DILLER ADMITS HE MAY LOSE TO MALONE

In a comment that surprised his New York audience Tuesday, Barry Diller conceded that he may lose his InterActive Corp. to John Malone's Liberty Corp. when a Delaware judge rules on his dispute with Malone next week. "It's very odd that two people who don't want to give up control of anything are giving control to a judge in Delaware," Diller said at a media conference sponsored by Variety. "The wonderful thing about Delaware is ... they make a decision quickly." Malone and Diller, once close friends and collaborators, have been feuding over Diller's decision to spin off four companies that IAC owns. Diller was also critical of the recent strike by the Writers Guild of America, insisting that the WGA suffered lasting injury as a result. "It was like they shot off a rock and ran to where the rocket was going to land," he said.

THERE'S IDOL -- AND EVERYTHING ELSE

Thanks largely to three episodes of American Idol, Fox scored its eighth straight weekly victory last week. With each of the Idol shows drawing nearly 30 million viewers, the shows that followed them were also able to claim solid numbers even with fewer than half the audience of the Idol lead-ins. ABC was also a big winner last week with 15.7 million viewers tuning in to Oprah's Big Give on Sunday night and 12.7 million watching the TV movie A Raisin in the Sun the previous Monday. CBS held up adequately with a steady diet of reruns in the wake of the writers' strike, drawing its biggest numbers (12.5 million) for 60 Minutes and Survivor, two of the few original shows it currently airs. With the exception of ABC's TV movie and its hit drama Lost, all of the other top-ten programs were shows produced without WGA or SAG employees.

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

1. American Idol (Tuesday), Fox, 16.0/24; 2. American Idol (Wednesday), Fox, 15.7/24; 3. American Idol (Thursday), Fox, 14.9/23; 4. Oprah's Big Give, ABC, 9.5/15; 5. Deal or No Deal (Monday), NBC, 9.2/14; 6. ABC Premiere Event: A Raisin in the Sun, ABC, 8.6/13; 7. Don't Forget the Lyrics, Fox, 8.4/13; 7. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, ABC, 8.4/13; 9. 60 Minutes, CBS, 8.1/13; 10. Law and Order, NBC, 7.7/13; 10. Lost, ABC, 7.7/12.

NEWS RATINGS RISE; WILLIAMS WINS

In the nightly news ratings, the "old guy" drew most of the younger viewers and the "young guy" drew most of the older ones last week. With growing interest in the national elections, ratings were up for the news programs of all three networks, with NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams coming out on top with 9.17 million viewers. ABC's World News with Charles Gibson drew 9.01 million, while the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric remained far behind (but with a solid increase) with 6.98 million viewers. Among adults 25-54, however, the Gibson newscast led with 2.90 million viewers. The Williams newscast drew 2.72 million, and Couric's 2.23 million.

IDOL ROARS BACK

Tuesday night's ratings for American Idol once again outpaced the ratings for all of its competition together. The show scored a 15.9 rating and a 24 share for Fox. The huge total also helped get Fox's new sci-fi cop drama New Amsterdam off to a solid, if unspectacular, start with an 8.3/12. It came in well ahead of second-place The Biggest Loser on NBC, which recorded a 6.5/10.

IDOL WON'T REMOVE GAY STRIPPER

The latest controversy to hit American Idol involves a contestant who reportedly worked as a stripper at a gay nightclub in Phoenix, where he allegedly performed lap dances for male customers. Producers of the show shrugged off the reports. In an interview with the online edition of TV Guide, executive producer Ken Warwick said, "We're never judgmental about people who do things like that. If it were some sort of heavy porn, then maybe we'd have to take action. But certainly not on this." The Idol show manages to become embroiled in similar controversies almost every year. In 2003 a top contender, Frenchie Davis, was dropped from the show after it was revealed that she had appeared topless on a pornographic website.

FCC CHAIRMAN ASKS FOR INFO ABOUT ALABAMA TV OUTAGE

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has acceded to a request by the two Democratic FCC commissioners to look into allegations that an Alabama CBS affiliate may have deliberately censored a 60 Minutes program about former Governor Don Siegelman. The program alleged that Siegelman's prosecution for bribery and obstruction of justice was politically motivated; he is currently serving a seven-year sentence. On Feb. 24, Huntsville station WHNT-TV interrupted the 60 Minutes program at the beginning of the feature about Siegelman but returned as it was ending. The station later blamed the outage on technical problems.

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.