PINK SLIPS KEEP FLYING

The prospect of significant downsizing of staff at most major media companies became apparent over the weekend as NBC and CBS announced plans for significant budget reductions in 2009. NBC Universal chief Jeff Zucker sent a memo to staff announcing plans to reduce spending by some $500 million across the company, citing "the decline in consumer confidence and spending." CBS said that it was cutting 30 persons from its CBS Television Distribution, the company's syndication division, immediately, with other layoffs expected to be announced by the end of the month. On the other hand, Rupert Murdoch told his News Corp's annual meeting in New York that his company has set aside a $5-billion war chest that it might use to buy stakes in other troubled media companies at bargain prices. He did not rule out purchasing the non-voting shares of Viacom and CBS that Sumner Redstone has been forced to dispose of to meet debt obligations. Today's (Monday) Los Angeles Times observed that Redstone may be forced to sell off additional shares of the two companies in order to meet his obligation to repay half of a $1.6-billion bank loan by mid-December. Reuters went further, saying that he could be forced to sell one or both of the two companies. At midday today, shares of CBS were down 2.66 percent; Viacom's were up 1.54 percent; General Electric, the parent company of NBC Universal, was up .76 percent, and News Corp was up 4.31 percent.

PALIN REMAINS BIG RATINGS DRAW

Sarah Palin once again proved she is a magnet for ratings, as her appearance on Saturday Night Live over the weekend boosted the show's ratings to its highest point since March 12, 1994. The late-night show averaged a 10.7 rating and a 24 share, far higher than any primetime show that aired earlier in the evening and in fact drawing a bigger audience than any show of the week, except for ABC's Dancing With the Stars and CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. The figures are especially remarkable given the fact that they represent about a third of the total audience for the show. The other two-thirds are reportedly watching it via the Internet. In an interview with New York TV station WWOR on Sunday, Palin said that she would be willing to appear on SNL again "in a heartbeat," adding: "Everyone was so nice, and you know, you have to have a sense of humor through all of this. You have to have some levity through this. Otherwise, it would really, I think, grind on you and wear you out." In a review of Palin's appearance, New York Times critic Alesssandra Stanley wrote today (Monday) that the Alaska governor "proved she has a sense of humor at a time when the country is still debating whether to take her seriously as a potential commander in chief."

MCCAIN GIVES LETTERMAN RARE WIN OVER LENO

John McCain's appearance on CBS's Late Show With David Letterman Thursday produced the show's biggest audience in almost three years. According to Nielsen figures, it drew 6.53 million viewers, beating NBC's The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, which attracted 4.57 million.

WORLD SERIES LIKELY TO DRAW LOWEST RATINGS EVER

There may have been much cheering in Swampville Sunday when the Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Boston Red Sox to become the American League's representative in the World Series against the National League's Philadelphia Phillies. But the cheering likely did not extend to the executive offices of Fox Broadcasting. Tampa Bay, which had finished dead last in the standings in every season except one before this year, has been unable to develop a fan base for its players in its own city, let alone the nation. And although the Phillies have come a long way from the time when they, too, were perennial losers, they have only a tiny fan base outside their own market. Ratings have suggested that in recent times it takes the Yankees, Dodgers, Braves, Mets, or Red Sox to attract better than decent ratings. (And with the Red Sox defeating the hapless Colorado Rockies in a four-game sweep last year, the Series drew its second-lowest ratings in history.) Analysts are predicting a new all-time low this year.

BLACKWELL, FAMOUS FOR "WORST DRESSED" LIST, DIES

Mr. Blackwell, whose list of the Worst Dressed Women of the Year had become an annual TV institution since the dress designer introduced it in 1960, died Sunday of complications from an intestinal infection at the age of 86. Although the list focused on the clothing choices of leading celebrities, Blackwell, whose first name was Richard, once told the Los Angeles Times: "Maybe I should have named the 10 worst designers instead of blaming the women who wear their clothes."