NIGHTLINE BEATS TONIGHT & LATE NIGHT AGAIN

A year ago at this time, there was much speculation about the possibility that ABC would make a play to land Jay Leno after he left the Tonight show to compete against Conan O'Brien and David Letterman. According to the rumors, the network was preparing to spend big bucks for Leno in order to move into the lead in the late-night time period. Suddenly, however, the network has discovered that it didn't need to spend anything at all to become No. 1 at 11:30 p.m. For the past two weeks ABC's Nightline has topped both O'Brien and Letterman among total viewers. Nielsen figures show that last week, it averaged 3.89 million viewers, topping O'Brien, with 3.69 million, and Letterman, with 3.46 million. TVNewser.com observed that it was first time since 1996 that the Tonight Show hadn't placed first for two weeks in a row, excluding the 2007 writer's strike. Nightline's audience, on the other hand, was up 25 percent from the comparable week a year ago.

THE DIFFICULTIES PRODUCING MICHAEL JACKSON'S FUNERAL

It remains unclear whether the planned funeral for Michael Jackson next Tuesday at Staples Center in Los Angeles will be broadcast by the major networks, streamed over the Internet, or beamed by satellite to theaters. Hulu, the video site operated by NBC, Fox, and Disney, put up a "placeholder" on Thursday saying that it would offer a live Internet broadcast of the funeral as a "web exclusive." However, by this morning, the notice had been taken down and replaced by one reading, "Unfortunately, this video is no longer available." Late in the day Thursday, AEG Live, the concert promoter that was staging Jackson's comeback appearances in London, released a short video of Jackson rehearsing at the Staples Center two days before his death. It said that it had taped more than 100 hours of footage during the rehearsals and planned to edit the material into a special, integrating it with additional 3D footage shot on a Hollywood soundstage. Meanwhile, a new survey concludes that nearly two-thirds of all Americans believe the media is giving the death of Michael Jackson too much coverage, while 36 percent said that the coverage was "appropriate." On the other hand, 36 percent said that Farrah Fawcett's death was not given enough coverage, while 56 percent said it was appropriate.

HDTV PICTURES DEGRADING

The desire of many television stations to use their new digital broadcast spectrum to offer subchannels alongside their primary high-definition ones is resulting in a significant degradation of their HD picture quality, Broadcasting & Cable reported today (Friday). Until now, local broadcasters have put little effort into the subchannels, but as they begin to proliferate, gain traction, and generate meaningful revenues, HD images are suffering, and the situation is expected to worsen later this year as some stations begin launching mobile services for cellphones and laptops via their digital channels. So far, says B&C, there have been few complaints -- aside from the HD buffs -- about the lower-quality HD images. Viewers, the magazine observed, apparently are really not all that "discerning over picture quality."

RERUN-HEAVY CBS WINS THURSDAY NIGHT

Reruns of CBS's crime dramas kept it in first place among total viewers during every half hour of primetime Thursday night. Fox led among adults 18-49, however, while NBC and ABC were virtually no where in sight. CBS averaged a little more than 8 million viewers for the night as it scored a 5.4 rating and a 19 share. Fox's 3.7/7, representing 5.9 million viewers, put it in second place. But NBC scored only a 1.9/4, slightly better than ABC's 1.8/3.

Cinemark Movie Club