COURIC RETURNS CBS NEWS TO #1

By any measure, The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric turned out to be a huge success last week. According to figures released Monday by Nielsen Research, the news program averaged 10.2 million viewers between Tuesday, when Couric debuted, and Friday. While the newscast saw a 45-percent drop-off over the four days, it remained substantially ahead of NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams and ABC's World News with Charles Gibson, which averaged 7.1 million viewers and 6.9 million respectively. The NBC newscast was off by about 9 percent from its season average; the ABC news cast was off by about 5 percent. By contrast, the CBS newscast was up nearly 48 percent. Analysts said that they did not expect the huge gap to remain between CBS and its rivals.

NBC DANCES IN THE END ZONE

NBC boasted on Monday that the debut of NBC Sunday Night Football outrated every Monday Night Football opener on ABC since 2000. The telecast, which saw the Indianapolis Colts defeat the New York Giants 26-21, scored a 14.3 rating and a 23 share, according to Nielsen Research -- 10 percent higher than last season's ABC MNF opener. The figures translated to about 22.7 million viewers. They dwarfed those for ABC's The Path to 9/11, which nevertheless drew nearly 14 million viewers. That was small consolation for ABC, which elected to air the $30-million miniseries without commercials as a public service, but received a ton of criticism from former members of the Clinton administration who claimed that they were misrepresented throughout the film and that several scenes were utter fabrications. (Daily Variety commented today that ABC had hoped that for all its expense the film "would at least get some acclaim.") On Monday night the miniseries dominated the night, averaging an 8.1 rating and a 12 share. Nothing else even came close.

AMERICAN AIRLINES LATEST CRITIC OF 9/11 MINISERIES

American Airlines on Monday joined critics of ABC's The Path to 9/11, saying that the film was "inaccurate and irresponsible in its portrayal of the airport check-in events that occurred on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001." It called on the public to read the actual findings of the 9/11 Commission. The film shows Mohammed Atta, the supposed ringleader of the attackers, buying a plane ticket in Boston for the American Airlines flight that eventually was forced to fly into the World Trade Center and a warning popping up as he did so. In fact, the plane connected with a US Airways flight that Atta had taken from Portland, ME, and the warning was to alert airline personnel that late-arriving passengers should carry their hand-luggage aboard. And while several of the filmmakers contended that none of those involved in its making ever had a political discussion about the contents, two FBI agents who were hired as consultants on the movie disagreed. One of them, Thomas E. Nicoletti, told today's (Tuesday) New York Times that he quit the project because of scenes he believed to be misleading or "just total fiction."

MOONVES OVER THE MOON ABOUT CBS'S STOCK PRICE

CBS Chairman Les Moonves says that he watches CBS's stock price about as intently as he does its ratings. "But there is a difference," he told today's (Tuesday) New York Times. "It is overnights every 10 minutes. I look a few times a day. An analyst said you should look at it once a week. That is like saying: 'Don't look at your ratings.'" Since Viacom chief Sumner Redstone split the company in two earlier this year, CBS stock has risen 11.7 percent, closing on Monday at $29.26. Redstone told the newspaper, "Les is spectacular. He's the best in the media business, if not all businesses." In its report, the Times observed that Redstone had shown the same "effusiveness" to Tom Freston, whom he fired last week. When Moonves was asked how it feels to work for someone who fired Viacom's CEO after one bad year, Moonves replied, "Next question."

AT&T TO OFFER CABLE CHANNELS ONLINE

ABC said today (Tuesday) that it had reached agreements with some 20 cable TV networks to provide their content online for a package price of $20 per month. While none of the broadcast networks is included in the package, it will offer content from several well-known networks, including the Weather Channel, Oxygen, the History Channel, the Food Network, and Bloomberg News. The service requires a Windows-based computer and Microsoft's Windows Media Player.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.