JUST LIKE OLD TIMES: CBS WINS SUNDAY

With ABC's Desperate Housewives airing a rerun and football slipping on NBC, CBS took over the ratings lead on Sunday night.CBS averaged an 8.3 rating and a 13 share, outdistancing second-place NBC's 7.8/12. Fox took over third place with a close 7.7/12, while ABC dropped to fourth place with a 6.4/10. Fox was helped by an overrun of a Sunday afternoon NFL doubleheader, which posted an 11.6/18 in the 7:00 p.m. hour. A new episode of CBS's Cold Case at 9:00 p.m. far outdistanced a rerun of Desperate Housewives, with Case registering a 9.0/13 while Housewives could only manage a 7.9/12. (NBC's football telecast tied CBS for the lead during the hour.)

MORE NEWSMAGAZINES, REALITY SHOWS COMING?

Resistance by the Writers Guild of America (WGA) to starting contract-renewal negotiations early could put network executives into a "de facto strike" posture and cause them to increase their output of non-scripted reality shows and newsmagazines, according to Broadcasting & Cable magazine. "While it would be what we would do if we had to, all of us are happy with the scripted versus unscripted ratio now," an unnamed network executive told the trade publication. Last week, Nicholas Counter, president of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which negotiates with the unions on behalf of the studios and networks, accused the WGA of dragging its feet on negotiations in order to intensify the threat of a strike. However, David Young, executive director of the guild, said in a statement that he is prepared "to commence negotiations in the summer of 2007, well in advance of the [October 31] contract expiration."

IRAQ CORRESPONDENT FIRES BACK AT CRITICS

Richard Engel, Middle East bureau chief for NBC News, has defended himself and other journalists covering hostilities in Iraq from complaints by conservative politicians that correspondents are painting a negative picture of conditions there from isolated positions in the so-called Green Zone. Appearing on PBS's Reliable Sources, hosted by the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz, Engel said that it had been "very frustrating all along to be at the receiving end of that criticism, with accusations like we just spend all of our time in the Green Zone." He said that many reporters go outside the protected area with troops or drive around the city without protection. "I know reporters, colleagues of mine, who have received so much criticism ... that they felt they've had something to prove. And so they put themselves in extraordinarily dangerous situations. And I know one reporter who was kidnapped as a result of it."

RATINGS FOR LATE-NIGHT VARIETY SHOWS FALL; NEWS SHOWS RISE

Over the past year, ratings for NBC's Tonight show with Jay Leno have fallen 6 percent, from 6.2 million in 2005 to 5.8 million in 2006. David Letterman on CBS has also seen his ratings fall 6 percent -- from 4.7 million to 4.4 million. On the other hand, ABC's Nightline has seen a 4 percent boost in its ratings, to 3.75 million, and on Comedy Central, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report have boosted their ratings by double-digit percentages. The figures, based on surveys by Nielsen Research and Media Life magazine, were reported in today's (Monday) New York Post, which concluded, "The traditional late-night talk shows -- Letterman and Leno -- continue to have audiences that dwarf the Nightline and the fake [news] shows. But media people tend to put a lot of stock in trends. And the trend is unmistakable."

Brian B.