The recent writers' strike may have inflicted permanent damage on scripted serialized dramatic shows as audiences lost track of story threads and abandoned them, the New York Timesobserved today (Thursday). The newspaper reported that such shows as ABC's Grey's Anatomyand Desperate Housewivesdrew their lowest ratings ever when they returned. CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation posted its worst ratings since its fall season, and Fox's Housesaw its audience drop 22 percent from its average before the strike began, the Timesnoted. On the other hand, sitcoms returned with about the same ratings -- or even better ratings, with some producing their best numbers of the season. David Poltrack, who tracks ratings performances for CBS, explained: "Comedies don't have continuing story lines." Viewers, he noted, don't have to remember what happened in previous episodes. And another unnamed network program executive told the newspaper: "Some viewers may have used the strike as a way to get off the train of some serialized shows."


Next year's February sweeps will take place in March, Nielsen Research announced Wednesday, saying it was delaying the all-important ratings period a month to avoid "potential disruptions" that might occur when stations switch from analog broadcasting to digital on February 17. Some viewers who may still not be aware that their TV sets cannot receive over-the-air digital broadcasts after that date, it noted, may be unable to watch television until they buy and install a settop converter box.


In their first public statements concerning their nearly three weeks of bargaining talks -- they're due to end on Friday -- the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and the Screen Actors Guild each appeared to concede that they remain far apart on reaching an agreement. The AMPTP accused the union of making unreasonable demands including doubling DVD residuals and "huge increases in compensation and benefits." The demands, the AMPTP said, "would result in enormous cost increases that we are not willing to accept." SAG later posted a response, saying "The AMPTP knows we did not state that they had to agree to all of our non-new media proposals. We expect the AMPTP to negotiate in good faith and we will do the same."


If it's Wednesday, it must be another winning night for Fox. With American Idolscoring a 14.3 rating and a 22 share in the 9:00 p.m. hour, the network easily dominated the ratings for the night. Nevertheless, the Idolratings were down by more than 25 percent from the comparable night a year ago. CBS's Criminal Minds provided solid competition with an 8.7/13. Earlier in the 8:00 p.m. hour, the competition between two game shows, NBC's Deal or No Dealand CBS's The Price Is Right, was fairly close, with Dealposting a 5.4/9 and Price,a 5.1/8. CBS took over the lead at 10:00 with a 7.8/12 for CSI:NY.


Hispanic civil rights groups are denouncing a recent report by the CBS Evening News With Katie Couric in which a woman, identified as an illegal immigrant who had just given birth to a child, was "lectured" by reporter Byron Pitts, who told her that "many Americans who struggle to take care of their own families think it is unfair that they should have to take care" of non-U.S. citizens. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the National Council of La Raza and the Asian American Justice Center were among the groups protesting against the feature. Writing in the influential, veteran Washington D.C. journalist Gebe Martinez commented, "If CBS is playing to immigration hawks to boost its sagging ratings, the network risks being tuned out by the expanding Latino community. Advertisers know that by 2011, Hispanic buying power will total $1.2 trillion, almost 10 percent of all U.S. purchasing power." Martinez quoted MALDEF attorney Peter Zamora as saying, "We are not going to be the victims of anti-immigrant reporting, and we are not going to sit by as the community is demonized." CBS News responded that it aimed "to do our best to listen to the many voices engaged in immigration issues, to produce fair and accurate stories and to bring national attention to this complicated topic."


AT&T will join Verizon in offering Qualcomm's MediaFLO on-demand movie service to certain cell-phone users beginning Sunday, the company announced Wednesday. Unlike most wireless video services, Qualcomm uses a separate frequency that requires the use of special receivers. AT&T's will be available on two handsets that go on sale Sunday, the LG Vu, which is priced at $299.99 and the Samsung Access, at $199.99. In addition users will be charged $15 per month for 10 channels. Currently AT&T Mobile TV will not be available on Apple's iPhones, which are programmed to use only AT&T's relatively slow EDGE wireless system for voice and data.


Just one day after Macrovision's takeover of TV Guidewas completed, reports began appearing Wednesday indicating that the new publishers will begin making massive layoffs at what was once America's most popular publication. Jeff Bercovici of Condé Nast's Portfoliomagazine said on its website today (Thursday) that TV Guide's editor-in-chief, Ian Birch, is likely to be included among those let go. He quoted a source as saying, "They're losing a phenomenal amount of money." L.A. Weeklycolumnist Nikki Finke wrote on her Dateline Hollywood Today blog that the magazine is being "gutted," with managing editors Lois Draegin and Steve Sonksy also among those being pink-slipped.