ZAHN IS GONE

After weeks of rampant speculation that she was about to be replaced -- reaching a crescendo on Monday, after CNN announced that it had hired NBC's Campbell Brown to host a primetime program -- Paula Zahn announced Tuesday that she would leave the cable news network on August 2. The number of viewers watching her program averaged about a quarter of those who tuned into her chief rival, Fox News's Bill O'Reilly, and were well below those of Keith Olbermann, whose program airs in the same time period on MSNBC. Both men present controversial opinions about the news -- O'Reilly from a conservative perspective, Olbermann from a liberal. In an interview with the New York Times Tuesday after telling her staff that she was leaving, Zahn said, "What has become clear when you look at the landscape, particularly in the 8:00 p.m. hour, it seems pretty obvious the audience is drawn to opinion-driven shows. That is not what I do." As the Times pointed out, the transition from Zahn to Brown is not likely to go smoothly. Under her exit agreement with NBC Brown will not be able to begin work for CNN until November 1. Moreover, she is expecting a child in December and planning to take a maternity leave then. The network has not yet indicated who will take over Zahn's program in the interim.

OPRAH IS TV'S HIGHEST-PAID PERFORMER

When it comes to top-paid talent in television, there's Oprah -- and then there's everyone else. According to TV Guide, Oprah Winfrey receives a salary of $260 million a year to do her daily talk show. No. 2 on the list, American Idol's Simon Cowell makes only 17 percent of that amount -- $45 million. The third-place finisher is Judge Judy Sheindlin, who earns $30 million a year. By contrast, Katie Couric, whose $15-million salary has become the most talked-about paycheck in the industry, makes only half as much as Judge Judy, coming in at No. 4 on the list. Zach Braff, the star of Scrubs, rounds out the top five with a salary of $6.3 million per year.

ET YOU, YOUTUBE?

Monday night's Democratic presidential debate in which members of the audience videotaped questions to the candidates and posted them on YouTube garnered lots of publicity but not lots of viewers. According to Nielsen Research the debate drew 2.62 million viewers -- fewer than the number who tuned in to the previous Democratic presidential debate last month (2.78 million). However, CNN pointed out that the telecast delivered the highest number of 18-34-year-old viewers for a debate in cable-TV history.

NBC'S A MUST-SEE AGAIN

For one week, it must have seemed like 2004 again to NBC executives. After falling into the ratings cellar during the regular season, three of the network's summer shows landed in the top ten, with one of them, The Singing Bee, holding on to the No. 1 position for the second week in a row, according to Nielsen Research. (In its third outing last night, the show slipped significantly, coming in second for the night behind its lead-in, America's Got Talent.) Nevertheless, despite NBC's comeback, CBS remained the most-watched network overall for the week as it registered an average 4.3 rating and an 8 share. NBC was close behind with a 3.9/7. Fox placed third with a 3.5/6, edging out ABC's 3.2/6.

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

1. The Singing Bee, NBC, 6.8/11; 2. America's Got Talent, NBC, 6.5/11; 3. Law and Order: SVU, NBC, 6.3/11; 4. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 6.1/10; 4. CSI: NY, CBS, 6.1/11; 6. So You Think Can Dance (Thursday), Fox, 5.9/10; 7. Shark (Thursday), CBS, 5.7/10; 8. Criminal Minds, CBS, 5.5/9; 8. (Tie) Two and a Half Men, CBS, 5.5/9; 10. CSI: Miami, CBS, 5.4/9.

GIBSON GOES ON HOLIDAY; WILLIAMS RISES IN RATINGS

During a week when Charles Gibson was on vacation and was spelled on ABC's World News by the relatively youthful David Muir and Elizabeth Vargas, NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams took back the top spot in the network news competition for the first time in 12 weeks. The Williams newscast was watched by an average 7.49 million viewers; ABC's by 7.2 million. Katie Couric's audience number 5.71 million.

TIVOS COMING FOR HDTV

TiVo plans to begin offering a high-definition digital video recorder for $299 beginning next month, the company said Tuesday. The device can replace existing cable-TV boxes but cannot be used with satellite services, the company said. Its 160 GB hard drive is capable of storing 20 hours of HD video or 180 hours of standard-definition video. It can also record movies being offered on the Internet by some broadband companies, including Amazon Unbox, according to a statement posted on TiVo's website.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.