NBC PROUD OF PRIDEThe critically battered Father of the Pride made its debut on NBC Tuesday night and captured the highest ratings of the night. On an end-of-summer night, with the other networks airing mostly reruns (and an hour of the Republican National Convention), the animated sitcom, which was incessantly promoted during NBC's Olympics telecasts, pulled a 7.0 rating and an 11 share in the 9:00-9:30 p.m. timeslot. It also was the top-rated show of the night among adults 18-49. At 10:00 p.m., CBS edged out NBC in coverage of the RNC 3.9/6 to 3.8/6. ABC's coverage drew a 2.9/5.


With the broadcast television networks shunning most of the Democratic and Republican conventions, the three U.S. cable news networks are boosting their audiences significantly -- and boosting their ad revenue in the process. According to Nielsen Research, each of the cable news networks doubled their July ratings compared with those for July of 2000, when the last conventions were held. The results bode well for the cablers, indicating that the two parties will probably spend more than anticipated for ads on them. Indeed, Bloomberg News reported today (Wednesday) that Fox has already seen an eight-fold increase over 2000 in spending by the two presidential election campaigns, and CNN's receipts from political ads has already surpassed its total during the last presidential campaign. Nevertheless, the first night of the Republican convention on Monday -- which was bypassed altogether by the broadcast networks -- drew fewer than six million viewers combined. As expected, Fox, which appeals strongly to Republicans, captured 3.9 million viewers. CNN attracted 1.3 million, and MSNBC, 854,000.


CNN said Tuesday that it would agree to run an ad from the homosexual group Log Cabin Republicans during the Republican National Convention if it removes a photo at the end showing a Baptist minister outside the funeral of Matthew Shepard holding signs reading "God Hates Fags." A CNN spokesman told USA Todaythat the cable news network regarded the photo as "inappropriate." Shepard was the gay college student murdered in Wyoming in 1998. Following the photo, the words "Hope Not Fear" appear on the screen, concluding the spot. "That image is the whole point of the ad. There's no ad without it," Log Cabin Republicans' political director Christopher Barron said Tuesday. Fox News is running it during the convention, but MSNBC is not because one of the persons mentioned in it is Pat Buchanan, a paid commentator for the network.


The liberal magazine The Nation has asked its readers to help it buy ads on cable news programs after Fox News refused to carry them. "If you agree that this commercial deserves to be seen, please consider making a donation to help us get it on the air," the magazine said on its website, where it has posted a copy of the controversial spot. The ad also lists the comparable prices for commercial time on cable: "$200 buys one overnight spot on MSNBC; $250 buys one overnight spot on CNN Headline News; $3,700 buys one primetime spot on MSNBC; $8,400 buys a national primetime spot on CNN; $30,745 buys a national spot on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," the ad states.


Politicians looking to buy spots on television shows to sway undecided voters learned Tuesday that the most popular one among the undecideds is CBS's Everybody Loves Raymond. A study by media buyers Interactive Media Worldwide said that the undecideds also favor My Wife and Kids, CSI: Miami, JAG,and Will & Grace. The same study indicated that Will & Graceis also the Democrats' favorite show, while Raymondis the Republicans'.


A total of 203 million people watched at least some part of the Athens Summer Olympics, a record for a non-U.S.-staged Olympics. However, the Athens Games were relatively low rated. The 17-day event averaged a 15 rating and a 26 share, up 9 percent over the Sydney Games. The network had guaranteed advertisers a 14.5 rating. Like most previous Olympics, the audience for the games eroded steadily throughout the week, although the closing ceremonies on Sunday picked up a slightly larger audience than the final events on Saturday. While NBC captured the top seven spots on the weekly Nielsens, CBS took the next 17. In cable, MTV's Video Music Awards Sunday night was the biggest attraction with 10.3 million viewers -- a bigger audience than the broadcast networks attracted for any of their shows except for the top ten. The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:1. Summer Olympics (Monday), NBC, 16.4/27; 2. Summer Olympics (Tuesday), NBC, 15.7/26; 3. Summer Olympics (Wednesday), NBC, 15.3/26; 4. Summer Olympics (Thursday), NBC, 13.8/24; 5. Summer Olympics (Friday), NBC, 12.5/23; 6. Summer Olympics Closing Ceremonies (Sunday), NBC, 11.9/20; 7. Summer Olympics (Saturday), NBC, 11.1/21; 8. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 8.3/13; 9. Without a Trace,CBS, 7.2/12; 10. CSI: Miami, CBS, 7.0/11.VALENTI, LEAVING MPAA, WARNS OF "FAST"A new Internet transmission system called Fast TCP, developed by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, CA, could result in ramping up motion picture piracy, Jack Valenti warned Tuesday on his final day as head of the MPAA. Interviewed on the website Engadget.com, Valenti said, "I visited the labs at Cal Tech, and they're running an experiment called FAST (sic) where they can bring down a DVD-quality movie in 5 seconds. The director told me it could be operative in the market in 18 months. Well, my face blanched." The system, however, requires relatively expensive supercomputing equipment to transmit video content (although it can be received with conventional consumer hardware and software). New Scientistmagazine recently reported that Microsoft and Disney have been in talks with Cal Tech about licensing the system for video on demand.


Twentieth Century Fox Home Video said Tuesday that consumers had purchased 2.4 million copies of The Passion of the Christby noon on Monday. Full-day figures were expected to be released today (Wednesday), and a spokesman for the home video company observed that many buyers wait until after work to purchase videos. While extraordinary, especially for an R-rated film -- and one in which the dialogue is spoken in Latin and Aramaic -- analysts pointed out that sales had a long way to go to equal the record of 8 million copies sold in a single day by Finding Nemo (17 million the first week). However, Nemo, as well as several other theatrical blockbusters, made its debut in many chain stores at midnight. A spokesman for Best Buy said it did not open at midnight because doing so didn't seem appropriate, given the film's content. However, Fox pointed out that, unlike Nemo, Passionis being purchased in bulk by many buyers. Average sales amounted to 1.8 copies, the company said. Fox has reportedly shipped 15 million copies to stores.


The Walt Disney Co.'s international distribution arm, Buena Vista International, has helped its bigger sibling surmount a string of domestic failures by topping $1 billion in overseas ticket sales for the 10th straight year. The unit, headquartered in London, said that three films topped $100 million this year, including the hand-drawn animated film Brother Bear with $165 million, The Haunted Mansion, with $106 million, and King Arthur, with $100 million. Finding Nemo, released a year earlier, also earned more than $100 million in 2004.


The 61st annual Venice Film Festival opens tonight (Wednesday) with a screening of The Terminal with director Steven Spielberg and star Tom Hanks attending. Twenty-one pictures are competing for this year's top prize, the Golden Lion, to be handed out on Sept. 11 at a ceremony hosted by one of Italy's grandest stars, Sophia Loren.


Becky Sharp returns to the screen tonight (Wednesday), this time in the person of Reese Witherspoon, in a new version of Thackeray's Vanity Fair from Indian director Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding). The film is receiving a mixed reception. Stephen Holden in the New York Timesobserves that the new version reflects a "conceptual confusion," writing: "In mixing satire and romance, the movie proves once again that the two are about as compatible as lemon juice and heavy cream." Megan Lehmann in the New York Postcalls the production "overly ambitious," but indicates that it is nevertheless "an elegant showcase for an unforgettable heroine." John Anderson in Newsdaysuggests that the filmmakers have done too much tinkering with Thackeray's novel. He comments that while the writer "molders in Westminster Abbey, his finest creation gets treated like a contestant on Extreme Makeover." Ty Burr in the Boston Globepronounces the film "a toothlessly pleasant bit of period tosh," while, on the other hand, Michael Wilmington in the Chicago Tribunedescribes it as "a lusciously entertaining film that makes William Makepeace Thackeray's oft-filmed classic novel on unscrupulous 19th Century anti-heroine Becky Sharp come alive as never before."