MEDIA STOCKS TAKE A DIVE

Major media companies rode the roller coaster down another big dip in stock prices Monday, with several conglomerates hitting 52-week lows. In the case of General Electric, which owns 80 percent of NBC Universal, the stock hit a 16-year low. (In a related development, the French media company Vivendi, which owns the remaining 20 percent of NBC Universal, announced that it would write down the value of its stake in the company after its prorated income fell 18 percent in 2008.) In an apparent effort to display his confidence in his company and prevent further erosion of its stock price, GE Chairman Jeffrey Immelt used $413,000 of his own money to buy an additional 50,000 shares of the company early in the day. His confidence in the company did not spread to other investors, who continued to drive down the price of GE shares. By the end of the day, Immelt had lost $33,000 on his investment. One of the biggest losers was Echostar, operator of the DISH satellite service. Although it was one of the few media companies to show a profit in its last quarter, its stock plunged 12 percent on Monday. Viacom, CBS Corp, Disney, and Time Warner also recorded big drops in share prices. The slide continued today (Tuesday) with GE down another 8 percent and CBS Corp down 8.5 percent at midday.

LOSER NOT SO BIG A WINNER

The reality of reality TV game shows was called into question again Monday following the revelation that Dane Patterson, a former contestant on NBC's The Biggest Loser, did not in fact run a 26-mile marathon in 3 hours, 53 minutes as claimed. Late last week, the producers of the show admitted that Patterson, after running 17 miles, received a ride from a field producer working on the show, who drove him to the 20-mile mark. At a news conference on Monday Dane said that he had accepted the ride because he was aware that the contest closed at 6 hours and that the show wanted to show him completing the race. As it was, he completed it in 5 hours and 53 minutes, then, he said, went back and ran the three miles that he had missed. "I apologize for stating that I ran the entire marathon before I actually ran the whole 26 miles," he said. "I am proud of the feat of just running 26 miles in one day." Patterson's account was later challenged by bloggers who noted on various websites that runners who finished after six hours were also recorded.

FAREWELL TO MARS

ABC has given producers of Life on Mars an early notice that it won't be renewing the show for next season, thereby giving them sufficient time to write and produce a definitive ending for the series, TVWeek reported Monday. "We felt it was the right thing to do for the producers and the fans and creatively," ABC Entertainment Group President Steve McPherson told the trade publication, which noted that by giving the series "closure", it will enhance ABC's ability to sell it on DVD and syndicate it to a cable network. Ironically, the notice came on the same day that members of the cast of the TV series were joining other film and TV workers to ask New York state and city authorities not to scale back their tax incentive program as planned. At a news conference held on the set of Life on Mars, Richard Masur, a former two-term president of the Screen Actors Guild, told reporters, "If it weren't for the credit, this show would not be shooting in New York." As reported by the New York Times, Masur observed that 19 pilots were filmed in New York in 2008 but that not one is even planned for this year.

THE BACHELOR FINALE SURPRISES WITH HUGE RATINGS

ABC's The Bachelor, which had been making a steady comeback this season, hit a high mark Monday night with a season finale that averaged 16.13 million viewers, peaking in the 9:30 p.m. half hour with 17.48 million. A 10:00 p.m. special, The Bachelor: After the Final Rose, drew 17.47 million viewers. CBS, the usual Monday-night winner, settled for second place with a potent 12.65 million viewers. Fox, which aired a two-hour edition of 24, recorded 11.10 million -- but finished first among adults 18-49.

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