ABC IS STARRY EYED AGAIN

The two-hour return of Dancing With the Stars boosted ABC into the lead Monday night as the first hour recorded a resounding 14.5 rating and a 22 share, shellacking NBC's usual winner in the hour, Deal or No Deal, which recorded an 8.2/13. At 9:00 p.m., ratings for Dancing rose to a 15.8/23 (peaking at 9:30 p.m. with a 16.0/23, representing 23.24 million viewers), while a second hour of Deal drew a 9.2/14. However, ABC's audience fled at 10:00 p.m. as ratings for What About Brian came in at a so-so 5.2/6, while CBS gained the lead with CSI: Miami, which pulled an 11.5/19. NBC continued to languish in that timeslot, drawing a meager 4.1/7 for The Black Donnellys. Meanwhile Nielsen reported Monday that CBS averaged a 5.8/13 for the first four days of its coverage of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, up 4 percent from its average for the same period a year ago.

TV SERIES TO BE AVAILABLE ONLINE FIRST

Fans of MTV2's Andy Milonakis will be able to purchase the entire upcoming season of his show on Apple's iTunes store a month before the first episode even airs on TV. The Andy Milonakis Show is due to return for a third season on April 27, but the premiere episode will be available this week as a free download on iTunes. The entire six episodes that are scheduled to air this season will cost $9.99 (or $1.99 for individual episodes). On March 27, they'll also be available from other video-download websites. Milonakis himself got his start on the Web, by posting self-produced videos online.

104 CHANNELS AND NOTHING TO WATCH?

The average American TV viewer now has 104 channels to choose from versus 61 in 2000 and 33 in 1990, according to figures released by Nielsen Media Research on Monday. But, in another statistic that is likely to be pounced on by advocates of à lá carte cable and satellite packaging, Nielsen said that viewers actually tune in just 15 percent of the stations that are available to them for any significant period. That's down from 22 percent just six years ago.

VIEWERS STILL WATCHING SITCOMS -- BUT ON CABLE

Although network executives are wringing their hands over low ratings for TV sitcoms, the average TV viewer is actually watching more comedy than ever, according to a study by ad buyers Magna Global and reported in today's (Tuesday) Washington Post. The difference is that viewers are watching the comedies on cable, rather than on broadcast television. According to the study, the average household spent less than four hours a week watching sitcoms in 1993-94 compared with this season's four and a half hours. Magna Global Executive Vice President Steve Sternberg told the Post: "Seldom noted ... is the fact that people still like watching comedies and, in fact, are watching them more than ever."

U.K. REGULATOR TO PROBE PAY-TV MARKET

OFCOM, Britain's TV regulator, announced today (Tuesday) that it is launching an investigation into the market for pay-TV, following complaints by Richard Branson's Virgin Media and other U.K. media companies that Rupert Murdoch's Sky Broadcasting is seeking to control the market. Announcement of the probe comes three weeks after Virgin Media's cable service stopped carrying several popular Sky channels, complaining that Sky had unreasonably raised its license rates. On Monday, Britain's National Consumer Council proposed that Virgin and Sky come to a "temporary" agreement so that the channels could return to Virgin's cable system.

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.