ABC DRAWS VIEWERS; HBO DRAWS BLOOD

What entertainment programs have been unable to do for ABC recently, basketball has -- lifted the network to first place in the weekly Nielsen ratings. Although viewership was down slightly from last year's NBA series between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics, this year's, between the Lakers and the smaller-market Orlando Magic, dominated primetime on the three nights of the week that it aired. The series, won by the Lakers three games to two, averaged 14.35 million viewers over the five games versus 14.94 million for last year's six-game series. (By contrast, the top-rated show on any of the other networks was CBS's The Mentalist, which drew 11.62 million viewers.) It was the network's best performance since last September when it kicked off the fall season with five hours of its hit series Dancing With the Stars. Meanwhile on cable, the season opener of HBO's heavily promoted True Blood on Sunday attracted 3.7 million viewers -- the most to tune in to an HBO original program since June 2007, when the pay-TV channel aired the series finale of The Sopranos.

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

1. NBA Finals - Game 4 (Thursday) ABC, 9.4/17; 2. NBA Finals - Game 3 (Tuesday), ABC, 8.6/15; 3. NBA Finals - Game 5 (Sunday), ABC, 8.0/14; 4. The Mentalist (Tuesday), CBS, 7.6/12; 5. NBA Trophy Presentation (Sunday) ABC, 7.5/13; 6. NCIS, CBS, 7.2/13; 7. 48 Hours Mystery (Tuesday), CBS, 6.1/11; 7. The Mentalist (Thursday), CBS, 6.1/10; 7. Two and a Half Men, CBS, 6.1/10; 10. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 5.9/10.

NEW FCC HEAD TO BE LOOSE ON CROSS-OWNERSHIP, TOUGH ON INDECENCY

Julius Genachowski, named by President Obama to become the next chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, indicated at a Senate hearing on his nomination Tuesday that he favors a relaxation of rules barring newspaper-TV cross- ownership. As reported by Broadcasting & Cable magazine, Genachowski remarked that while the FCC still has to "pay attention to excessive consolidation," it must take into account the plight of the media businesses. "It would be wrong for the agency to ignore the real problems in the marketplace." Asked about his views on enforcement of indecency rules, he said, "I share the concerns of parents on indecency," but he suggested that there could be technological solutions that would give parents the ability to prevent children from viewing certain content.

IRAN CORRESPONDENTS STAYING PUT

Reporters covering the aftermath of the elections in Iran are obeying a state edict requiring them to remain in their bureaus and not venture forth to cover protest rallies or conduct man-in-the-street interviews. "Clearly we can only operate in Iran with the permission of the authorities," Jon Williams, BBC World News editor, told Broadcasting & Cable magazine. Seeming to allude to the recent arrest of journalist Roxana Saberi, Williams said, "It would be foolish for anybody to continue to operate knowing full well that the authorities would love to be able to arrest legitimately." One Tehran correspondent told Daily Variety, "There could be a great deal going on out there, but we just don't know." Many of the photographs and much of the video being shown on media outlets have come from "citizen journalists" who have posted the material online.

LETTERMAN REMAINS AHEAD OF O'BRIEN AFTER PALIN TO-DO

David Letterman's fracas with Sarah Palin has continued to boost ratings for his CBS Late Show. In overall numbers Letterman has been clobbering rival Tonight show host Conan O'Brien by 20 percent or more for the past week. However, O'Brien continued to hold a 30-percent lead among adults 18-49, the demographic group most desired by advertisers. Letterman continued to make the most out of his controversial remarks about Palin's daughter -- and his subsequent apologies -- on Tuesday night, devoting his Top 10 list to the muddle. His "Top 10 things overheard at the 'Fire David Letterman' rally" included, "We should have done this years ago." Meanwhile, the former boyfriend of Bristol Palin and the father of her child, has come to Letterman's defense -- sort of. Appearing on CNN's Larry King Live, Levi Johnston said that when he heard about Letterman's remarks, "I took it as a joke. ... I think it was a joke a lot of people wouldn't have liked for him to say. But, you know, that's what he does." He added that if everyone simply had ignored it, it would have gone away "faster than it would if you were to go out there and make a deal out of it."

SATELLITE TV TO TARGET YOUR HOME FOR ADS

DirecTV, the home satellite company, is installing new technology that will enable it to target viewers in specific areas of the country, the Wall Street Journal reported today (Wednesday). The technology employs Invidi technology's Advatar software, which Invidi says will allow DirecTV "to simultaneously deliver multiple and distinct commercial streams to different households or individual set-top boxes during a single commercial break." It was not clear whether the commercials would replace other national and local spots or whether they would extend the commercial breaks. Advertisers welcomed the new service. Tracey Scheppach, who heads video innovations at Starcom Worldwide, told the Journal that the system will allow DirecTV "to compete for a large slice of the TV budget, which is local advertising."

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