i>IDOL WINS WEEK FOR FOX

Thanks mostly to American Idol, Fox again finished first in the ratings last week, averaging a 7.0 rating and an 11 share and edging out CBS, the usual winner when Idol is not on Fox's schedule, which averaged a 6.9/11. NBC placed third with a 5.4/9, with ABC close behind with a 5.2/9. For the first time, the new Brad Garrett comedy Til Death, landed in the top ten, thanks to its landing in the post-Idol time slot on Fox on Wednesday night.

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

1. American Idol (Tuesday), Fox, 17.1/27; 2. American Idol (Wednesday), Fox, 16.2/25; 3. Grey's Anatomy, ABC, 14.8/23; 4. Deal or No Deal (Monday), NBC, 10.2/16; 5. Cold Case, CBS, 9.7/16; 6. October Road, ABC, 9.5/16; 7. CSI: Miami, CBS, 9.4/16; 8. 60 Minutes, CBS, 9.3/15; 9. Without a Trace, CBS, 8.9/17; 10. Til Death, Fox, 8.8/14.

GIBSON FORGES AHEAD OF WILLIAMS

In a neck-and-neck ratings race among the evening news shows, ABC's World News with Charles Gibson pulled ahead of NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams last week. Gibson drew 8.64 million viewers; Williams, 8.32 million. It marked Gibson's fourth win in six weeks. Meanwhile, the first week of CBS Evening News with Katie Couric under new executive producer Rick Kaplan saw no letup in audience erosion, as the show drew only 6.76 million viewers.

NCIS GIVES IDOL REAL COMPETITION

American Idol again flattened the competition Tuesday night as it averaged an 18.1 rating and a 27 share between 8:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. The show peaked at 9:30 p.m. with a 19.7 rating and a 27 share, representing 23.24 million viewers. Significantly, the show drew its lowest rating, a 15.4/24 at the top of 8:00 p.m. hour as it faced off against CBS's NCIS, which held its own with a 9.9/15.

CBS ACQUIRES ONLINE HIGH-SCHOOL SPORTS NETWORK

The websites of CBS-owned stations and affiliates are expected to begin offering coverage of high-school sports following the network's acquisition Tuesday of MaxPreps, an online high-school sports network. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Brian Bedol, president and CEO of CBS-owned College Sports Television (CSTV), said in a statement that the deal "will help make CBS's local television stations and websites the 'go-to' place for local sports content in communities across the country."

IS VIACOM SITE ALSO PIRATING VIDEOS?

Although Viacom is suing Google and YouTube for $1 billion, alleging copyright infringement, iFilm, a website owned by Viacom, is itself hosting pirated videos, the website ArsTechnica has alleged. While Viacom said in a statement to the website that iFilm screens all content before it is posted, ArsTechnica maintained that it had found a number of sports clips from NBA and college basketball telecasts for which Viacom did not appear to own the copyrights. Copyright attorney Greg Gabriel told ArsTechnica that in considering Viacom's lawsuit against Google and YouTube, "Viacom's own conduct with iFilm will likely be a factor that the judge looks at."

SHATNER, AGE 26, TO APPEAR WITH SHATNER, AGE 76

Producers of Boston Legal plan to use footage from a 1957 Studio One drama, "The Defenders," featuring William Shatner, for an April 3 episode. In the old-time episode Shatner's character Denny Crane comes face-to-face with a hostage taker, who has nursed a grudge against him stemming from a court case 50 years earlier. (The original drama also featured a then unknown actor credited as "Steven McQueen." No word whether the McQueen footage will also make it into the Boston Legal episode.) "The Defenders" video was recently found in storage at the former Westinghouse Corporation, which sponsored Studio One, and is available on DVD.

IRAQ STRANGLES OVERSEAS COVERAGE

Major overseas stories are not receiving adequate coverage -- and often no coverage at all -- because the television networks are devoting so many resources to the war in Iraq, CBS London bureau chief Jennifer Siebens has acknowledged. In an interview with the CBS blog Public Eye, Siebens, who is also a CBS News vice president, said, "We work in a world of finite resources -- every corporation in America does. And to the extent that the war becomes the single focus, it makes it harder to cover other topics." Making things especially difficult, Siebens indicated, is that for the first time in any war, journalists have become targets. "The need to protect our people creates this whole other cost center I've never seen," she said.

WALL STREET JOURNAL COLUMNIST GIVES HIGH MARKS TO APPLE TV

The Wall Street Journal's technical reviewer Walt Mossberg has praised Apple TV, Apple's $299 settop device that wirelessly beams TV shows, movies, and photos downloaded onto a computer to TV sets. Commented Mossberg: "It worked great. ... It's a beautifully designed, easy-to-use product that should be very attractive to people with widescreen TV sets and lots of music, videos, and photos stored on computers. It has some notable limitations, but we really liked it. It is classic Apple: simple and elegant." Apple said Tuesday that the device is being shipped to retailers this week.

UMPS TO WEAR MICROPHONES

Baseball fans may finally be able to hear what goes on between players and umpires when they're arguing on the field. Fox and ESPN said Tuesday that Major League Baseball and the umpires union had agreed to allow one umpire from each umpire crew to wear a microphone during each televised game. However, he may turn the microphone off at his discretion, and the TV networks have agreed not to air any disputes between the umps and players live. In an interview with Bloomberg News, Fox Sports President Ed Goren said, "We have put microphones on players, in the dugouts, on the foul poles, and this is just another way to bring fans closer to the game."

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.