ABC TO AIR EXPOSÉ ABOUT NBC EXPOSÉ

In a rare instance of one network's news magazine program criticizing another's, ABC's 20/20 is scheduled to air a Brian Ross investigative feature about Dateline NBC's "To Catch a Predator" series tonight (Friday). ABC has been keeping most of the content of the feature under wraps. In his weekly newsletter to viewers, 20/20 co-host John Stossel wrote Thursday: "I'd tell you what [Ross's] investigation reveals, except I don't yet know. I'll watch it with the rest of you on Friday night." However, in a promo of the feature that aired on last week's program, Texas prosecutor John Roach and local lawmen were briefly seen criticizing the "Predator" sting. And, in an apparent effort to execute a preemptive strike against its rival, Dateline on Wednesday inserted a feature in which another Texas prosecutor, Pat McNalis, defended the "Predator" sting. Dateline correspondent Chris Hansen also disclosed that William Conradt Jr., an assistant D.A. who committed suicide when he was caught in the "Predator" sting, had stored child pornography on his personal computer. Both networks denied that they were battling one another. An NBC News spokesperson said that the program aired Wednesday's feature "to update our viewers on a story we have continuously reported on." ABC's Ross told interviewers that the report was not specifically about Dateline but about what happens when police work too closely with the news media.

VIACOM'S PLUS IS NOW A MINUS

What originally started out as CBS Plus -- the brainchild of former CBS chief Mel Karmazin after his company's merger with Viacom -- a means for advertisers to buy a package of ads across CBS, MTV, and other Viacom-owned networks, and ended up being called MTVN Brand Solutions, is no more. In between, the unit mirrored Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone's struggle over synergy. When Redstone split the company into CBS Corp. and Viacom, the unit became Viacom Plus, packaging programs across the Viacom cable networks. Under its most recent restructuring, it was aimed at selling ads organized into three "clusters" based on demographics. On Thursday Viacom decided to eliminate the unit altogether, fire the two top executives and reassign the remaining nine employees.

BUT DID THEY GET FREQUENT-FLYER CREDITS?

News Corp spent more than a half-million dollars last year on corporate aircraft for its two top executives. In an SEC filing, the company listed $337,427 as "additional compensation" to Rupert Murdoch for his use of corporate aircraft and $177,164 for COO Peter Chernin's. Keeping them moving on the ground proved to be much less expensive. Murdoch received $11,998 for personal use of company cars; Chernin, $25,622. (Curiously, the company said it gave Fox News Channel chief Roger Ailes $148,579 for car usage.) The filing also showed that Murdoch received total compensation worth $24.3 million, including a salary of $8.1 million, an increase of $3.6 million over the previous year. The company said that it was looking to achieve "pay parity" between Murdoch and Chernin, who received compensation worth $27.4 million, including an identical $8.1-million salary.

RECORD COMPANIES SLASH BUDGETS FOR MUSIC VIDEOS

With the recording industry continuing to grapple with falling sales and Internet piracy, record companies are dramatically reducing their budgets for music videos, assuming that most of them will be accessed from YouTube and other video-sharing websites and watched on laptops and video iPods rather than on big TV screens, the Associated Press observed Thursday. Award-winning music video director Samuel Bayer told A.P. that his recent video, "What Goes Around ... Comes Around," with Justin Timberlake may be among the last videos costing more than $1 million to produce. "A comet hit the earth and the dinosaurs are dying," Bayer told A.P. "There's a new age coming. I think those days are over with."

UNIVISION CLAIMS IT WAS NO. 1 AMONG 18-34-YEAR-OLDS

Spanish-language network Univision boasted Thursday that in the first week that Hispanics were included in Nielsen's overall ratings -- not as just a niche segment -- it ranked #1 among adults 18-34. In a statement, Univision said that it held an 11-percent advantage over Fox, its nearest competitor in the 18-34 category. It beat ABC by 43 percent, CBS by 42 percent, and NBC by 57 percent. In a statement, Univision exec Alina Falcon said, "Taking the No. 1 spot for the first week of Nielsen's single sample NTI ratings, clearly demonstrates Univision's ability to compete head-to-head with any and all networks."

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.