SAG, AFTRA SIGN COMMERCIALS PACT

With all sides no doubt heaving great sighs of relief, the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists on the one hand and the American Association of Advertising Agencies and the Association of National Advertisers on the other announced that they had unanimously agreed on a tentative three-year commercials contract, subject to the approval of the two unions' membership. The agreement was reached early this morning (Wednesday) as negotiators continued bargaining talks throughout the night at New York's Crowne Plaza hotel following the expiration of their previous contract at midnight. In a news release, the two sides said that the contract provides more than a $36-million increase in wage rates in the first year, $21 million in additional contributions to the unions' health and retirement plans, a pay structure for new media work, additional monitoring, and improvements for choreographers, extras, and Spanish-language performers. Resolving a sticking point, the contract provides for "a pilot study" to test the advertisers' plan to tie compensation to ratings. The results of the study "will be subject to negotiation by the parties not later than January 3, 2012." In a statement AFTRA President Roberta Reardon said that the new commercials contracts "provide our members with the solid foundation they need to sustain their careers and families." SAG chief negotiator John McGuire said that he and his AFTRA colleagues "held together in the face of some very tough issues" and achieved "significant increases in wages during a very troubled global economy."

SAME OLD WINNERS

Despite the disruption of the broadcast schedule on Tuesday night by President Obama's primetime news conference, the leaders on the Nielsen ratings list for last week were little changed from previous weeks. (If the news conference had been rated, it would have headed the list.) The performance edition of American Idol, which was moved to Wednesday, came out on top, followed by the "results" edition, which was moved to Thursday. ABC's Dancing With the Stars followed in third place.

The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:

1. American Idol (Wednesday), Fox, 14.7/23; 2. American Idol (Thursday), Fox, 13.2/21; 3. Dancing With the Stars (Monday), ABC, 12.9/19; 4. The Mentalist, CBS, 11.2/18; 4. NCIS, CBS, 11.2/17; 6. Grey's Anatomy, ABC, 10.4/16; 7. Dancing With the Stars (Tuesday), ABC, 10.3/16; 8. 60 Minutes, CBS, 9/15; 9. Criminal Minds, CBS, 8.8/13; 10. CSI: Miami, CBS, 8.6/14.

NBC NEWS WIDENS GAP

After seeing ABC's World News With Charles Gibson creep closer in the ratings during recent weeks, NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams widened the gap last week as it averaged 9.65 million viewers. The ABC newscast averaged 8.49 million. CBS Evening News with Katie Couric remained a distant third with 6.86 million viewers. Meanwhile, among the cable news competitors, Fox News said that it experienced its third-best quarter ever, behind only the third quarter of 2005, when Hurricane Katrina raged, and the fourth quarter of last year, which included the presidential election. It boasted that it averaged 2.25 million viewers during the quarter, up 24 percent from the same quarter a year ago, and finished second among all basic cable networks, behind only USA Network. CNN, by contrast averaged 1.13 million, down 10 percent from 2008, and MSNBC 950,000, up 24 percent from last year.

THE WOZ IS OUT

Not even the continued massive effort by the geeks of America to keep Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak dancing on Dancing With the Stars was enough. Wozniak was voted off the dancing contest Tuesday night along with Playboy model Holly Madison. "This is a great show, a great process, a great system," Wozniak said. The results show attract 13 million viewers and placed third in its time period. Meanwhile, the Fox variety show The Osbornes Reloaded, appeared to shoot itself in the foot as it debuted with just 9.3 million viewers following American Idol, with 23.7 million.

TELEMUNDO GOES HD

NBC-Universal-owned Telemundo announced Tuesday that it will introduce HDTV broadcasts this month, becoming the first and only Spanish-language cable network to do so. High definition broadcasts, network President Don Browne said in a statement, "will clearly differentiate ourselves to our viewers, distributors and advertising clients. We have been producing many of our novelas [closed-end soap operas] in HD for a while and now are excited to be able to broadcast this great content at the highest quality available." The much larger Univision Spanish-language broadcast network has not yet indicated when -- or if -- it will also begin broadcasting in HD.

LESBIAN KISS A BIG HO-HUM IN AUSTRALIA

Despite biting criticism of it by Rupert Murdoch's News Ltd. newspapers in Australia, an episode of the teen soap opera Home and Away that included a kiss by two lesbian girls, generated fewer than 30 telephone calls nationally, the Melbourne newspaper The Age reported Tuesday -- and half of those supported the decision to broadcast it. Last week, one Murdoch newspaper, the Melbourne Herald-Sun headlined a story about the episode "Gay TV for Kids" and reported over the weekend -- erroneously, as it turned out -- that Channel Seven had censored the kiss following complaints from viewers.