NIGHTLINE TOPS DAVE, CONAN AGAIN
ABC's Nightline no longer featured wall-to-wall Michael Jackson coverage last week, but it still managed to beat both David Letterman and Conan O'Brien in the ratings for the third consecutive week -- the first time it has led in the late-night period for that length of time since 1996. Nightline attracted 3.77 million total viewers, up 11 percent from the same week a year ago. CBS's The Late Show With David Letterman was a close second with 3.68 million viewers, while NBC's Tonight With Conan O'Brien was down a whopping 38 percent to 2.82 million viewers. Among adults 18-49, Tonight maintained a slender lead with 1.44 million viewers. Nightline placed second with 1.31 million, while Late Show drew 1.11 million.
CONAN, MEET OPRAH
If a fall in the Tonight show's ratings are a concern to NBC, an even greater fall in the ratings for The Oprah Winfrey Show may be generating even greater worries for CBS, whose syndication unit distributes the show, and ABC, whose owned-and-operated stations broadcast it (among others). Today's New York Post observed that the show "is losing viewers at a rate that hasn't been seen since [it] was launched 23 years ago." The newspaper cited latest figures showing that during the week of July 4th, Winfrey's ratings dropped to their lowest level since 1983. The newspaper quoted Marc Berman, who tracks TV ratings for Mediaweek as saying, "There's the fatigue factor. ... It gets to the point where fans might be getting a little tired of her show."
PEPSI CAN'T DOUSE JACKSON FIRE FOOTAGE
Pepsi-Cola has condemned the widespread distribution on the Internet of footage filmed during production of a Michael Jackson commercial for the soft-drink company in 1984 showing Jackson's hair catching fire when a pyrotechnics stunt went awry. The burn injuries that he sustained as a result of the accident, according to some of those close to Jackson, eventually led to his dependence on pain-killers. Pepsi spokeswoman Nicole Bradley said in a statement to Entertainment Weekly that the company did not know how the footage, first posted on the US magazine website, was obtained. "Twenty-five years later, we'd question why anyone would want to share such frightening images. It was a terrifying event that we'll never forget," she said. She added that the company had no plans to demand that the footage be removed. "We don't know who owns it, so we have no recourse as far as I know."
NBC'S EARNING DROP 41 PERCENT
Blaming "very slow" upfront sales, GE's chief financial officer told investors that its NBC Universal unit had seen earnings plummet 41 percent to $39 million on an 8 percent drop in revenue to $3.57 billion. CFO Keith Sherin said that the slow upfront sales would require the network to "retain more inventory" than usual to sell in the so-called scatter market, the time closer to actual air dates. Numerous reports have indicated that virtually all the networks were selling little ad inventory -- in some cases virtually none at all -- during the time of year when most of them do the largest share of their business. Shares of GE were down 5.12 percent in afternoon trading.
DETAINEE WANTS BUSH TRIED IN EUROPEAN COURT
A reporter for the Arabic al-Jazeera satellite news network who was held at the U.S. prison in Guantánamo Bay for six years said Thursday that he plans to sue former President George Bush and other officials for illegal detention and torture. Sami al-Haj, the Sudanese al-Jazeera reporter who was released in May 2008, told Britain's Guardian newspaper that he and other detainees have formed an organization, the Guantánamo Justice Center in Geneva, Switzerland, where they will file their action. He claimed in the Guardian interviewthat while European "courts do not have the power to bring [U.S. officials] by force," they could be tried in absentia and, if convicted, could be arrested if they visit a European country. Al-Haj, who has returned to work for al-Jazeera, said that he remains in contact with Guantánamo detainees. "Torture is continuing in Guantánamo," he told the Guardian. "Obama needs to close Guantánamo immediately."