Comcast, which is reportedly in negotiations to take over control of NBC Universal, posted a 22-percent increase in third-quarter profits -- but made no mention of the negotiations in its quarterly report. The company said earnings reached nearly $1 billion in the quarter -- $944 million to be precise, versus $771 million for the comparable period a year ago. As in previous quarters, Comcast beat analysts' estimates. In reporting the results, the Wall Street Journalcommented that they "displayed the enduring strength of the cable business amid rising competition and a stinging economic slump." Nevertheless, in a conference call early today (Wednesday) Comcast CFO Michael Angelakis observed that the company is currently assessing its workforce as it plans cost-cutting measures before the end of the year. He cautioned investors that severance charges will be reflected in the fourth quarter, although he did not indicate how large they might be. Comcast employs about 100,000 people. Comcast CEO Brian Roberts did not directly address the NBC Universal matter, saying only that any deal would have to provide demonstrable "benefits of scale." The Associated Press noted that investors are still anxious to hear how the NBC Universal acquisition "would burden Comcast's finances." Most analysts expect the deal to be announced in about two weeks, when French media conglomerate Vivendi announces its decision on selling its 20-percent stake in NBC Universal to G.E.


Rumors spread rapidly over the Internet on Tuesday that Apple is about to offer a $30-a-month service via its iTunes store that would effectively replace cable services. The rumor was apparently first reported on the Gizmodo website, which indicated that the service could be announced at about the same time that Apple unveils its much-rumored Apple tablet early next year. The Apple service would apparently make all TV shows available on demand. However, the early reports indicated that Apple has yet to line up any major broadcast or cable networks to participate in the as-yet-unnamed service. Moreover, other analysts have noted that the Internet is carried into many people's homes via cable-TV companies and that Apple would therefore have to find a way to hitch a ride on its rivals' backs in order to secure distribution.


The national pastime dominated the national primetime last week as Fox's coverage of the World Series between the New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies scored strongly with viewers. In USA Today,writer Michael Hiestand, sounding as if he was an escapee from Variety, observed that "this year's boffo TV box office might suggest baseball has picked up some big new momentum." Last week's games -- which averaged 19 million viewers per game compared with 13 million a year ago -- gave Fox a commanding lead over its rivals and pushed its average for all shows to 14.7 million viewers for the week in primetime. CBS, the usual winner when there's no baseball, averaged 9.8 million viewers, while ABC was close behind with 9.5 million. NBC continued to trail with just 5.6 million. The nightly newscasts lined up as usual, with NBC News With Brian Williamsscoring 8.50 million viewers. ABC World News with Charles Gibsonwas second with 7.95 million viewers, while the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric once again bombed with 5.88 million viewers.

The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research: 1. World Series -- Game 4, Fox, 13.5/22; 2. World Series -- Game 1, Fox, 11.9/19; 3. World Series -- Game 2, Fox, 11.7/19; 4. Dancing With the Stars (Monday), ABC, 11.3/17; 5. Fox World Series -- Game 4 Pregame, Fox, 10.7/17; 6. NCIS, CBS, 10.4/16; 7. The OT, Fox, 9.8/16; 8. The Mentalist, CBS, 9.7/16; 9. Dancing With The Stars(Tuesday), ABC, 9.6/15; 10. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 9.2/14.


Aliens reinvaded America's living rooms again Tuesday night -- en masse. According to overnight Nielsen ratings, ABC's Vattracted 13.9 million viewers, providing some unexpected competition for the usual winner of the 8:00 p.m. time period, CBS's NCIS.It was the best premiere for a new scripted series this year, beating The Cleveland Showand NCIS: Los Angeles. The alien-invasion series is based on two miniseries that aired on NBC in 1983 and 1984. NCIS, meanwhile, may have lost 11 percent of its viewers from its last original episode two weeks ago, but it still performed strongly, averaging 19.4 million viewers, well ahead of V.