NBC GETS LITTLE LIFT FROM OLYMPICSNBC's hope to use the Winter Olympics to promote itself out of fourth place in the ratings came a-crashing last week as it faced competition from American Idolon Fox, the Oscars on ABC, and CBS's depth of hit shows. The network finished particularly weakly among younger viewers, the demographic group it once dominated. As expected, ABC's coverage of the Oscars not only topped the Nielsen list for the week, but topped all other entertainment programs broadcast this year. The 38.94 million viewers who tuned in exceeded the 37.88 million who watched the year's previous champ, the post-Super Bowl episode of ABC's Grey's Anatomy. Thanks to the Oscars, ABC won the week with an average 8.0 rating and a 13 share in overall households. (It came in second among adults 18-49). Fox and CBS tied for second place with a 7.9/12, while NBC remained a distant fourth with a 6.2/10. The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:1. Academy Awards, ABC, 23.1/35; 2. American Idol(Tuesday), Fox, 17.0/25; 3. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 16.9/25; 4. American Idol (Wednesday), Fox, 16.6/26; 5. American Idol (Thursday), Fox, 15.2/23; 6. Without a Trace, CBS, 13.1/21; 7. CSI: Miami, CBS, 11.8/18; 8. Oscar Countdown 2006 Pt 2, ABC, 10.9/18; 9. Two and a Half Men, CBS, 10.8/16; 10. Lost, ABC, 9.9/15.


American Idoldealt the unfriendliest of blows Tuesday to NBC's Joey. While Idolaveraged a 16.6 rating and a 25 share in the 8:00 p.m. hour, Joey,returning on a new day with a new episode, posted a 2.9/4, its lowest ratings ever at 8:00, then proceeded to break that record with a repeat at 8:30 p.m. that registered a 2.6/4. Fox retained its lead in the 9:00 p.m. hour with House, which drew a 12.6/19. However, CBS also impressed with its new drama The Unit, which averaged an 11.4/17. ABC, presenting its highly promoted improvised comedy Sons & Daughters, averaged a so-so 5.2/7 with two back-to-back episodes. NBC remained in fourth place with a 3.7/5 for Scrubs. ABC moved ahead in the 10:00 p.m. hour with Boston Legal, which scored a 7.6/13, beating a repeat of NBC's Law & Order: SVU, which was close behind with a 7.2/12. ABC took third place with The Amazing Race, which scored a 6.1/10. (Fox does not air network programs at 10:00 p.m.)


CBS is planning live webcasts of the early-round games of the NCAA basketball tournament -- "March Madness," as it is called -- beginning March 16 via its website, cbssportsline.com.. The games will be available for free and include commercials, but because of the limitations of broadband broadcasting, only a few hundred thousand viewers will be able to watch them at the same time. When capacity is reached, additional viewers will be placed in a "waiting room" showing a scoreboard and an estimate of how long they'll have to wait. CBS said that it had been able to find eighteen major advertisers to sponsor the webcasts. In an interview with today's (Wednesday) Los Angeles Times, Larry Kramer, president of CBS Digital Media, remarked, "The advertising world is willing to support streaming video in a way they haven't been willing to support it in years past."


Paxson Communications, which has already riled NBC -- which owns 33 percent of it -- by changing its Pax-TV network into an infomercial outlet, has now antagonized DirecTV, which said it plans to drop it. Paxson, which announced last week that it plans to change its corporate name to Ion Media Networks (it now calls its infomercial network "i"), said that if DirecTV pulls the plug, it would lose 5.5 percent of its audience.


While other networks have been firing off legal notices to the video website YouTube.com demanding that they remove content from their programming, Fox on Friday uploaded a live version of the opening title sequence of The Simpsons to the site, in which human characters mimic the actions of the animated ones. The Los Angeles Timesblog "Channel Island" reported that the clip was produced by the U.K. ad agency Devilfish and was designed to promote the upcoming 17th season of the series on Sky One, Fox's corporate sibling in Britain. The clip was quickly picked up by other websites, becoming what a studio spokeswoman described as "a viral campaign," adding, "It's amazing how quickly it went around the world."


ABC World News Tonightanchor Bob Woodruff, who suffered serious head and brain injuries as the result of a roadside blast in Iraq in January, has begun talking to family members and walking with assistance, according to his brother David. David said that when Bob Woodruff awoke on Monday, he asked where he was and how long he had been there. When his wife Lee walked in, he said, "Hi, sweetie." In an interview with the Detroit Free Press, David Woodruff said, "They told us all along through this process that he would suddenly come to. The brain finds a way to kick itself on, and apparently that's what happened. ... He's alert, he's awake. The great news, too, is he's joking around a little bit."


Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld accused the news media Tuesday of exaggerating and falsely reporting the situation in Iraq. "The steady stream of errors," he said, "all seem to be of a nature to inflame the situation and to give heart to the terrorists and to discourage those who hope for success in Iraq." However, when asked about the recent comment by Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, that "the potential is there now for sectarian violence to become a full-blown civil war," Rumsfeld replied, "I certainly am not going to try to disagree with it. There's always been a potential for that." Rumsfeld went on to claim that al Qaeda has "media committees" that train followers to manipulate the news media. However, he added, "I can't take a string and tie it to a news report and then trace it back to an al Qaeda media committee meeting." LEO TO ROAR AGAINMGM's Leo the Lion will apparently be roaring at the start of films made by other companies, published reports indicated today (Wednesday). According to the reports, MGM plans to announce distribution deals with Bob and Harvey Weinstein's The Weinstein Company, Lakeshore Entertainment (Underworld: Evolution, The Exorcism of Emily Rose), and Bauer Martinez Entertainment (Modigliani). The company apparently has no plans to resume making films on its own, except those that it is financing with Sony, one of its principal owners, such as the recent Pink Panthermovie and the upcoming James Bond flick. Today's New York Timesobserved that one possible motive for the deals is to allow MGM to fulfill its contract with Showtime for programming. "Right now there is a giant hole," said one of the newspaper's sources.


Demonstrating that you can win for losing, Pixar animation reported Tuesday that its fourth-quarter profit fell 44 percent from the same period a year ago. Unlike the previous year, however, when money was coming in from ticket sales for The Incredibles,Pixar had no new movie out in the quarter. In fact, profits beat Wall Street estimates, and Pixar shares rose 22 cents to $54.03. In an interview, Michael Goodman, an analyst with Boston's Yankee Group, told Bloomberg News, "Pixar's revenue ebb and flow depends on its output. The purchase by Disney will smooth that out. ... With studios it's all about peaks and valleys."


On the same day that Toshiba unveiled a new laptop computer capable of playing HD DVD (high definition) movies, rival Sony announced that it has been forced to delay its own roll-out of the competing Blu-ray high definition gear. Blu-ray was to have been given a big push with Sony's PlayStation PS3 model, capable not only of playing high-definition video games but high-definition movies as well. Sony blamed a delay in the shipment of chips needed for the PS3. The Toshiba Qosmio G30 laptop introduced Tuesday, which can display HDTV either on its own monitor or on a home-theater system, is due to be introduced next month.


Ang Lee, who won the best director Oscar Sunday night for Brokeback Mountain,expressed disappointment Tuesday that the movie did not take the prize for best film. "We've won every award since September, but missed out on the last one, the biggest one," he told the BBC. He said that it was only "human nature" to be disappointed -- the film had been strongly favored to win -- but that he was disappointed more for his team than himself. He himself became the first Asian ever to win a best director Oscar.


Gordon Parks, a news photographer who became the first major black movie director, died Tuesday in New York at the age of 93. Parks was also a composer and an author of fiction, including The Learning Tree, which he turned into his first movie in 1969. He also was credited with launching the wave of blaxploitation films in the early '70s with the detective drama Shaft.Prior to his film career, he worked for Lifemagazine as a photographer for 20 years, often capturing the face of poverty in America and the struggles of the civil rights movement. Only three weeks before his death Parks was awarded one of journalism's highest honors, the William Allen White Foundation National Citation from the University of Kansas in Lawrence. In a taped interview with CBS correspondent Byron Pitts, Parks, who said that his doctor wouldn't allow him to attend the ceremonies in person, remarked that he wanted to be buried in the eastern Kansas town of Fort Scott, where he grew up. "That is my home, and that is what I want to go back to," he said.


Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, who claim in their lawsuit that Dan Brown, stole the principal ideas for The Da Vinci Code from their book, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, took a pummeling from the defense Tuesday. In London High Court, Baigent was forced to admit that parts of his written witness statement in which he accused Brown of lifting numerous ideas from his book were untrue. (For example, The Da Vinci Code contains no mention of the writers' theory that Christ did not die on the Cross and in fact faked his Crucifixion, a theory that the witness statement said formed part of Brown's narrative.) "I think my language was infelicitous, and I think I have to agree with you on that," Baigent told the court. "You could have told the truth, for instance," the attorney for Random House, Brown's publisher, replied. (The Baigent-Leigh book was also published by Random House.) Meanwhile the Christian Council of Korea has asked Sony to cancel the planned May release of The Da Vinci Code in that country. The council accused the filmmakers of disparaging "the divinity of Jesus Christ."