FOOTBALL THROWS IDOL FOR A LOSS

Both the Tuesday and Wednesday episodes of American Idol drew more than 30 million viewers last week, but Fox fell far short of winning the week, according to ratings figures released by Nielsen Media Research on Wednesday. CBS won eight of the top-ten positions, including No. 1, with its coverage of the AFC championship game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers. That telecast attracted 40.6 million viewers, making it the most-watched telecast of the season. CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation also produced huge numbers -- 24.2 million viewers -- for an episode that saw the exit from the series of star William L. Petersen. Overall, CBS won the week with an average 10.1 rating and a 16 share. Fox placed second with an average 7.1/11. ABC was far behind with a 4.3/7, and NBC was farther still with a 3.9/6.

The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:

1. AFC Championship, CBS, 22.0/34; 2. American Idol (Wednesday), Fox, 16.4/25; 3. American Idol (Tuesday), Fox, 15.8/23; 4. AFC Championship Post-Game, CBS, 14.5/23; 5. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 14.4/22; 6. NCIS, CBS, 11.3/17; 7. The Mentalist, CBS, 11.0./16; 8. Two and a Half Men, CBS, 10.2/15; 9. CSI: Miami, CBS, 10.1/17; 10. The Mentalist (Sunday Special), CBS, 10.0/17.

IDOL VS OBAMA

Ratings for Fox's American Idol dropped markedly on Tuesday night, averaging "only" 22.4 million viewers, but they nevertheless beat the numbers for ABC's Neighborhood Inaugural Ball (12.6 million), according to Nielsen Research. (Earlier in the day, 37.8 million viewers watched coverage of the inauguration itself on the 15 broadcast and cable networks that covered it; the figure does not include those who watched via the Internet.) Ratings for Idol improved substantially on Wednesday, however, as 26.1 million viewers tuned in. However, those hefty numbers did not do much good for the series premiere of Fox's Lie to Me, which followed. The new drama attracted 13.19 million viewers, just 49 percent of those who watched Idol.

SONY SUFFERS $3 BILLION LOSS

Saying that Sony had become the victim of "the massive economic upheaval being experienced across the globe," Sony CEO Howard Stringer told investors Thursday that the company expects to report a loss of nearly $3 billion for the current fiscal year ending in March, the first time the company has reported an annual loss in 14 years. Last October, ahead of the holiday season, Sony had forecast that it would report a profit of $2.21 billion, but sales of its Bravia HDTV sets failed to move off retailers' shelves during the holidays in the quantity that was expected and the rising value of the yen compounded the Japanese giant's woes. Speaking in Tokyo, Stringer said that it was his "foremost priority" to return the company to profitability. "We have to move in a hurry," he said. He announced numerous cost-saving plans, including buy-out offers to executives, additional employee layoffs, and plant closures. But Bloomberg News quoted Naoteru Teraoka of Chuo Mitsui Asset Management as saying, "You can cut workers, but Sony's products still don't sell. ... The question of how much worse it will get still remains."

REPORT: CLOONEY TO RETURN TO E.R. FOR FINALE

George Clooney will return to E.R., the TV show that brought him Hollywood stardom, for the series' final episode on April 2, published reports said Wednesday. Entertainment Tonight said that Clooney is expected to film his scenes for the finale this week, his first appearance on the medical drama in 10 years. People magazine added that producer/writer John Wells had ordered a closed set in order to keep the appearance secret. The magazine implied that Clooney might appear on more than one episode, saying that it was not known just how many he had agreed to participate in. Neither NBC or producer Warner Bros. would comment on the reports. Last March Clooney denied a flurry of similar reports that he had agreed to return to the show for the final season.