LOST SHACKLES MARTHANBC's decision to move Jerry Bruckheimer's new E-Ringinto the 8:00 p.m. hour, hoping that it would fare better against George Lopezthan it did against ABC's Lost, had mixed results Wednesday night. It did fare better, posting a 6.2 rating and a 9 share, but Lopez narrowly beat it with a 6.7/10. At 9:00, Lostroared back with a 14.3/20 in its third episode of the season, while the Martha Stewart-hosted The Apprenticeon NBC sank to fourth place with a 5.3/8. Surprisingly, CBS's Criminal Minds,which also airs opposite Lost (and which was savaged by the critics), drew strong numbers in its third week, an 8.8/13. At 10:00 p.m., ABC's Invasionlost most of Lost's audience, settling for a third-place 7.8/12. NBC finished first in the 10:00 pm. hour with Law and Orderposting a 10.2/16, just ahead of CBS's CSI: NY, which registered a 9.8/15.


Two new Tuesday-night series made impressive showings, with ABC's Commander in Chiefimproving on its outstanding premiere a week earlier by scoring a 10.9 rating and a 16 share in the 9:00 p.m. hour while in the same hour My Name Is Earl(8.5/13) helped to lift the network to a win for the night among adults 18-49, the demographic group prized by advertisers. Nevertheless, CBS remained the most-watched network overall, finishing with an average 8.3/13 for the night, narrowly beating ABC's 8.0/12. NBC finished third with a 7.8/12. Fox, airing the American League playoff game between the Angels and Yankees, placed fourth with a 5.5/9.


Viacom has asked a federal appeals court to overturn an FCC requirement that rules requiring educational children's programming be extended to over-the-air digital channels. The rules also limit the number of minutes of commercials that can be included in kids' programs. Last week, Viacom, joined by Disney and NBC Universal, asked the FCC to delay the rules, arguing, among other things, that they may violate First Amendment rights. In an interview with today's (Thursday) Washington Post, Georgetown University Law Center professor Angela Campbell commented that the media giants "have laid the groundwork for a very broad challenge" to the FCC's rules on children's programming. A Viacom spokesman denied the charge, maintaining that the company was limited to the new rules governing digital broadcasts.


For members of the Screen Actors Guild, the reality of "reality TV" is fewer jobs. SAG on Wednesday released a study showing that the number of roles in television shows last year fell to 34,431 from 38,127 in 2003, a drop of 9.7 percent. During the same period, SAG observed, reality programming in primetime grew from 15 hours per week to 22 hours. In a statement, newly elected SAG president Alan Rosenberg said, "The statistics for this year are again disturbing, and the industry must begin to address this downward trend. ... The displacement of scripted series by reality programming continues to be a severe obstacle to a working actor's ability to earn a living."


African-American households have more TV sets than Caucasian and Hispanic householders -- and their sets are also likely to be larger, according to a study by Knowledge Networks. As reported by the online MediaDailyNews, the study indicates that 62 percent of African-American households have more than two TVs, versus 51 percent among whites and 44 percent among Hispanics. Fifty percent own sets larger than 30 inches versus 44 percent for whites and 41 percent for Hispanics. On the other hand, the study observed, 70 percent of white households have personal computers versus 55 percent for African Americans and 47 percent for Hispanics.


The new Nightlinewill have two anchors in New York and one in Washington, Broadcasting & Cablereported today (Thursday), citing an unnamed ABC source. According to the trade publication, each nightly show will consist of four segments, with the opening segment always edited in New York. The new Nightlinewill debut on Nov. 28, following Ted Koppel's exit on Nov. 22 (in a one-hour broadcast), the magazine said.


Geraldo Rivera said Wednesday that he is optimistic that his upcoming daily news show on Fox, which launches on Oct. 31, will give him the opportunity "to go out with one more hit, to go once more into the breach where the network needs me. I think of myself as Special Forces, clearing the path for the infantry." Rivera has suggested that the program, which will feature correspondents from the Fox News network, will precede the launch of a nightly newscast on Fox that will compete with those of the three other major networks. "We'll bring urgency, passion, and a point of view," he told today's (Thursday) Philadelphia Inquirer. And while the other networks are looking for younger news anchors in the hope of attracting more 18-49 year olds, Rivera suggested that younger viewers will likely be drawn to his news program. "I'm old," he told the Inquirer,"but I'm still cute and strong. And very butch." WALLACE AND GROMIT: NO CURSE FOR DREAMWORKSIndustry buzz on DreamWorks Animation's release of Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbithas been so intense that Banc of America Securities on Wednesday reiterated a "buy" rating on the studio and raised its target price to $29. Shares in the stock were being traded at $26.91 at midday on the NYSE. The research firm predicted an opening of $14-16 million over the weekend (it opened in limited release in Los Angeles and New York on Wednesday) and $65 million over the length of its domestic run. It predicted the film will take in a "meaningfully better" $110 million overseas. The "claymation" film has been attracting outstanding early reviews, Los Angeles Timescritic Kenneth Turan, noting that it took five years to make the film using stop-motion photography, commented: "That's a lot of work for an 85-minute film, but if you want to know the truth, it was worth every second."


When Viacom splits into two new companies -- one to be called Viacom Inc.; the other, CBS Inc. -- shareholders will receive half a share in each of the two companies for every share of Viacom that they currently hold, the company said in an SEC filing Wednesday. No date was provided for the split, which Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone said was dictated by "the need to adapt to a changing competitive environment." The new Viacom, which will consist of Paramount Pictures and most of the company's cable networks, will have $3.2 billion in debt, while CBS Inc., which will consist of CBS, UPN, Infinity Radio, Viacom Outdoor Advertising, and the Showtime network, will have $7 billion in debt, according to the filing.


Speculation continued to grow Wednesday that Warner Bros. was about to defect from Toshiba's HD DVD camp and join Sony's Blu-ray, a move that could be fatal for Toshiba's high-definition DVD format. Business Weekmagazine pointed out in its online edition that Warner Bros. has assembled the Hollywood studios that had backed Toshiba's format, including corporate sibling New Line, Paramount, and Universal. Paramount defected last weekend, and New Line is likely to go wherever Warner Bros. goes. Paramount held out the possibility of releases its films in both formats, and Warner Bros. is likely to do the same, reports said. Word of Warner's possible move spread quickly at the CEATEC 2005 electronics exhibition in Japan, the associated Press reported. AP quoted an executive with Matsushita, which backs Blu-ray, as saying, "The format war is coming to a close."


Andreas Schmid, CEO of VIP, Germany's leading film fund, was taken into custody in Munich Wednesday as investigators continued to look into accusations of fraud and tax evasion against the fund. Authorities told Reuters that Schmid had been arrested because they had reason to believe he might attempt to leave the country. Two other VIP executives are also reportedly under investigation. They are charged with operating a kind of shell game in which investors contributed to funds for movie productions in the belief that the would qualify for tax breaks. However, it is alleged that VIP did not use the money for production but placed it in bank accounts which they leveraged for credit, then used the credit lines for productions. VIP managers then took a cut of the money for "operating expense." CORRECTION:In Wednesday's edition, we described how copies of a soft-porn movie had turned up in Salt Lake City inside the packaging for Sons of Provo, which features the Mormon boy band Everclean. A reader informs us that the movie is a spoof of such bands (like the Osmonds) and that Everclean does not really exist.