STRIKE THREAT KEEPS LOSERS ON AIR

The increasing probability that a strike by the Writers Guild of America against the major TV and film studios will occur next month has redounded to the benefit of producers of new television shows that performed below par during their first month on the air, Broadcasting & Cable observed today (Monday). The trade publication noted that a strike threat has particularly helped such struggling shows as CBS's Cane, Fox's K-Ville and ABC's Big Shots. Preston Beckman, head of program planning for Fox, appeared to represent the thinking of other network executives when he told B&C: "If I cancel a show now and put something in its place, I have eight unaired episodes of that show. ... We would rather stick with what we have and have [a potential replacement show] to hold on to for a strike. Otherwise, if there is a strike, I net out with eight fewer original hours."

MURDER CLUB SLAYS 'EM

ABC's new drama Women's Murder Club killed the competition in the 8:00 p.m. hour Friday as it debuted with a 7.3 rating and a 13 share, a solid performance for a Friday-night show. Unfortunately, the shows that preceded and followed it came up short. Particularly disappointing for the network was the fourth-place showing of its magazine show 20/20, which moved to 8:00 p.m. after holding down the 10:00 p.m. timeslot for the previous 20 years. Men in Trees, the show that replaced 20/20 at 10:00 p.m., also performed poorly.

JAY WANTS TO REMAIN ON LATE-NIGHT TV, SAYS REPORT

Jay Leno is not likely to leave late-night television after his scheduled departure from NBC in 2009, the Los Angeles Times reported today (Monday), citing three people familiar with the situation. The newspaper observed that Leno could move to ABC or Fox -- or even CNN, where Leno might take over Larry King's spot. Meanwhile, the newspaper said, NBC is likely to offer him another assignment -- in primetime. "We are working with Jay to convince him that there is life beyond late night," Marc Graboff, co-chairman of NBC Entertainment, told the Times. "He's a great talent. We really want to stay in business with him."

WEATHER CHANNEL PRODUCES IPHONE APPLICATION

The Weather Channel has become the first cable network to create an application for Apple's iPhone and its near twin, the iPod Touch. The application, which does not require a download -- Apple refuses to allow the installation of third-party software in the devices -- takes advantage of the devices' touch-screen technology to deliver current, hourly and 10-day forecasts and weather maps from the Weather Channel. The application also provides severe weather alerts and a link to The Weather Channel Mobile Web the delivers information on traffic and airport delays.

NBC NIGHTLY NEWS A BIG RTNDA AWARDS WINNER

NBC Nightly News may have fallen to second place in the ratings and the network's magazine show, Dateline, may have been sidelined since the start of the season, but the two shows dominated the list of the Radio and Television News Directors Assn.'s Edward R. Murrow Award winners announced Sunday. NBC News also received the top award for overall excellence. Of the 13 prizes, NBC won seven, CBS three, CNN two, and ABC -- the ratings leader -- just one (for a feature report about a blind trumpeter, no less).

CAMERA CRASHES ON FIELD DURING NFL TELECAST

In what might have easily turned into a tragedy of the first order, an overhead television camera, remotely controlled on wires, came crashing down onto the playing field during NBC's telecast of the New Orleans Saints/Seattle Seahawks game in Seattle Sunday night. Luckily the incident occurred during a time-out, but nevertheless, the camera crashed just yards from the huddling Seahawks team. After the camera was lifted again, it fell once more, this time nearly hitting receiver Bobby Engram as he was walking off the field. After a ten-minute delay, an NBC crew hoisted the camera into position again, tested it, and the game resumed. It remained over the Seahawks' bench for the rest of the game. The long delay may have contributed to a huge ratings decline for the Sunday-night football telecast, which averaged a 6.8 rating and a 13 share from 8:30 to 11:00 p.m., a season low. By contrast, an overrun of CBS's telecast of the Patriots/Cowboys game at 7:00 p.m. averaged a sensational 18.5/26, peaking in the 7:00 p.m. half hour with a 19.9/25.

FOX BUSINESS NETWORK LAUNCHES

Anchor Nicole Petallides spoke the first words on the Fox Business Network at 5:00 a.m. today: "Good morning. This is the new Fox Business Network." She and co-anchor Jenna Lee then launched into Business Morning with a quick summary of news headlines, followed by overnight business news from overseas markets, then a rundown of sports scores.

G.E. POSTS STRONG PROFITS -- AIDED BY NBC

General Electric reported solid earnings in its third quarter, showing a 14-percent jump in net profit to $5.54 billion. Analysts had looked to the report as an indication of what the company might do with its struggling NBC network and Universal Studios. But G.E. Chairman Jeffrey Immelt said in the earnings report, "NBC Universal posted its fourth straight quarter of segment profit growth, highlighted by the successful launch of its new, prime-time television line-up, a strong cable performance and a slate of popular summer films." The entertainment units reported a 9-percent increase in profits on a 3-percent increase in revenue.

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.