The Fox TV network, which already was expected to dominate the ratings this month with the return of American Idol, absolutely crushed the opposition Sunday night with the primetime airing of the NFC championship game between the New York Giants and the Green Bay Packers. According to preliminary Nielsen results the game drew an enormous 26.3 rating and a 39 share, translating to about 49 million viewers -- peaking to a 27.5/39 (50 million viewers) in the 9:00 p.m. hour. Among adults 18-49, the results were even more lopsided, with Fox drawing an 18.6 rating and ABC finishing far behind in second with a 2.8. CBS was in third place with a 2.0 and NBC in fourth with a 1.2.


NBC may have continued to rank dead last among the four major networks last year, but all in all, it was a good year for NBC Universal, which saw a 10-percent rise in earnings in the fourth quarter, marking the fifth straight quarter of solid profits. In particular, the company credited growth at its cable nets, including USA, Sci Fi, MSNBC, CNBC, Bravo, and Oxygen and record profits for its Universal Pictures unit. Taking note of the fact that News Corp launched its Fox Business Channel in the fourth quarter, NBC Universal chief Jeff Zucker told Daily Variety: "There was so much attention to a new competitor coming in, but the fact is CNBC had its highest ratings ever in the fourth quarter." The company said its earnings for 2007 rose to $3.5 billion on $15.4 billion in gross revenue, up 6 percent from 2006.


Despite renewed optimism about a resolution of the Hollywood writers' strike following last week's agreement with the Directors Guild, signs continued to appear that the TV and film industries would continue to suffer financial hardship for months to come, if not longer. Over the weekend, CBS said that it had dropped about 20 projects that were being readied for pilot production. In a statement, the network said, "Due to the ongoing writers strike, our development needs for the upcoming pilot season have changed, and we have released some comedy and drama scripts." And the London Financial Timesreported that NBC Universal CEO is planning to eliminate the pilot season and the "upfront" pre-season presentation of the network's shows to advertisers. "Things like that are all vestiges of an era that's gone by and won't return," Zucker told the newspaper. Plans for the upcoming Grammy and Oscar awards remained up in the air, with few people willing to predict that, even under the best of circumstances, the strike could be settled before those awards shows take place.


Rather than buying ads in each of the 20 states holding primary elections on February 5, the campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are considering purchasing time on the major networks, BusinessWeekreported in its online edition. The magazine said that an official at one of the major broadcast networks, who asked not to be identified, has confirmed that media buyers for the candidates had contacted his network about a possible ad buy but had not yet purchased any spots.


After reportedly planning to withdraw its two Super Bowl spots, purchased at a price of nearly $3 million each, Hyundai has apparently had a change of heart. A spokesperson for the Korean auto company told Advertising Age that it now plans to revamp its commercials for the Bowl in order to raise Hyundai's image as it prepares to launch sales of its new Genesis luxury sedan.


Two years after, in effect, renouncing his claim to the title of heir apparent to Rupert Murdoch's News Corp media empire, Lachlan Murdoch may be poised to become head of another media empire formed in Australia by his father's late rival, Kerry Packer. According to published reports the younger Murdoch is teaming up with James Packer to take Packer's Consolidated Media Holdings, Australia's second-largest media company, private in a $2.9-billion deal in which the two will offer to buy the company's outstanding shares at a 25-percent premium. Consolidated controls the Nine Television Network and Foxtel, the nation's leading pay-TV channel, among other media holdings. It is also the country's leading magazine publisher. "I know these businesses really well," Lachlan Murdoch told Bloomberg News. "I have a history of running 35 TV stations in the U.S. and I have a pretty solid print background." He said that his father's News Corp is not involved in the deal. Packer, whose father died two years ago, is seeking to distance himself from operations of the company and concentrate instead on Crown Ltd, a gaming business that he spun off from Consolidated last year.


Suzanne Pleshette, who played Bob Newhart's wife on The Bob Newhart Showfrom 1972 to 1978, died Saturday in Los Angeles just days short of her 70th birthday on Jan. 31, when she was to have been honored with a star on Hollywood Boulevard's Walk of Fame. Her death was attributed to respiratory failure. She had been treated for lung cancer since 2006.