i>JERICHO: WILL IT COME TUMBLING DOWN?

CBS's new moderate hit Jericho will become the latest series to go on hiatus midway through the season rather than air repeats. The network said that the serial drama, which deals with the aftermath of a nuclear explosion, will be replaced by The King of Queens starting December 6. It is due to return for a recap show on February 14, then resume on February 21. (Jericho drew its lowest ratings of the season Wednesday night, falling to a 6.0 rating and a 9 share.) CBS appears to be following the lead of ABC, which last season saw ratings for Lost tumble when it aired repeats. This season Lost aired through Wednesday night and will be replaced by a new drama, Daybreak, until it returns next year. TV writers are divided over how the strategy will pan out, with some pointing out that out of sight might mean out of mind. Significantly, Lost has already lost its lead on Wednesday nights, overtaken -- by a nose -- by CBS's Criminal Minds. On Wednesday night the CBS drama posted an 11.7/17 versus an 11.6/17 for Lost in the overnight ratings.

CNN AND FNC -- TOO CLOSE TO CALL

CNN and Fox News Channel wound up in a dead heat in the ratings race on election night. Although officially Nielsen put FNC's audience at 3,060,000 and CNN's at 2,971,000, the 3-percent difference is generally regarded as statistically insignificant. More significant is the fact that CNN ran well ahead of FNC among adults 25-54, drawing 1,330,000 viewers in that demographic group to FNC's 1,253,000, a 6-percent gap. CNN saw its total audience climb 21 percent from the last midterm election in 2002, while FNC's climbed 12 percent. Especially impressive was the rise of MSNBC, whose election-night audience shot up 107 percent to 1,949,000.

PTC DEMANDS FCC RESCIND INDECENCY DECISION

L. Brent Bozell's Parents Television Council, whose members generate virtually all the complaints of indecent programming to the FCC, is demanding that the commission reverse its decision to set aside two rulings regarding indecent language on CBS's The Early Show and ABC's NYPD Blue. In the case of the latter show, the commission had said that it had rescinded its previous decision on procedural grounds since it had not received complaints from people in the Midwest, where the program airs at 9:00 p.m., an hour before the "safe harbor" for indecency begins at 10:00 p.m. However, the PTC said Wednesday that it had sent the FCC 96 complaints from 28 states in that region and asked that they be reviewed. An FCC official told Broadcasting and Cable magazine, "We're not aware of other complaints, but we will look at the material provided to us." The PTC also complained about the FCC's decision regarding The Early Show, which said that, as a news program, it was exempt from the indecency rule. However, Bozell said in a statement, that the commission "arbitrarily created a 'news exemption' for indecency where none existed before."

BILLIONAIRES VIE FOR TRIBUNE COMPANY

Billionaire investors Eli Broad and Ron Burkle have jointly submitted a bid to buy The Tribune Co., which, besides owning the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, counts nine other daily newspapers among its holdings as well as 25 TV stations (including the powerful KTLA in Los Angeles) and the Chicago Cubs baseball team. Published reports did not indicate financial details of their offer. Entertainment magnate David Geffen is also believed to be among those seeking to buy the media company, whose current stock price of $32.48 would value it at $7.8 billion. Tribune also shows $5.3 billion in debt. Each of the three investors is reported to be interested only in the L.A. Times asset; they're expected to sell off the remaining assets piecemeal if a deal is consummated.

RATINGS DOWN, PROFITS UP AT FOX

Suggesting that ratings are not the be-all and end-all in determining the profitability of television stations, News Corp reported Wednesday that operating income for its Fox Network and stations rose 20 percent to $192 million in its first quarter ended September 30 while revenue increased only 5 percent. The network has produced no new hits so far this season and some of its established shows have shown glaring ratings declines. On the other hand, House and Prison Break continued to impress. In a statement, Peter Chernin, president and COO of News Corp, which operates Fox, said, "We are not in the kind of black hole that we were in the past, but we're certainly not pleased or satisfied with the new dramas we have launched."

REPORT: NY TAXPAYERS PAY FOR MSNBC MOVE

The city and state of New York are helping to subsidize NBC's plan to move most of its MSNBC operations from Secaucus, NJ to Manhattan, Radar Onlinereported Wednesday, citing a TV news insider familiar with NBC's negotiations with the city. According to the online publication, the New York City Economic Development Corporation, which is reportedly helping to subsidize the move, has granted $133 million in tax breaks to NBC since 1987 and is currently in talks with NBC Universal over how to handle the MSNBC move. Radarpointed out however, that the media company appears to be reneging on a 1997 deal with the state of New Jersey that granted it $7.8 million in tax breaks for bringing 440 jobs to the state. Jon Shure, president of New Jersey Policy Perspectives, told Radar: "Under the terms of the agreement, the jobs have to stay here for 15 years. ... If they don't NBC could be asked to pay it back."

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.