VIEWERS PREFER OBAMA/MCCAIN TO DODGERS/PHILLIES

The third and final presidential debate Wednesday night attracted 28.91 million viewers on the broadcast networks (cable figures were not immediately available), with NBC leading with 10.34 million viewers, followed by ABC with 9.66 million, and CBS with 8.91 million. Fox did not cover the debate because of the MLB National League playoff game, which averaged 7.26 million viewers. (Significantly, the game drew its biggest audience during the hour before the debate and the half-hour after it.) Most viewers remained tuned in to the debate analyses that followed. NBC counted 8.19 million viewers, ABC 8.00 million, and CBS 6.80 million. The late-night shows also led off with humorous political references, all of them written and taped before the debate actually occurred. (Indeed some of the jokes sounded as if they could have been tailor-made for Bob Hope. An example from David Letterman's spiel: "How about Barack Obama. He's going door to door, knocking on doors. It's fascinating. It's a throwback. I don't know if he's getting any votes, but today he came back with a big bag of Halloween candy.") Meanwhile, Fox said Wednesday that Major League Baseball had agreed to move the start time of Game Six of the World Series to 8:35 p.m. so that the Barack Obama campaign could "communicate with voters" on all four major broadcast networks during the 8:00 p.m. half hour. The campaign is reportedly paying nearly $1 million to each network for the October 29 special, details of which have not been disclosed.

NICKELODEON KIDS SHOW BEATS EVERYTHING ELSE

A SpongeBob SquarePants special on the Nickelodeon channel Monday night attracted about as many viewers as the Major League Baseball playoffs have been averaging so far. The special, WhoBob WhatPants?, attracted 7.7 million total views, 4.2 million of whom were between the ages of 2 and 11; 2.7 million, 6-11; and 2.3 million, 9-14. The special, in fact, drew a bigger audience than anything offered on broadcast television in its time period (8:00 p.m.) and was second in total viewers for the night only to Monday Night Football on ESPN.

A BUSH-PALIN ENCOUNTER?

President Bush is likely to meet Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live this weekend -- or at least reasonable facsimiles of them are -- when Josh Brolin, who stars as the president in Oliver Stone's W., appears as the show's guest host. Tina Fey is also due to appear on the show as Palin. Asked by the syndicated TV show The Insider about such an encounter, Brolin said, "We're all figuring it out right now, but I hope so. It makes sense to me."

ONCE MIGHTY TV GUIDE IS SOLD FOR $1

Macrovision was so desperate to get out from under the debt burden and continuing losses that it inherited with its purchase of TV Guide that it sold the magazine to a private equity group for just one dollar, Advertising Age reported on its website Wednesday, citing Macrovision's filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. In an interview with AdAge.com, Andrew Nikou, managing partner of OpenGate, which bought the magazine, said, "The reason we acquired this business is simple. ... It needed additional investment. We're investing in this company to take it to the next stage."

MILLIONS STILL UNPREPARED FOR ANALOG-TO-DIGITAL SWITCH

With just three months to go before television stations will be required to turn off their analog transmitters and switch to digital, some nine million American households are still unprepared for the switch, according to a study by The Nielsen Company. Another 12.6 million households will have at least one TV set that will no longer work. "Nearly one in five U.S. households are either partially or completely unready for the transition," according to the study. The study found that 13 percent of all Hispanic households and 12.5 percent of African-American households are completely unready for the switch, set for February 17, and that households whose total annual income is under $25,000 per year are five times more likely to be unprepared than those whose income is over $75,000. Meanwhile, a study by Consumer Reports indicates that 40 percent of consumers erroneously believe that they will have to purchase digital converters even if they are cable subscribers and that 9 percent believe they will have to discard their analog TV sets once the switchover occurs.

ACTRESS EDIE ADAMS DEAD AT 81

Edie Adams, best remembered for her commercials for Muriel cigars ("Pick one up and smoke it sometime") despite dozens of roles in movies and TV shows, died Wednesday in the West Hills area of Los Angeles at age 81. She was married to the comedian Ernie Kovaks who was killed in an automobile accident in 1962. Their daughter Mia also died in an auto accident in 1982. A New York Times obituary recalls that on the final episode of The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour in April, 1960, with Vivian Vance at the piano, Adams performed a rendition of the Alan Brandt-Bob Haymes standard "That's All," which ended with the words, "Say it's me that you adore, for now and evermore, that's all, that's all." Her performance, the Times said, "reduced the entire crew to tears."