CBS HEADS AGAIN FOR WINNERS' CIRCLE

CBS was back on top of the Nielsen ratings last week in both total audience and the 18-49-year-old demographic. The network made solid gains with several programs. Its 60 Minutes, featuring an interview with President-elect Barack Obama, drew its biggest audience in nine years. Its Tuesday-night drama NCIS registered its biggest audience in its entire six-year run. (A rerun episode on Friday also drew impressive numbers.) Its Friday-night drama The Ghost Whisperer attracted its biggest audience in two years. The network's brand-new Tuesday-night series The Mentalist posted its best numbers ever, as did The Big Bang Theory on Monday. CBS wound up with an average 7.7 rating and a 12 share for the week. ABC placed second with a 6.7/11. Fox took third place with a 4.8/8, while NBC trailed with a 4.1/6.

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

1. 60 Minutes, CBS, 15.1/23; 2. Dancing With the Stars (Monday), ABC, 11.9/17; 3. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 11.6/17; 3. NBC Sunday Night Football, NBC, 11.6/18; 5. NCIS, CBS, 11.2/17; 6. Dancing With the Stars (Tuesday), ABC, 10.8/16; 7. Desperate Housewives, ABC, 10.3/15; 8. The Mentalist, CBS, 10.1/15; 9. Grey's Anatomy, ABC, 9.8/15; 10. CMA Awards, ABC, 9.6/1.

CABLE NEWS AUDIENCES GO THROUGH SLOW WITHDRAWAL

The presidential election may have been held the previous week, but cable news outlets were continuing to draw relatively large audiences last week, with Fox News Channel finishing as the third most-watched cable channel, behind ESPN and USA. CNN placed 10th and MSNBC, 11th. Moreover, MSNBC's Morning Joe with Joe Scarborough beat CNN's American Morning for the first time. (Fox & Friends continued to hold the lead.) Among the major networks' nightly newscasts, NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams topped ABC World News With Charles Gibson for the fifth consecutive week. The NBC newscast drew 9.30 million viewers; the ABC newscast, 8.90 million. CBS Evening News With Katie Couric again trailed with 6.66 million viewers.

AUTO INDUSTRY FLEEING TV

Nielsen has measured the impact of the auto industry's downturn on the broadcast media by comparing each auto manufacturer's advertising spending during the first six months of 2008 with that of the same period in 2007. Both Chrysler and Ford cut their ad buys by 22 percent, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus; GM, by 6 percent. (Given GM's current precarious state, it is almost certain that it has cut its ad spending more drastically since July.) Hyundai spent 17 percent less on advertising, while Nissan cut back 15 percent. But some overseas auto companies actually increased their ad buys. Daimler spent a whopping 48 percent more in 2008 than it did in '07; Volkswagen, 23 percent more. Honda added the most spending in actual dollars, Nielsen said, an extra $71.5 million, representing a 13-percent increase over 2007.

CRACKED DISH?

Shares of satellite-TV provider DISH Network continued to slide in early trading today (Wednesday) after falling to a 52-week low on Tuesday. Shares were trading at $10.14 at midday on the NASDAQ, down from a 52-week high of $50.80. Earlier this month DISH chief Charlie Ergen indicated that his strategy was to "tread water" during the current economic turbulence. But some analysts are not convinced that's a sensible approach. In a message to clients, Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Craig Moffett said, "Hope springs eternal, but there are few tangible signs in DISH's third-quarter results that signal a turn is near." Other analysts are more optimistic, saying they expect DISH to turn around in the long haul. Banc of America Securities analyst Bryan Kraft wrote, "While valuation is very attractive, given DISH's operational challenges, it could take a year for the stock to work."

DAYS OF OUR LIVES STARS FIRED

In what appeared to be a move to cut costs, the producers of the long-running Days of Our Lives have fired two of the soaps' biggest stars, Deidre Hall and Drake Hogestyn, the New York Post reported today (Wednesday). In a statement that the newspaper said was "obviously written to spare the feelings of loyal fans," NBC said, "Days of Our Lives has decided to rest the characters of John Black and Dr. Marlena Evans. ... After a year of separation, John and Marlena will finally reunite before exiting the canvas in early 2009." Hall has appeared on the soap since 1976; Hogestyn, since 1984. It is the only daytime drama currently airing on NBC.