"MUST-SEE" NIGHT?

Ratings for virtually all of network television's offerings Thursday -- usually the highest-rated night of the week -- remained off substantially from their year-ago levels. CBS's Survivor: Micronesia may have won the 8:00 p.m. hour with an average 7.6 rating and a 12 share, but it was down from a 9.2/14 from last year's Survivor: Fiji for the comparable week. ABC's Lost won the 9:00 p.m. hour with an 8.2/13 and was the only network show of the night to exhibit a year-to-year improvement. A repeat of CBS's Without a Trace won at 10:00 p.m. -- but did it with just a 6.8/11. Nevertheless, the show was able to beat new episodes of ABC's Eli Stone (5.3/10) and NBC's Lipstick Jungle (4.3/7).

BLANK SCREENS FOR MINORITY HOUSEHOLDS?

If the switch to digital television were to occur today instead of one year from Sunday, 13 million households would be staring at blank screens, according to a report by Nielsen research released today (Friday). Another 6 million households would have at least one set that would not be able to receive digital signals. The report suggested that African-American and Hispanic households are the least prepared for the switch -- with 17.3 percent of Hispanic households unable to receive digital signals on any set in their homes. Nielsen released the report at a client meeting in Las Vegas, warning advertisers of the possibility of a serious ratings shortfall unless a major effort is pursued to encourage viewers with analog sets who receive TV over the air to purchase converters.

VIEWERS WATCHING RECORDED SHOWS AFTER 11:00 P.M.

Local late-night newscasts and network talk shows are likely to face some stiff competition as digital video recorders proliferate in American homes, a study by Nielsen Research suggests. The study found that the traditional primetime viewing period from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. is expanding in DVR households because viewers are watching shows they recorded on DVRs after 11:00 p.m. Eleven percent of adults 18-49 with DVRs now watch their recorded programs between 9:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. Seven percent are watching between 11:00 p.m. and midnight. As a result, the average viewer is watching more TV than ever, the study concluded. In a statement, Patricia McDonough, Senior Vice President of Insights Analysis and Policy at Nielsen Media Research, said, "DVR playback has added to TV usage, particularly during the most watched hours of the day, as viewers take advantage of their ability to watch their favorite shows according to their own schedules."

OSCAR COMMERCIALS SELLING FOR RECORD PRICES

Depending on their placement in the broadcast, 30-second commercials on ABC's telecast of the Feb. 24 Oscars telecast are fetching as much as $1.7 million each -- a record, Advertising Age reported Thursday. The trade publication observed that live telecasts like the Oscars are becoming especially valuable to advertisers since they are not likely to be watched at a later time by viewers with digital video recorders, who often skip commercials. ABC has contracted with General Motors to be the sole automotive advertiser on the telecast. AdAge suggested that GM will not only be buying commercial time, but will be getting a lot of product-placement time as well, with 75 of its "environmentally friendly" vehicles, including the GMC Yukon Hybrid, shuttling celebrities to the red carpet.

LAST CALL WRITERS GETTING LAST PAYCHECKS

Carson Daly, who was accused of "betraying" his staff writers when he became the first late-night talk-show host to return to the air four weeks after the WGA strike began (taping of his show was later disrupted by striking writers) is now being hit from the opposite direction. According to L.A. Weekly columnist Nikki Finke, NBC has cut Last Call's budget and fired three of its four writers. Six other employees also received pink slips. Finke, on her Deadline Hollywood Daily blog, said that NBC had confirmed the cuts and quoted a network source as saying that the cuts were not made because of the strike.

TRIBUNE COMPANY SELLS HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS

Tribune Co. on Thursday sold its TV studios in Hollywood, the home of its Los Angeles TV station, KTLA, and the production site of such shows as Judge Judy, Hannah Montana, and E.R., to Hudson Capital LLC for $125 million. The studio, along with another property farther east that was once the Hollywood home of ABC, was originally the site of Vitagraph Studios. Both sites were later acquired by Warner Bros when it merged with Vitagraph in the early 1920s.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.