IDOL CRUSHES ITS RIVALS

Once again Wednesday night Fox's American Idol drew more viewers than all of the competing network shows combined. According to Nielsen overnight figures, Idol attracted 26.26 million viewers, while its closest rival, CBS's Criminal Minds, drew 8.54 million. Idol also provided some rather sturdy coattails for its leadout show, Lie to Me, to ride on. The problem was that only 45 percent of the Idol audience stayed tuned to Fox. Even so, the 13.01 million viewers for Lie to Me made it the No. 1 show in the 9:00 p.m. hour. NBC took over the lead at 10:00 p.m. with its old standby, Law & Order counting 8.69 million viewers andbeating a repeat of CSI: NY on CBS, which registered 7.54 million.

HOUSE VOTES TO DELAY DIGITAL TV CUTOFF

By a vote of 264-158, the House on Wednesday joined the Senate in passing a bill that will delay the national transition to digital television until June. President Obama has indicated he will sign the legislation. It will primarily affect those who receive their television signals over the air and who have not yet purchased analog-to-digital converter boxes. Nielsen released a new estimate today (Thursday) indicating that they now number 5.8 million households (5.1 percent of homes), with the Albuquerque-Santa Fe market the least prepared for the transition -- with 12 percent of the homes completely unprepared for the transition. The new legislation does not provide funding for additional vouchers that will cover most of the cost of the converters, but $650 million is included in the stimulus package to do so. However, Congressman Rick Boucher of Virginia, the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Communication, Technology and the Internet, said Wednesday that several weeks were likely to pass before the funds became available.

SUPER BOWL AIRED 84 COMMERCIALS

Super Bowl fans who watched Sunday night's game from beginning to end sat through 84 commercials broadcast during the game, representing about 45 minutes in ad time, according to a report from TMS Media. Movie studios purchased seven minutes to sell current or upcoming releases. Pepsi was the biggest single ad buyer, purchasing eight spots not only for its signature brand but also for its Gatorade and Sobe Life brands. The most-talked-about ad following the game was the one for the movie Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

TV ACADEMY TO EXPAND NOMINEES

The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences said Wednesday that it plans to expand the number of nominees in several categories from five to six. It indicated that it was doing so because frequently the sixth-placed finisher received nearly as many votes as the fifth placed. The Academy is also changing the method for selecting the nominees. Previously, the entire membership would vote in each of the categories and the top contenders would then be appraised by a blue-ribbon panel, which would make the final choices.