PEACOCK TO BE PLUCKED

Despite notable improvements in each of its broadcast units, NBC Universal is expected to announce today (Thursday) widespread cost-cutting measures, including the elimination of 5 percent of its work force, amounting to about 700 jobs, by the end of next year, published reports said today. The network reportedly plans to stop scheduling costly programs in the 8:00 p.m. hour, when the total number of TV viewers is smaller than it is at 9:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. It is expected to fill the hour with game shows and other reality programs that cost far less to produce than the comedies and dramas that currently occupy the time slot. Nevertheless, today's Wall Street Journal reported that the biggest cutbacks will occur in the network's news units. Among the cost-saving measures will be the relocation of MSNBC's studios in Secaucus, NJ to company headquarters at Rockefeller Center in New York. In reporting the planned retrenchment, the Journal commented that it represents "the starkest recognition yet that established TV networks can't keep carrying the high costs they were accustomed to in earlier decades, when they faced less competition for viewers' attention. Although the networks have been discussing radical prescriptions for years, they have often hesitated to take steps that would disrupt not only their own employees but also longtime business partners in Hollywood such as programming studios, talent agencies and syndicators of reruns."

USA NETWORK PINS RIVALS TO THE MAT

Wrestling continues to give the cable channels that carry it a stranglehold on the ratings. Fueled by WWE: Raw Family Reunion, the USA cable network claimed the top spot among cable channels for last week. The wrestling special drew 2.6 million viewers in the 18-49-year-old demographic and beat its nearest competing channel by 146 percent in that demo.

CBS SOFTENS STANCE WITH YOUTUBE

Under its new deal with YouTube, if CBS spots a clip from one of its shows posted on the video-sharing website, it can, as before, ask YouTube to remove it or now it can allow YouTube to sell ads against it and split the revenue with CBS, Broadcasting & Cable reported Wednesday. The network has already launched a branded channel on YouTube offering day-after video of The Late Show With David Letterman, The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson, NCIS, and CSI: Miami. In addition it plans to offer other programs owned by the network, including Survivor, CSI, CSI: NY, Jericho, and Numb3rs.

POLITICS ARE IN ON NETWORK NEWSCASTS

Perhaps it's the fallout from the Mark Foley scandal, or the repercussions of the continued bloodshed in Iraq, or even the heat of radio and TV talk shows and commentaries, but, whatever it is, something has revived political coverage by the network nightly newscasts. According to a study released Wednesday by the Center for Media and Public Affairs, the three network newscasts are devoting four times as much coverage to the current midterm election campaigns as they did four years ago. The Center counted 83 campaign stories aired by the three networks between Sept. 5 and Oct. 3 versus 20 during the comparable time period in 2002. Still, the Center observed that most of the coverage failed to address campaign issues and instead focused on scandal, gaffes, and race handicapping.

FRIDAY NIGHT VERSUS MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL

In an odd programming decision, NBC is planning to air an episode of its troubled high-school football drama Friday Night Lights next Monday as a special at 10:00 p.m. opposite ESPN's Monday Night Football featuring the New England Patriots versus the Minnesota Vikings. Although the network has asked the writers of the show to come up with nine more scripts, it is not at all certain whether they will actually be filmed. The show came in at No. 71 on last week's Nielsen list.

MINORITIES, WOMEN ON THE RISE IN LOCAL TV NEWS

The percentage of minorities working in local TV newsrooms rose to 22.2 percent in 2005 from 21.2 percent in 2004, according to a recent survey conducted by the Radio-Television News Directors Association and Ball State University. The same survey also indicated that the percentage of women working of the news staffs of local TV stations rose to 40 percent from 38.3 percent in 2004. Minorities accounted for 13.2 percent of TV news directors -- up from 12 percent in 2004 -- while women accounted for 25.2 percent of news directors, up from 21.3 percent in 2004.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.