American Idol remained unstoppable Tuesday night as it averaged 25.10 million viewers, peaking in the third half hour with 25.96 million. The wonder is that the competition from CBS and NBC remained strong. In the 8:00 p.m. hour, CBS averaged 18.07 million viewers for NCIS,while NBC averaged 8.20 million for The Biggest Loser. At 9:00 p.m., CBS's The Mentalist registered 18.26 million viewers, while the second hour of Loserdrew 9.61 million. CBS moved into first place at 10:00 p.m. as Without a Tracerecorded 12.21 million viewers. NBC's Law & Order: SVU closed the night for NBC with 9.45 million viewers. ABC placed a distant fourth for the night, averaging just 4.45 million viewers for the night.


Spectacular, Nickelodeon's two-hour made-for-TV musical, has proved to be no match for Disney Channel's High School Musical. The kids channel special, which was broadcast on Monday, attracted 3.3 million viewers versus 7.7 million for Disney's original HSM, which aired in January 2006, and 17.3 million for HSM2, which aired in August 2007. Spectacular's numbers may have been dampened by Disney Channel's own made-for-TV movie, Dadnapped, which aired in the same time period. Dadnappeddrew 4.6 million viewers.


The fact that Fox's new Dollhouse,which debuted Friday with so-so ratings, rose quickly to become the No. 1-downloaded TV show on iTunes says little about its popularity, several web sites commented on Tuesday. observed that to achieve No. 1 status on iTunes, a show generally needs to be downloaded no more than 25,000 times. "There is a lot of data, particularly from NBC [which has had a rocky relationship with iTunes] ... to corroborate that estimate," the website noted. Likewise, a hit show on NBC/Fox's Hulu is likely to attract no more than 250,000 viewers, despite the fact that it can be watched for free. Those figures translate into insignificant revenue for television networks who generally charge advertisers about $25 per thousand viewers. The figures may be particularly relevant as negotiations between the Screen Actors Guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers enter a second day today (Wednesday), with much of the discussion focused on residual pay for new media -- particularly Internet -- replay.


The number of households that are not ready for the switch to over-the-air digital broadcasting has fallen to 5 million, according to Nielsen Research. In a brief statement released today (Wednesday), Nielsen said that the new figure represents an improvement of more than 800,000 homes over just the last two and a half weeks.


Barbara Walters, who is semi-retired from primetime television, where she once competed fiercely for major celebrity and newsmaker interviews -- "the big get," as it's known in the broadcast news business -- said Tuesday that she now deplores the competition. Appearing at a breakfast sponsored by Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Communications, Walters, who was interviewed by the New Yorker's Ken Auletta, said, "I hate the whole idea of the big get, and I think the get has gotten worse. There are fewer big gets because there are so many programs. You do the morning show, and then you do either Regis or The View, and then you do Access Hollywood, CNN, Extra. It's endless." Besides, she said, "Even murderers have agents and lawyers." Asked about the future of television news, Walters replied, "I think the only programs that will still be there as they are now in 10 years are the morning shows. Everything else you can TiVo and watch later or read about on the Internet." On being parodied as Baba Wawa on Saturday Night Live, Walters remarked, "I have learned to pronounce my 'r's much better since Gilda Radner."