DEGENERES SHOWERED WITH EMMY NOMINATIONS
Ellen DeGeneres's remarkable comeback as a talk show host received another boost Thursday as her show, Ellen, racked up 12 Daytime Emmy nominations, the most for any talk show. It garnered nominations for best talk show and best talk show host. At the same time, Wayne Brady was also nominated in those two categories. His show is being canceled after this season. Others nominated for best talk show host included Dr. Phil McGraw; Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa; and Meredith Vierra, Star Jones, Joy Behar and Barbara Walters (who together host The View). Receiving the most daytime nominations were the long-running soaps All My Children (the oft-neglected-at-Emmy-time Susan Lucci was not among them)and As the World Turns, with 14 apiece. Overall, CBS drew 53 daytime nominations; ABC, 50; PBS, 35; and NBC, 19.

NIELSEN TO INCLUDE TIVO USERS

Nielsen Media Research plans to include people who watch programs on TiVo, Replay and other digital video recorders beginning in April of next year, the company said in a letter to clients on Wednesday. As reported by MediaPost's online Media Daily News, the ratings service will begin surveying the "time shifters" a year ahead of its original plans because, in the company's words, "the business and technology of television are changing much too quickly, and we have to keep apace of it."

COURIC DECRIES ENTERTAINMENT'S INROADS INTO NEWS

Katie Couric said Thursday that CBS's decision to air a Michael Jackson special on condition that Jackson appear on 60 Minutes for an interview represented "a very slippery slope and an extremely dangerous enterprise." Appearing on CNN's Larry King Live, Couric warned of "entertainment divisions [of television networks] blending into news divisions." The result, she said, is that "news has lost its purity. That's for sure." She acknowledged that she herself has had misgivings about doing reports about NBC shows on Today, including one recently about The Apprentice. "I guess the best way to kind of navigate these waters is to look at the story and say, 'is this attracting a lot of attention ... or are we just strictly doing this to promote something?'" Speaking of the growing attention given to celebrities on news and talk shows, Couric remarked, "When ... everybody is freaking out over Paris Hilton, frankly, maybe you need to sit back and say, 'Is this really the kind of journalism I want to do, or would my time be better used covering an important issue that affects far more people?"

DIANA DOCUMENTARY BARELY BEATS CBS DRAMA

The first part of a two-part documentary about Princess Diana, The Secret Tapes, drew a 13.3 rating and a 20 share Thursday night, barely edging out CBS's surging Without a Trace, which drew a 13.0/20. The Diana documentary aired in E.R.'s usual timeslot at 10:00 p.m. and proved to be a better draw among 18-49-year-old viewers than with overall households, pulling a 7.3/19 to Trace's 5.4/14. CBS won the night in households with an average 14.1/21 to NBC's 13.1/19 but came in second in younger demos, with a 7.2/18 to NBC's winning 8.1/21.

NIELSEN PROCEDURES TESTED BY STUDY

If Nielsen Media Research employed spies to observe the television viewing habits of those it surveyed, it might come up with far different ratings results than it currently produces, a study by Ball State University's Center for Media Design indicates. Researchers there first conducted phone surveys with one random group of 401 persons; then asked another group of 359 to keep diaries; a third group of 101 individuals was observed "or shadowed" by the researchers. Phone survey participants told researchers that they watched television an average of two hours per day. Diarists logged 4 hours and 38 minutes a day, but those who were actually followed watched an average of 5 hours and 19 minutes per day. The surveys were conducted in Muncie and Delaware County, Indiana and were dubbed the Middletown [as in "middle America"] Media Studies.

WILL JACKSON'S SNL APPEARANCE BE TIME-DELAYED?

NBC confirmed Thursday that Janet Jackson will make her first appearance since her notorious Super Bowl caper on NBC's Saturday Night Live on April 10. Asked by Reuters whether the show would be carried by tape delay (Saturday Night Live Five Seconds Ago?), a spokesman for the television show said that he knew of no such plans. Jackson's appearance is time to coincide with the release of her new CD, Damita Jo.

ECHOSTAR MAY DROP CBS ON MONDAY

EchoStar Communications, which operates the Dish satellite service, said Thursday that it will drop CBS from the service on Monday unless Viacom, the network's parent, backs off from its insistence that EchoStar carry several Viacom cable networks at higher rates as a condition of agreeing to renew a retransmission deal for CBS. Speaking at a business luncheon in Washington D.C., EchoStar Chairman Charlie Ergen accused Viacom of "extortion at the highest level" in its effort to force EchoStar to carry all of its cable channels including one that Dish does not currently offer. The Denver Post reported that Ergen told a group of reporters attending the luncheon: "Write this down: We always have a place for CBS on the Dish Network platform. ... The only way they're coming down is if they don't extend our retransmission [deal]. If they don't, we have no choice -- no choice -- legally but to take it down."

CNN BEATS FOX ON SUPER TUESDAY

More television viewers tuned into CNN on Super Tuesday than to Fox News Channel, Nielsen Media Research reported Thursday. Although Fox generally claims a far larger audience than CNN, the original cable news channel often pulls ahead when major news stories unfold. Nevertheless, CNN's lead was razor thin as it drew just 30,000 viewers more than Fox: 1.17 million to Fox's 1.14 million, a lead so small that it is likely to be considered statistically insignificant.

ABC AFFILIATE TO JOIN NBC

The importance of local newscasts is being underlined in Dayton, Ohio, where the ABC affiliate, WDTN-TV, is about to become an NBC affiliate. According to the Dayton Business Journal, NBC had been courting WDTN-TV because its high-rated newscasts would serve as a strong lead-in to its primetime programming and to the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. By the same token, with NBC's higher-rated primetime programs, WDTN-TV will be able to charge more for local spots than it now can with fourth-rated ABC. Actually, 21 years ago, WDTN-TV had been an NBC affiliate. At the time, Dayton had been a top-50 market and was therefore more attractive to national advertisers than it is today. Dayton is currently the 58th-rated U.S. market.

EISNER REMAINS UNDER SIEGE
Disney Chairman Michael Eisner's critics did not appear to be appeased Thursday by the decision the company's board of directors to strip him of the chairmanship of the company but retain him as chief executive officer. Dissident former board members Roy Disney and Stanley Gold issued a statement charging that the board's action was "a blatant rejection of shareholder will, a betrayal of trust and a significant step backwards for substantive governance reform." On Wednesday, 43 percent of Disney shareholders declined to vote for Eisner's reelection to the board. Pat Macht, a spokeswoman for CalPERS, the California pension funds, said in an interview with the Associated Press: "All Disney did was change the titles of two people. ... There's a mega-disconnect here between this company and shareholders." Sarah Teslik, executive director of the Council of Institutional Investors, which represents 130 pension fund, told today's (Friday) Los Angeles Times that she had received numerous email messages, one of which included the phrase "They just don't get it." The Times reported that "a consent solicitation," requiring the backing of shareholders holding a majority of the company's stock, could be mounted by Eisner's detractors to force a vote to replace him. However, a spokesman for Gold and Eisner told the newspaper that no decision had been made on tactics. Eisner himself remarked in an interview with the Times: "They [his detractors] will go away because the performance [of the company] will force them to go away." And in a separate interview with the London Financial Times, he remarked: "If I was managing these funds I would be looking to the performance of the company; 100 per cent of my time is spent addressing shareholder concerns by delivering improved performance."

MOVIE REVIEWS: STARSKY & HUTCH

Critics are apparently willing to write off Starsky & Hutch as a pleasant enough attempt by Hollywood to capitalize on nostalgia and the drawing power of stars Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson. On ABC's Good Morning America, Joel Siegel remarked: "I know it's not a very good movie. You know how some scripts could use a rewrite? This one could use a write. I counted eight jokes in the whole film. And they're not that funny. But it got to me anyway." Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times agrees. "It's a surprisingly funny movie, the best of the 1970s recycling jobs," he writes. Elvis Mitchell in the New York Times calls it "flaky fun." Jonathan Foreman in the New York Post describes it as "an easygoing, if unevenly inspired homage-cum-parody." And Ty Burr in the Boston Globe says it all makes for "an enjoyably stupid night at the movies." But John Anderson in Newsday is not amused, calling it, "a cliché-ridden, uncharming and tiresome exercise in recycled humor." And Eleanor Ringel Gillespie in the Atlanta Journal finds it all to be an "interminable -- and terminally lazy -- effort." And Mark Caro in the Chicago Tribune grumbles, "This is a profoundly unambitious movie, a '70s cop show spoof that aims to provoke a few giggles, and that's about it."

MOVIE REVIEWS: HIDALGO

If many critics are willing to give S&H the benefit of a doubt, several are not so willing to give Hidalgo the same. To Elvis Mitchell in the New York Times, it's "much too long, primitively plotted." Lou Lumenick in the New York Post writes that it "suffers from weird shifts in tone, offensively outdated stereotypes, a cumbersome subplot - and a supposedly fact-based story that bears only a nodding acquaintance with reality." Desson Thomson in the Washington Post observes that the filmmakers were apparently attempting to produce an epic on the order of Lawrence of Arabia. "But Lawrence this ain't; not by a long shot, and certainly not by a dromedary's nose hair. If it weren't for Sharif's extraordinary presence, there wouldn't be a cherishable moment in the movie." Michael Wilmington in the Chicago Tribune calls it "a would-be mix of Seabiscuit and that turns into something closer to The Mummy on horseback." The film does have a handful of defenders, including Roger Ebert, who writes in the Chicago Sun-Times: "Hidalgo is the kind of movie Hollywood has almost become too jaundiced to make anymore. Bold, exuberant and swashbuckling, it has the purity and simplicity of something Douglas Fairbanks or Errol Flynn might have bounded through."