NBC GETS BIG PRESEASON KICKOFF

NBC returned to the gridiron last Sunday in fine form, with its preseason opener lifting it to a tie with CBS for the week among adults 18-49. The Hall of Fame Game drew 10.6 million viewers and was the highest-rated show in advertisers' key demographic. CBS remained well ahead in overall households, however, averaging a 5.1 rating and a 9 share for the week. NBC, however pulled into second place with an average 4.5/8, while ABC and Fox tied with a 3.6/6. Meanwhile, a tight race continued among the three network evening news programs. In total viewers, NBC led with 8.4 million. ABC was in second place with 7.7 million, while CBS placed third with 7.2 million. The race was tighter among 25-54-year-olds, with NBC and ABC tied for that demo.

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

1. CSI: Miami, CBS, 7.7/13; 2. Without a Trace, CBS, 7.3/13; 3. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 6.8/11; 3. (tie) NBC NFL Pre-season Football, NBC, 6.8/12; 5. Two and a Half Men, CBS, 6.7/11; 6. America's Got Talent, NBC, 6.5/11; 7. NBC NFL Pre-season Pre-Game, NBC, 6.4/12; 7. (tie) Without a Trace (Sunday), CBS, 6.4/11; 9. 60 Minutes, CBS, 6.3/12; 10. So You Think Can Dance (Wednesday), Fox, 6.0/10.

SAWYER IS AMERICA'S NEWS SWEETHEART

America's favorite news personality does not anchor any of the network evening newscasts. According to a Gallup Poll, she is ABC's Diane Sawyer with "the highest overall net favorable" results. ("Net favorable," the poll explains is the percentage of favorable responses, minus the percentage of unfavorable responses; in Sawyer's case, 88 percent of those polled rated her favorably; 12 percent, unfavorably.) Charles Gibson of ABC and Brian Williams of NBC tied for second, while CBS's Bob Schieffer placed fourth. CNN's Anderson Cooper followed, making him the favorite cable news personality, well ahead of Katie Couric, who ranked No. 11, and Bill O'Reilly, who ranked No. 14. But, as an indication of how the American public regards TV newscasters overall, the poll also found that 27 percent had never heard of Gibson; 29 percent had never heard of Schieffer; 38 percent had never heard of Williams; and 39 percent had never heard of Cooper. By contrast, only 2 percent said that they had never heard of Diane Sawyer. Following the release of the poll, NBC issued a statement saying, "Nielsen Media Research polls our audience every single night and they tell us NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams is the largest single source of news in the country. Period."

FOX NEWS ON TOP OF CONNECTICUT ELECTIONS

Fox News Channel gave extensive live coverage to Tuesday night's Connecticut primary election results, which saw incumbent Senator Joe Lieberman defeated by Democratic challenger Ned Lamont. while MSNBC stuck with taped programming augmented with a banner showing the results. As reported by the Johnny Dollar website, CNN carried Lieberman's concession speech live, but failed to dump out of commercials while Lamont was declaring victory. FNC carried both speeches live. The race was closely watched by conservatives, who are expected to support Lieberman's independent candidacy in the general election.

MEDIA COMPANIES ASSESS THEIR OPTIONS

Two media giants came under a regulatory cloud Tuesday when questions were raised about the timing of stock options granted to key executives. In separate statements, Cablevision Systems and Pixar Animation said that they were reviewing the option grants. For its part, Cablevision also announced that it was delaying release of its second-quarter earnings statement while the matter was under review. Pixar, which was recently acquired by the Walt Disney Co., said that none of its stock-option grants went to CEO Steve Jobs but that they did go to Ed Catmull and John Lasseter, who now have prominent positions at Disney. In June, Apple Computer, another company headed by Jobs, reported irregularities in stock-option grants between 1997 and 2001. As was the apparent case with Pixar, several of the Apple grants were reportedly dated just before sharp increases in the company's stock, raising questions about whether they may have been post dated in order to benefit the recipients.

GREASE: THE REALITY SHOW

The casting of a Broadway musical will become a TV reality series when NBC launches You're the One That We Want, a midseason show in which viewers will select the leads for a revival of Grease on Broadway. (The show's title was lifted from a song title in the musical.) It will be produced by Kathleen Marshall, who will serve as a judge on the TV show, along with Jim Jacobs, the co-creator of Grease, and theatrical producer David Ian. The Grease revival is scheduled to open on Broadway in June 2007, with tickets going on sale in December. It is being produced by BBC Worldwide Productions, the commercial subsidiary of the publicly funded British broadcast company. Meanwhile, auditions for Season 6 of Fox's American Idol kicked off at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena Tuesday.

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.