DIGITAL GAINS FEW CONVERTS AMONG RETAILERS

Although as part of the government's plan to switch all TV stations to digital by Feb. 17, 2009, owners of analog-only sets can apply for coupons giving them $40 off on $60 digital-to-analog converters, only two major retailers have agreed to stock the converters, it emerged during a Congressional hearing on Wednesday that only two major retailers have agreed to stock the converters -- RadioShack and Best Buy." John Kneuer, head of the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, which is supervising the transition, said that the NTIA is in talks with 23 retailers about stocking the converters. However, he noted, the current law does not require them to do so. Meanwhile, Best Buy announced Wednesday that it will cease selling analog-only TV sets immediately.

DAILY GOES ALL-THE-TIME

Viacom, which is suing Google's YouTube for $1 billion, for, among other things, allowing clips of The Daily Show With Jon Stewart to be posted on the site, has decided to set up its own Daily Show website, www.thedailyshow.com, in which it plans to make available 13,000 clips of the show, essentially everything aired on the show since its debut in 1999. Users of the site, which went online at noon EST today (Thursday), can search for clips by either date or topic. However, viewers will not be able to watch entire episodes uninterrupted.

TV VIEWING STILL AT RECORD LEVEL

Despite talk of videogames and the Internet stealing away members of the television audience, a new survey by Nielsen Research indicates that TV viewing remains robust and just about equaled a record set during the 2006-2007 season. According to the survey, the average household had a TV set turned on 8 hours and 14 minutes per day, while the average viewer actually watched the TV for 4 hours and 34 minutes per day. In a statement, Nielsen planning exec Patricia McDonough said, "There are numerous screens competing for time and attention as well as consumer devices providing new ways for viewers to watch their favorite shows. Regardless, these trends demonstrate that tuning to traditional television remains strong."

RATINGS FOR CRAIG INTERVIEW IN THE TOILET

Tuesday night's Matt Lauer Reports interview with Sen. Larry Craig, which appeared so soft-hitting to critics that it raised the question whether Lauer landed the interview by promising to be affable and polite, drew some of the lowest ratings in NBC's history, placing fourth among overall viewers and sixth among adults 18-49. Meanwhile, post-season baseball continued to produce solid ratings for Fox. On Tuesday night, Game 4 of the American League Championship Series produced the top ratings of the night among adults 18-49 and put Fox in second place overall for the night with an average 7.7 rating and a 12 share. On Wednesday, CBS's Criminal Minds showed that there was plenty of life left in the series following the departure of Mandy Patinkin. The drama produced the highest ratings of the night, a 9.8/16 representing 14.87 million viewers, in the 9:00 p.m. hour. Nevertheless, ABC's new Private Practice in the same hour continued to show strength, placing second in the hour among overall viewers, but first among adults 18-49.

SAG-AFTRA ROW HEATS UP

Upping the intensity of the jurisdictional dispute over cable dramatic shows, AFTRA President Roberta Reardon has fired back at SAG President Doug Allen, who on Tuesday accused AFTRA of signing contracts with producers of the cable shows that were "advantageous" to the producers. Reardon accused Allen and other SAG leaders of fear mongering and suggested the attack was part of an effort by SAG to take control of AFTRA. "There is another thinly veiled campaign supported by some SAG paid staff and others to raid another union -- the cardinal sin of treachery within the labor movement," Reardon said. Meanwhile, Daily Variety reported today (Thursday) that Allen's letter has also reopened a rift between the Hollywood branch of SAG and the New York and regional branches of the guild, who have sent him letters calling his message "inflammatory" and "misleading" and complaining that they were not consulted before it was issued.

BBC HEAD TELLS STAFFERS ABOUT CUTS

BBC Director General Mark Thompson has officially broken the news to staff that the publicly supported broadcaster plans to cut 10 percent of its program production, mostly news and "factual" TV, including documentaries. The cuts will reportedly reduce the staff by 2,500 and will be imposed over the next six years, making it possible to eliminate some positions by simply not filling them when employees leave voluntarily or retire. Meanwhile, commercial broadcaster ITV acknowledged that a "serious cultural failure" within the network had occurred during game shows in which audience members phoned in votes from home using a premium-rate telephone number. ITV acknowledged that it earned nearly $16 million from telephone votes that were never counted. In a statement, ITV Executive Chairman Michael Grade said, "I've never been involved in anything as grisly as this or anything that's damaged broadcasting as much as this."

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.