EBERT "DEPRESSED" BY LOSS OF SHOW

Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert says that having to announce his departure from the television show that he launched with the late Gene Siskel in 1975 left him feeling "depressed." Ebert notes on his recently launched blog (http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert) that although he had not appeared on the show for two years because surgery had robbed him of his voice, he had continued as an adviser, helping to select co-hosts for Richard Roeper, advising on the movies to be reviewed, and communicating with producer-director Don DuPree. Now, he wrote,"it was gone, taken in a 'new direction.' And I was fully realizing what a large empty space it left behind." (Most of Ebert's blog entry consists of fond reminiscences of his years with Siskel who died of a brain tumor in 1999.) In a commentary on Ebert's own 'new direction,' AP entertainment writer Jake Coyle wrote Wednesday, ""Roger Ebert is gone from At the Movies, but he's an increasingly influential figure in the new dominant realm of film criticism: the Web."

STUDIES CLASH ON TV VIEWING ON THE WEB

One day after one study concluded that online television watching is growing at a fast clip and may eventually replace broadcast television in the home, a top industry economist has concluded just the opposite. Kevin Klowden, managing economist at the Milken Institute, told TV Week magazine that online video sales represents "a small market and there is a larger percent of this country that will never tap into this market." He forecast that the entire business for movies and TV shows downloaded from the air won't reach $1 billion until 2011 (about the time for labor contracts to be negotiated again).

RECESSION BOOSTS TV IN THE U.K.

Economic hard times in the U.K. have translated into a boon for television. The London Financial Times reported today that News Corp-controlled BSkyB, the British home satellite company, recorded 92,000 new subscribers in its fourth quarter, the highest level in five years. The company also reported an increase in revenue of 4.95 billion (about $10 billion) for the year. In a statement, CEO Jeremy Darroch said, "We have continued to grow strongly in a more difficult consumer environment. ... Customers ... are staying with us for longer."

FOLLOWING VIACOM, ITALIAN MEDIA COMPANY SUES YOUTUBE

Mediaset, the Italian media company owned by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, has filed a $780-million lawsuit against Google's YouTube claiming that it benefits from "illegal commercial use" of its copyrighted material. Mediaset lines up behind the U.S.'s Viacom, which has filed a $1-billion lawsuit against the company for the same reason. Mediaset said that as of June 10, 2008, 4,643 clips from its television shows had been posted on the website without permission. In response, YouTube said that it removes copyrighted video clips from the website as soon as it receives a request to do so from the owners. "There is no need for legal action and all the associated costs," it said.

JOURNALIST GETS SNEAK PEAK AT OLYMPICS CEREMONIES

In a breach of massive Chinese security, a Korean television cameraman walked into Beijing's National Stadium, filmed some of the rehearsals for the Olympic's Opening Night ceremonies, returned, and saw his efforts go viral -- appearing not only on YouTube, but also on mainstream network programs in the U.S. The video showed a procession of athletes wearing white suits, posing as Olympic athletes and greeting the crowd, and an assemblage of kung-fu performers battling it out in the stadium. The London Daily Telegraph described the film this way: "In perhaps the most impressive footage, serried ranks of performers dressed in huge boxes rise and fall in what appears to be a visualization of the continuous building of skyscraper blocks that is China's current cultural master-achievement." The opening ceremonies performances are being directed by Chinese film director Zhang Yimou.

Brian B.