CBS RETURNS TO TOP SPOT IN RATINGS

Ratings for CBS's Survivor: China may have been considerably lower than those for past Survivor series but they were strong enough last week to give the network an easy win over its rivals. Daily Variety observed that Survivor was one of the rare shows to win its time period every week during the season both in total viewers and among adults 18-49. The network's numbers were overwhelming on Thursday as a new episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation drew 20 million viewers, followed by a Survivor: China episode, which captured 14.5 million. Finally, Without a Trace closed the night with 15.1 million. Meanwhile, in the nightly news race, NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams pulled out ahead of ABC's World News With Charles Gibson. After weeks of running neck-and-neck, the NBC newscast drew over 400,000 more viewers than ABC's, posting 9.30 million to ABC's 8.86 million. CBS Evening News With Katie Couric remained well behind with 6.82 million.

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

1. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 12.5/19; 2. Without a Trace, CBS, 10.0/17; 3. NBC Sunday Night Football, NBC, 9.5/15; 4. CSI: NY, CBS, 9.4/16; 5. CSI: Miami, CBS, 9.2/15; 6. Criminal Minds, CBS, 9.0/14; 7. 60 Minutes, CBS, 8.7/14; 7. Survivor: China, CBS, 8.7/14; 9. Survivor: China (Sunday Finale), CBS, 8.5/13; 10. Deal Or No Deal (Wednesday) NBC, 8.4/14; 10. The OT, Fox, 8.4/14

WILLIAMS SAYS HE PICKED MICHAEL DOUGLAS AS NEW ANNOUNCER

NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams said Tuesday that it was his idea to replace the program's long-time announcer with Michael Douglas. The previous announcer, Howard Reig, retired two years ago. In an interview with the Associated Press, Williams said "I called him and said, 'On top of all you've done as an actor, producer and Academy Award winner, this will mean a small slice of immortality in our industry. It also means wherever you are on Earth, at 6:30 pm Eastern time, you'll know your voice is on the air.'" Williams did not indicate why he wanted the change or why he wanted Douglas.

STRIKE FORCES NETWORK RETRENCHMENT

The writers strike is driving the networks into a necessary retrenchment that they had previously sought to evade, published reports indicated today (Wednesday). The Associated Press quoted NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker as saying, "The strike is forcing us to look at the way we all do business and to make choices that were tough when business was as usual." Among the changes is the curtailment, if not the elimination, of first-quarter "pilot season." Instead of producing costly pilots for new shows, many of which fail, the networks are now considering going straight from producers' pitches to production of the series themselves, bypassing pilots altogether.

ALL TALK SHOW HOSTS TO RETURN JAN. 2

It now appears that all of the network late-night hosts will be back on the air on Jan. 2. ABC's Jimmy Kimmel was the last to join the returning crowd, saying in a statement Tuesday, "Though it makes me sick to do so without my writers, there are more than a hundred people whose financial well-being depends on our show. It is time to go back to work." The return of the late-night programs is likely to put additional pressure on the Writers Guild of America to reconsider their refusal to remove several proposals from the table that the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers has insisted are non-negotiable, including jurisdiction over reality and animated shows, trade reports suggested. They may also be forced to consider tolerating proposals due to be put forth by the Directors Guild of America when the DGA opens talks with the studios next month. According to Daily Variety the directors have spent nearly $2 million on research on how the Internet is likely to be monetized and how to pay residuals from those revenues. The trade paper said that the DGA has offered to share its research with the writers.

NEW FCC RULES PROVOKE ANGER

Voting along party lines, the FCC on Tuesday loosened its regulations on newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership. Under a complicated set of provisions the FCC will now allow a media company to own a newspaper and broadcast stations in the top-20 markets so long as eight independent voices are present in those markets and that the stations are not among the top four. Moreover, such newspaper-broadcast combinations would be permitted in smaller markets so long as the TV stations air at least seven hours of local news or if the station or newspaper is in financial distress. Democratic commissioner Michael Copps later told Broadcasting & Cable magazine that he believed the FCC action was "an invitation to the courts and the Congress" to overturn it. "Today the score is consolidation one, public interest nothing."

SO LONG, TRIBUNE ENTERTAINMENT

Tribune Entertainment, once one of television's premier syndication companies, has bit the dust, according to the trade publication TV Week. The company, which moved to Los Angeles from Chicago 11 years ago and was based at Tribune-owned KTLA, reportedly closed its doors on Friday after informing employees that they were being laid off. In years past, the company has distributed programs hosted by Dennis Miller, Joan Rivers and Geraldo Rivera, plus Soul Train, Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda, Mutant X, and Siskel and Ebert at the Movies.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.