the video game, then the game iself on Tuesday.

CRASH TAKES PRIZE FOR MOST FOUL-MOUTHED OSCAR-NOMINATED FILM

Crash contains more incidents of bad language than any film ever nominated for a best-picture Oscar, according to FamilyMediaGuide.com. The website, which claims that it makes no judgments about the content of movies but provides information to visitors to its site so that they can form their own opinions, said Tuesday that the movie contains 182 expletives, including 99 utterances of the f-word. (Since the movie runs 107 minutes, that amounts to nearly one f-word per minute.)