BASEBALL FIRES UP RATINGS

The bats of the West Coast teams, the Angels and Dodgers, may have become as cold as the weather in Philadelphia and New York in the games played there, but their post-season games with the Phillies and Yankees so far have fired up the ratings. Total viewers for each of the games is up an average of more than 50 percent over last year, with Saturday's daytime game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Philadelphia Phillies showing an 88-percent improvement. (Ratings were not immediately available for Sunday's game, a blowout in which the Phillies shut out the Dodgers 11-0.) Major League Baseball had no intention of competing with the National Football League on Sunday night, however. Football continued to overpower all of its competition, with a football overrun on CBS drawing around 21 million viewers in the 7:00 p.m. hour and NBC's Sunday Night Football averaging about 15.5 million.

WILL NBC AFFILIATES DROP LENO?

Some local NBC affiliates have become so concerned about the dreadful ratings of the new Jay Leno Show that they may bump the show and insert "alternatives" of their own choosing in the 10:00 p.m. hour, the Los Angeles Times reported today (Monday). The newspaper observed that Leno's poor lead-in has resulted in some local stations' newscasts at 11:00 p.m. taking a dive in the ratings. Craig Allison, who runs KSHB in Kansas City, told the Times: "I'm not pleased with what Leno is doing. I don't think anybody is." In Boston, WHDH's ratings for its 11:00 p.m. newscast have fallen 17 percent from a year ago. But Jordan Wertlieb, who manages WBAL in Baltimore, where his longtime dominant newscast has fallen to second place, has urged patience. "People want to declare the game over because we are down a couple of runs after the first inning. There is a long way to go," he said.

WELLS CALLS SOUTHLAND ACTORS, SAYS SHOW MAY RETURN

John Wells, the executive producer of the critically praised but recently canceled Southland, has informed the actors on the show that two networks are interested in reviving the series, the Hollywood Reporter reported over the weekend. The trade publication did not identify the two networks but noted that one of them is likely TNT, a corporate sibling of Warner Bros., which produces the series. While the Reporter indicated that whoever picks up the series would most likely take the seven episodes that aired in the spring and combine them with six unaired episodes, it was unlikely that production would resume in the near future.

REALITY SHOW ON ICE A HIT IN CANADA

Just as the hockey season kicks off in Canada, a reality show featuring ice-rink competition has become an enormous ratings hit for the usually staid, government-supported Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC). The show, Battle of the Blades, is a kind of Dancing with the Stars in which a Canadian figure skater is put together with a professional hockey player in a pairs competition. The first two shows of the series average 1.75 million viewers, according to BBM Nielsen -- one of the highest ratings yet for an original Canadian series, and nearly twice the average number of Canadian viewers who watched Hockey Night in Canada last season.

GE AND VIVENDI CONTINUE TALKS ON NBC UNIVERSAL

General Electric and France's Vivendi are reportedly $500 million apart in their negotiations over Vivendi's 20-percent stake in NBC Universal, the Wall Street Journal reported today (Monday). GE reportedly wants to buy the stake, giving it total ownership of the media company, then set up a new company with Cox in which Cox would own 51 percent and GE 49 percent. The WSJ cited one source as saying that Vivendi's asking price is regarded as "higher than anticipated" but "hardy a deal killer." It said that the weakened dollar against the euro is the primary reason for the price gap.

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