BUILD A BALLPARK AND THEY WILL COME

Despite the fact that the television networks have written off Saturday as hopeless and have programmed it in recent years mostly with reruns and reality shows, viewers returned to their sets en masse last Saturday to watch the World Series, even though the game was delayed by rain and even though it had to compete with Halloween activities. The game averaged 15.09 million viewers in the primetime period between 9:30 p.m. and 11:00 p.m., drawing more than twice the combined number of viewers who tuned into college football on ABC and NBC. (NBC drew just 2.24 million viewers, one of the smallest numbers ever to tune into any of the major broadcast networks during primetime in recent history.) On Sunday the World Series virtually shut out the competition with an estimated 20.02 million viewers, peaking in the 8:30 p.m. half hour with 23.61 million. And that was after a football overrun at 7:00 p.m. which drew a mind-boggling 30.57 million viewers.

FAMILY GUY NOT TOO IFFY FOR WARNER BROS.

Microsoft may have found the upcoming Family Guy special too controversial for it to go ahead with announced plans to be the sole sponsor of the show. But Fox announced over the weekend that a rival movie studio is all too happy to take over the sponsorship. Warner Bros, it said, will use the special, set to air next Sunday, to promote its upcoming comedy/whodunit Sherlock Holmes, starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law and directed by Guy Ritchie. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reported on Sunday that a sequence in the special in which two characters voiced by Family Guy creator Seth MacFarland and voice actress Alex Borstein talk about teen star Miley Cyrus and her relationship with her father "is not expected to make the final cut."

REPORTS: COMCAST, G.E. DEAL CLOSE AT HAND

Cable operator Comcast and GE are likely to finalize a deal as early as next week in which Comcast would take over control of NBC Universal, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal reported today (Monday). The Times indicated that the deal hinges on the ability of GE to make a separate agreement with French media conglomerate Vivendi, which owns a 20-percent share of NBC Universal. The newspaper observed: "Talks with Vivendi may still fall apart, people familiar with the talks cautioned." But Journal media columnist Martin Peers suggested that "Comcast has its work cut out to persuade investors [that the deal] is a good idea." Peers warned that it could weaken Comcast's focus on its core business and that regulators are likely to impose a load of conditions on it.

LENO: HE'S HEARD THE NAYSAYERS BEFORE

Jay Leno is taking a been-there-done-that attitude toward negative media reaction to his new 10:00 p.m. variety/talk show. "I've been through this a number of times," he told Broadcasting & Cable magazine. He said that when he took over from Johnny Carson, the reaction from the media was "'You stink, you suck, we hate you.' Then you go along, and 'You're great.' From last January to May, I was a genius. I get it, I understand how it works. I really don't take anything too personally. ... I enjoy being the underdog. ... Right now we've reached a level [and] we're not going below that." Leno suggested that success often comes simply from longevity. "The one thing about TV is the longer you're on, the longer you're on. If you get past an initial point, then you're there, and people get used to it and they fall into a certain pattern. And I think that's the real trick." He said that after he replaced Carson on the show and the ratings tumbled, he thought, "They're going to fire me and replace me with Dave. That was much worse. This is like a walk in the park compared to that." Leno said that he would have preferred to have been able to remain on the Tonight show -- but that was like winning the America's Cup. "You won it, they can't take it away from you. So now you try this and you see what happens. Do I enjoy the battle? Yes. ... Sometimes going against insurmountable odds and making a little progress is maybe more satisfying than going into a situation where you're going to win no matter what." When the trade publication observed that Leno's relationship with the critics has been "different" from David Letterman's and suggested that the media is giving Letterman a "free pass," Leno responded, "I wouldn't trade places with Dave now for anything! I don't think he's getting a free pass."