MARCH COMES IN -- LIKE FEBRUARY

The February sweeps, which were bumped to March this year because it was thought that the (now delayed) digital transition would disrupt viewing, got off to an impressive start Thursday, as Fox aired an American Idol Wild Card show that attracted 21.24 million viewers. Also in the 8:00 hour, CBS's Survivor: Tocantins bagged 11.98 million viewers. ABC and NBC were both far behind. Despite Fox's huge numbers in the 8:00 hour, CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation drew 20.80 million at 9:00 p.m. At 10:00 both CBS and NBC drew big audiences, with CBS's Eleventh Hour attracting 12.15 million viewers, and NBC's E.R., 8.79 million.

CNN'S HUGHLEY SHOW CANCELED

CNN's experiment with topical comedy is apparently coming to an end. The cable news network confirmed a report by the TVNewser website that the Saturday-night D.L. Hughley Breaks the News will end its run at the end of the month. A CNN statement said, "D.L. approached CNN about being permanently based in Los Angeles, where his family lives. To accommodate this, we agreed upon a new role where he will be a contributor for the network based in Los Angeles. We are eager to continue our relationship with D.L., who is a tremendous talent and a valued colleague." The show had not been well received. In an article in TheDailyVoice.com, a news website focusing on African-American issues, Georgetown University Associate Dean Christopher Metzler charged that CNN and Hughley had "managed to rearticulate the vilest stereotypes of blacks." The program demonstrated that it is now not necessary for whites to engage in racial stereotyping, he wrote, because "we will do it for ourselves." He added: "It was not too long ago that Don Imus was banned from the airwaves because of his 'nappy-headed hos' comment. In fact, advertisers fled in droves. I have yet to hear any advertiser flee from this show."

4.5 MILLION HOMES STILL UNPREPARED FOR DIGITAL

During the past month, another 500,000 households somehow managed to prepare for the June 12 switchover to digital, despite the fact that new vouchers to help pay for converter boxes were not yet available. That still left 4.5 million homes unprepared for the transition. Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported Thursday that the National Telecommunications and Information Administration has begun mailing out the $40 converter-box coupons again after receiving $650 million from the economic stimulus package. It said that it expects to distribute them within the next two and a half weeks.

ABC'S NIGHTLINE BEATS LETTERMAN, CHALLENGES LENO

Aided by the fact that both NBC's Tonight show with Jay Leno and Late Show with David Letterman were both in reruns most of the week and that a top-rated three-hour season finale of The Bachelor gave it a solid lead-in on Monday, ABC's Nightline handily beat Letterman last week and came within 200,000 viewers of unseating Leno as well, according to ratings figures released Thursday by Nielsen Media Research. In fact, Nightline did indeed beat both Letterman and Leno among adults 25-54 on Monday night when both aired new shows.

CBS GETS ANOTHER BLACK EYE

Shares in CBS took another beating Thursday and today (Friday) after reports indicated that it faces a nearly $1-billion funding gap for bonds that are due to mature in July of 2010. "The first course of action would be for CBS to pursue permanent long-term debt in the public debt markets," Barclays Capital credit analyst Scott Shiffman said in an interview with Bloomberg News. "Given many investors' concerns about the CBS credit, a potential new bond could have onerous terms for CBS, including a very high coupon." CBS shares dropped 11 percent on Thursday and were down an additional 2 percent at midday trading today (Friday).

HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL RETURNING

High School Musical will return to Disney Channel next year, but its stars -- graduates all -- will not be participating in a reunion. Disney said Thursday that the fourth HSM (the third was released theatrically) will air on the channel sometime next year. The second edition of the kids-oriented musical series produced the biggest audience in basic cable history -- 18.6 million viewers.