Dancing competition vied with college basketball competition Monday night and the result was pretty much a draw -- with ABC's Dancing With the Starscoming out ahead in total viewers and CBS's telecast of the NCAA basketball tournament coming out ahead among viewers 18-49. A 90-minute Dancingaveraged 19.59 million viewers, peaking in the final half hour (9:00 p.m.) with 21.37 million. The March Madness telecast averaged 16.29 million viewers, peaking in the second half hour (9:30 p.m.) with 18.91 million viewers. Also scoring strongly Monday night were Fox's House, with 13.01 million viewers and 24, with 11.04 million.


Netflix is making a play for the younger set by wrapping up a deal with MTV Networks' Nickelodeon Channel that will make episodes of SpongeBob SquarePants, Blues Clues, iCarly, True Jackson, and Dora the Explorer available for online streaming. At the same time Netflix announced a deal with another Viacom unit, Comedy Central, that will bring 139 episodes of South Park to its streaming service. In a statement, Greg Clayman, MTV Networks' executive VP of digital distribution and business development, said, "We want our content to be available to our diverse audiences wherever and whenever they're spending time, and Netflix is a platform that continues to grow in popularity with kids, young adults and parents alike." The programs are available without additional charge to Netflix subscribers who have signed up for any tier of its service costing $9.00 a month or more.


Jay Leno came to Salem, MA Monday, a town in the shadow of Boston, where the station manager of WHDH-TV, the Boston NBC affiliate, has said he will not run Leno's 10:00 p.m. nightly variety show next fall and will replace it with a one-hour local newscast instead. Speaking at a news conference prior to his appearance at a charity event at Salem State College, Leno referred to the fact that NBC owns the Telemundo outlet in Boston, where his program could be slotted.. "If I have to speak Spanish and do it on Telemundo, well then ..." Leno quipped. "Whatever happens happens. I assume it will work out. This is one of those things, and I'm flattered that it became public when my name was involved," he added. He also gave a thumbnail preview of his upcoming show, saying, "We will probably lose the couch and the desk and just do more things. We'll still have celebrities. There will still be a monologue, the stuff that works, headlines, and Jaywalking." He later appeared at Salem State College to raise money for a scholarship fund named after the widow of local nightclub owner Lennie Sogoloff, who helped give Leno his start. Before Leno took the stage, Sogoloff remarked that the news that Leno would be replaced by a local newscast was like being in a theater and hearing the announcement, "The part of Jay Leno tonight will be played by Pee Wee Herman." At the end of his act, Leno pulled an envelope from his pocket and remarked, "Lennie, I've got $100,000 for you, pal." He then went out into the audience, handed Sogoloff the envelope and left the theater to a standing ovation.


Network programmers are betting that sitcoms are poised for a comeback. Of 71 scripted pilots hoping to get regular slots on network schedules next season, 33 are comedies, the Los Angeles Timesreported today (Tuesday). The newspaper noted that the current recession figures in the planning, since sitcoms are generally less costly to produce than dramas, particularly those shot before a live audience with multiple cameras. Of the 33 sitcom pilots being produced, 19 of them use a multi-cam format, allowing them to be produced in less time than those shot with a single camera. As of now, only CBS airs multi-cam sitcoms, but Angela Bromstad, president of primetime entertainment at NBC, told the Times."When you look at what's working and what is standing in a very crowded environment, the multi-cameras on CBS are doing very well and prove that it's not a dying format."


The Screen Actors Guild has played down reports that it is close to a deal with movie and TV producers on a new contract. Referring to a Los Angeles Timesarticle on Monday that said that some top industry executives had hashed out most of the details of a new contract in "back channel" talks with David White, interim executive director of SAG, a SAG spokeswoman called the report "premature," adding that the union's leadership "remains engaged in ongoing efforts to secure a fair deal for SAG members."