GRAMMYS MAKE A COMEBACK

After ratings for the recording industry's annual Grammy awards plunged to their third-lowest level in history last year with just 17.18 million viewers tuning in, they zoomed upwards Sunday night, attracting 19.05 million. Critics, as usual, generally dissed the awards telecast, but generally gave host Craig Ferguson high marks. In its report, Reuters commented, "The increased viewer ratings provided some cheer to an industry fighting a losing battle to maintain album sales in an era of legal and illegal digital downloads." Meanwhile, the real star power was demonstrated Monday night when, according to Nielsen overnight ratings, a press conference with President Obama attracted 37.19 million viewers on the four broadcast networks: 11.49 million on ABC; 10.03 million on CBS; 9.75 million on NBC; and 5.92 million on Fox. The number of cable viewers was not immediately available. The New York Times noted today (Tuesday) that among those chosen to question the president were 88-year-old Helen Thomas, who now works for Hearst Newspapers, and 26 year old Sam Stein, who works for the online Huffington Post. "It was ... the very fact that he took a question from Mr. Stein that created a buzz and signaled yet another shift in the ever-evolving news media landscape," the Times observed, as it noted that the White House had decided in advance which reporters would be selected and that those working for The Wall Street Journal, The Chicago Tribune, Time and Newsweek were not on the list.

ALLEN PRAISES ALAN

Fired Screen Actors Guild National Executive Director Doug Allen is not going quietly into the night. Allen, who was relieved of his duties by the majority of SAG's board of directors, issued an open letter on Monday praising President Alan Rosenberg's negotiating strategy with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. "He deserves to be acknowledged and thanked for his selfless leadership, exercised at great personal cost, not dismissed by the facile, shallow and unsubstantiated disdain of some commentators," Allen said in the letter. He puzzlingly described Rosenberg as "emotionally accessible," adding, "To be anything else would be dishonest." Meanwhile, it was reported that SAG and the AMPTP would announce the resumption of bargaining within days, possibly even today. Trade reports indicated that the talks would begin on February 17, six days before the start of scheduled talks over a commercials contract in which the two sides will be joined by the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. On Monday, more than 100 motion picture crew members rallied at SAG headquarters, urging that a deal be made quickly. For a time they were confronted by members of SAG's Membership First faction carrying placards oppos퇤ing the deal offered by the AMPTP.

MYNETWORKTV WON'T BE A NETWORK ANYMORE

News Corp's minor-league network, MyNetworkTV -- News Corp also owns the Fox network -- announced Monday that it plans to turn itself into a "hybrid" service next September, presumably meaning that it will include a mix of reruns and movies along with new programs, including its most popular offering -- WWE wrestling on Friday nights. It plans to retain its current outlets but will provide them programming only five nights a week instead of six -- dropping shows on Saturday. One day a week will be devoted to reruns of Law & Order: Criminal Intent. News Corp said that it will announce additional programing "shortly." In an interview with today's (Tuesday) Los Angeles Times, MyNetworkTV President Greg Meidel said that the overhaul was necessary because of "this economic turmoil that we're in." He added: "We're blowing up the old traditional model and being innovative."

A-ROD ADMITS HE LIED ON TV ABOUT STEROID USE

Yankee slugger Alex Rodriguez admitted during an ESPN interview Monday that he lied when he denied using steroids during a December 2007 interview with Katie Couric on 60 Minutes. Asked by ESPN's Peter Gammons about a report in Sports Illustrated linking him to steroid use, Rodriguez said, "At the time, I wasn't being truthful with myself. How could I be truthful with Katie Couric or CBS?"

FLYING WITH THE ADS

A nearly all-encompassing advertising program will target American Airlines travelers beginning in April, when Brand Connections begins handling ad sales for American's in-flight NBC Universal on American Airlines. In a news release the company said that advertisers will be able to reach more than 3.4 million customers per month on 360 planes via ads appearing on NBC shows, including Today, On the Money, The Office and 30 Rock. Brand Connjections CEO Brian Martin said that the company intends to expand its in-flight campaigns. In the future, he said, "as an example, a traveler will see the brand's 30 second spot in flight and will then be given a product sample or literature piece right at the point of usage in their hotel when they land ... a truly integrated program,"

B. Alan Orange