SUPER BOWL GAINS INCHES

Super Bowl 2007 was just as super as Super Bowl 2006 but not quite so super as Super Bowl 2005, according to preliminary ratings by Nielsen Research. Sunday's game between Chicago and Indianapolis averaged a 41.4 rating and a 62 share from 6:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., peaking in the final half hour with a 45.0/62. Last year's Super Bowl contest between Pittsburgh and Seattle came in at a 41.8/62, while the Philadelphia vs. New England Competition in 2005 averaged a 43.4/63. The drama Criminal Minds, which CBS selected as the Super Bowl lead-out drew a 15.5/26, well below last year's Grey's Anatomy on ABC, which recorded a 22.0/35.

REPORT: ZUCKER TO BE NAMED NBC UNIVERSAL CEO

Jeff Zucker, the onetime NBC wunderkind who became the executive producer of the Today show when he was 26, is expected to be named chief executive of NBC Universal as early as Tuesday, when the NBC Universal board meets in New York, according to published reports. Zucker, who is still young at 41, will replace Bob Wright, who is expected to remain at the company as an adviser during a transitional period. Some reports indicated that Wright may retain the title of chairman, at least during the transition, which is expected to take several months. The appointment comes one week after former GE Chairman Jack Welch disparaged Zucker's tenure at NBC. Asked by New York magazine, "If NBC isn't doing so well, why is Jeff Zucker still in his job?," Welch replied, "'Cause I'm retired."

NBC TO BENCH STUDIO 60, 30 ROCK

NBC plans to pull its critically praised but ratings-challenged comedies Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and 30 Rock from its schedule next month, replacing them with two new series. The Black Donnellys is set to debut on Monday, March 5 at 10:00 p.m., following the network's hit drama Heroes, while Andy Barker, P.I., starring Andy Richter takes over the 9:30 pm. time slot on Thursdays beginning March 15. The network promised that Studio 60 will returned "later this season on a date to be determined." 30 Rock is scheduled to return on April 19.

LOWE'S YANKS ADS FROM THE O'REILLY FACTOR

Lowe's, the national home-improvement chain, has pulled its ads from Fox News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor after host Bill O'Reilly suggested that kidnap victim Shawn Hornbeck came to like his circumstances, according to the online Radar magazine. Radar quoted O'Reilly as saying on his Jan. 15: "The situation here, for this kid, looks to me to be a lot more fun than what he had under his 'old' parents. He didn't have to go to school, he could run around and do whatever he wanted." Radar cited the website News Hounds as saying that viewers who complained about O'Reilly's comments by email, received replies that Lowe's had pulled its ads as of Jan. 25. An FNC spokeswoman said that they had been shifted to other programming.

SAWYER IN DAMASCUS, INTERVIEWS SYRIAN RULER

Diane Sawyer reported live from Damascus, Syria for ABC's Good Morning America today, airing an exclusive interview with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. During the interview, Assad scoffed at the Iraqi elections, remarking, "What is the benefit of democracy if you are dead?" Critics quickly posted complaints on Internet blogs chastising Sawyer for failing to challenge al-Assad's comments, pointing out that his own regime has been branded a ruthless dictatorship and condemned for widespread human-rights abuses. However, on its website, ABC posted a transcript of Sawyer's interview, noting in its lead, "Many in diplomatic circles believe that this quiet man may be the best hope for the United States to broker peace with insurgents in the middle East." The U.S. has refused to negotiate with Syria.

NEW YORK TIMES TO RETAIN EMBED STATUS IN IRAQ

Contrary to earlier reports, a New York Times reporter and his cameraman did not lose their embed status after the newspaper ran footage on its website of an apartment raid in Baghdad that resulted in the shooting death of one soldier, the U.S. Army's director of public relations has told the Columbia Journalism Review, contradicting an earlier statement by a lower-ranked Army spokesman. The Times, however,agreed to issue an apology to the family of the soldier who was seen being removed from the building on a stretcher. The CJR commented on its website Sunday: "We feel that the video and photos were taken at a respectful enough distance, obscuring any truly disturbing images. Add to this the fact that the benefit of having this powerful story told was so great, in terms of our understanding of what is happening in Iraq, and it seems fair to conclude that there shouldn't have been any second guessing about news judgment here."

VIACOM TELLS YOUTUBE TO PULL 100,000 CLIPS

Viacom is demanding that Google-owned YouTube remove more than 100,000 clips from Viacom's cable TV programs -- unless it pays for them, the company has acknowledged. The media company is also demanding that YouTube put into operation a screening system that would prevent additional clips from being posted. In a statement, Viacom complained that YouTube was "unwilling to come to a fair market agreement that would make Viacom content available to YouTube users." YouTube responded that it was "unfortunate that Viacom will no longer be able to benefit from YouTube's passionate audience which has helped to promote many of Viacom's shows." Rachel Happe, digital business researcher at IDC, told Saturday's Los Angeles Times: "This move could have vast and far-reaching consequences for online traffic, brand power and business models. ... If Google no longer has access to the enormous quantity of high-value Viacom video content, the value of its service to consumers and advertisers is diminished." Conspicuously, Viacom was not joined in its demand by CBS Inc., which, like Viacom, is a unit of Sumner Redstone's National Amusements, Inc. CBS had earlier reached a content agreement with YouTube, and CBS chief Les Moonves has recently gone out of his way to praise the website.

Brian B.