i>IDOL DOWN TO 10: NOW RATINGS REALLY SOAR

The finalists on American Idol were pared to the top ten Wednesday night as Amanda Overmyer got her walking papers during the talent contest's results show. Unlike the tearful departures of some other contestants, Overmyer appeared to take the decision in stride. "It's been a run," she said. "Number 11 out of all them people was more than I could ever expect." Unfortunately, Number 11 also eliminates her from the lucrative American Idol concert tour, which features the top-ten finalists. Once again Idol drew more viewers during the 9:00 p.m. hour than all of the competing network shows combined, averaging a 15.6 rating and a 24 share, representing 25.53 million viewers. Earlier in the evening, a special Wednesday edition of CBS's Survivor: Micronesia won the 8:00 p.m. time slot, edging out Fox's high-flying The Moment of Truth.

NIGHTLINE BEATS LENO, LETTERMAN WITH OBAMA INTERVIEW

Making his first appearance on television since his much-lauded speech on race relations, Sen. Barack Obama helped push ratings for ABC's Nightline over those for The Tonight Show With Jay Leno and The Late Show With David Letterman Tuesday night. Nightline drew a 4.0 rating and a 9 share versus a 3.9/10 for Tonight and a 2.5/6 for Late Show, according to Nielsen Research. Among the key demographic group of adults 25-54, Nightline (2.1/8) held a 31-percent margin of victory over Leno (1.6/7) and a 200-percent margin over Letterman (0.7/3).

ZUCKER PREDICTS NETS WILL CONTINUE TO CUT SCRIPTED FARE

NBC chief Jeff Zucker seemed to imply Wednesday that Fox Broadcasting's ascent to the top of the ratings heap this year may have had a lot to do with the fact that it airs only 15 hours of television programming per week compared to the other networks' 22, allowing it to be more selective in its content choices. Speaking at the Ad Age Digital Marketing Conference in New York, Zucker predicted that all of the other networks will be cutting back on the number of scripted television shows they will offer, because they are financially burdensome. "It is harder today to put on 22 hours of great scripted programming," he remarked. "The costs are prohibitive." In the future, he added, "you're still going to see the great scripted programming, but you're not going to see 22 hours a whole week anymore."

GERALDO LASHES OUT AT CNN'S DOBBS

Geraldo Rivera, who has battled fellow Fox News Channel personality Bill O'Reilly over immigration reform, lashed out Wednesday at Lou Dobbs, who appears on rival CNN and who has made the issue his personal cause célèbre. "He has resurrected a failed career on the backs of these poor [Mexican immigrants]," Rivera remarked on Barbara Walters's Sirius Radio show, where he was promoting his new book, His Panic, which is subtitled, "Why Americans Fear Hispanics in the U.S." Rivera added, "He has been rabble-rousing, making a difficult situation worse." Earlier this month, in an appearance on Walters's TV show The View Rivera accused Dobbs of using his TV platform for "hate mongering" and remarked that "I would not shake his hand."

HOW BAD IS BAD ROAD? PRODUCERS ASK CRITICS TO JUDGE

Following word that HBO had been disappointed with all six episodes of 12 Miles of Bad Road already shot and had therefore decided not to air the series, the producers have taken Road on the road. Daily Variety reported today (Thursday) that executive producers Linda Bloodworth Thomason and Harry Thomason have sent copies of the six episodes to newspaper critics, including Variety, in hopes that "some critical reassurance might prompt [HBO] to reconsider their decision ... or at least help us move the show to a more receptive environment." However, in an interview with Variety, Bloodworth Thomason acknowledged that persuading another cable or broadcast network to take over the show would prove difficult. "It's so tremendously expensive [reportedly $3.6 million per episode]. We designed it for HBO. There are few places in which it will work."

CANADIAN TV EMBRACES BITTORRENT

BitTorrent, the file-sharing technology that is the bane of the movie industry and TV networks, which claim that it facilitates piracy, has been embraced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. The CBC announced Wednesday that on March 24th it will become the first major broadcaster in North America to release a high quality, DRM-free copy of a primetime show using BitTorrent technology. The Canadian network said that it plans to make the final episode of its hit TV series Canada's Next Great Prime Minister available completely free the day after its Sunday-night telecast. Michael Geist, Canada's Research Chair of Internet and E-Commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, hailed the network's decision, saying that "it shows that Canada's public broadcaster is increasingly willing to experiment with alternative forms of distribution."

Brian B.