STUDIOS PLAN SWITCH FROM SAG TO AFTRA

Twentieth Century Fox Television may shoot its programs with electronic cameras in order to scrap its contracts for those shows with the Screen Actors Guild, which ordinarily represents actors who appear on programs that are shot on film, the studio confirmed Tuesday. It will then renegotiate those contracts with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. The development was first reported Tuesday by Nikki Finke on her Deadline Hollywood Daily blog, who also published a statement she received from the studio: "With all the uncertainty surrounding the stalled negotiations with SAG, TCFTV is indeed considering shooting its spring pilots under the AFTRA agreement. As for shows already in production, we are exploring every option including transitioning shows from SAG to AFTRA." A short time later, Warner Bros. TV issued a similar statement. SAG immediately accused the studios of "attempting to use scare tactics to influence the member vote in the upcoming strike authorization referendum" and vowed to take legal action to halt any union shift. AFTRA also criticized the planned move, saying that a program produced under one union cannot be converted to another. "Simply stated, AFTRA would never participate in such a practice," it added.

MORE STUDIO CUTBACKS -- THIS TIME AT FOX

Twentieth Century Fox Television said Tuesday that it has begun reducing the budgets of all its productions, across the board, by 2 percent. A studio spokesman said: "In these challenging economic times, we've asked all of our showrunners to trim their production budgets by 2 percent, an assignment which they have all embraced. Everyone understands that revenues are down and these steps are necessary to protect our business."

EARLIER IS LATER?

A website that tracks Nielsen ratings and viewing trends has disputed Jay Leno's assertion over the weekend that "10:30 p.m. is the new 11:30 p.m." and that people are going to bed earlier than they once did. According to TVbytheNumbers.com, Nielsen data indicate that people are actually staying up a little bit later than they once did. "What the data shows is a decreasing trend of viewership between 10:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m. (not great news for Leno's new timeslot), and increasing viewership between 11:30pm-12:30 a.m.. That holds true both as a one year trend and a five year trend," the website said.

FOOTBALL SCORES FOR NBC

NBC, which had resisted paying top price for NFL football when it was leading in the ratings with its entertainment programming, found a sort of saving grace in football last week. Its Sunday Night Football game, in which the Dallas Cowboys defeated Super Bowl champs the New York Giants 20-8, not only was the network's top show of the week, but also was the highest-rated show among adults 18-49 aired by any network all season long. The game drew 23.1 million viewers, producing an overall household rating of 13.7/21. It was also the best rating for an SNF in more than two years, the network said. This season's 14 SNF telecasts are averaging 16.8 million viewers -- up 5 percent from last year's 16.1 million. CBS finished the week on top again with an average 7.4 rating and a 12 share. NBC, boosted by the football telecast (its only non-football telecast in the top 20 was Law and Order: SVU which landed at No 15), placed second with a 5.4/9. ABC came in third with a 4.0/7, while Fox trailed with a 3.7/6.

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

1. Sunday Night Football, NBC, 13.7/21; 2. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 12.7/20; 3. 60 Minutes, CBS, 11.6/18; 4. Two and a Half Men, CBS, 9.5/14; 5. Criminal Minds, CBS, 9.3/15; 6. The Mentalist, CBS, 9.0/14; 7. CSI: Miami, CBS, 8.9/14; 8. CSI: NY, CBS, 8.7/15; 8. Eleventh Hour, CBS, 8.7/15; 10. NCIS, CBS, 8.6/13.

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