ESPN TOUTS ITS BEST DAY EVER

ESPN claimed Tuesday that its takeover of Monday Night Football produced its biggest audience ever -- some 9.1 million viewers. ESPN also noted that it was the second biggest audience ever to watch a cable telecast. Nevertheless, today's (Wednesday) New York Times observed that the telecast produced "noticeably fewer viewers" than previous NFL telecasts on ABC television -- off 36 percent from the season opener of ABC's Monday Night Football last year. USA Today observed that the telecast drew fewer viewers than ABC's concluding episode of The Path to 9/11 miniseries, which was watched by 12.3 million people.

KATIE CONTINUES TO RATE WITH CBS BOSSES

CBS News officials insisted Tuesday that they were not concerned about Katie Couric's fall to third place among the network news anchors on Monday. In an interview with today's (Wednesday) Philadelphia Inquirer, CBS Evening News producer Rome Hartman said, "I'm not panicked, I'm hugely encouraged. If anybody's panicked, they need to go back to ratings school. We had millions more people, and millions of different people, watching the Evening News." Separately, CBS News President Sean McManus told Daily Variety, "As I've said repeatedly and from day one, our focus is on the long-term developments, not the short term." And, appearing on Charlie Rose's PBS television show, CBS Corp. Chairman Les Moonves remarked that just being competitive again among the evening news telecasts after remaining last for more than a decade "is all we can ask for."

MOONVES OUT OF THE LOOP IN FRESTON FIRING

CBS Corp. Chairman Les Moonves said Tuesday that Sumner Redstone did not consult him about his decision to fire his counterpart at Viacom, Tom Freston. At a Beverly Hills luncheon hosted by the Hollywood Radio & TV Society, Moonves said that he received a phone call from Redstone while he was attending the U.S. Open tennis tournament telling him that he was replacing Freston with Phillipe Dauman and Tom Dooley. Asked why he believed Redstone had taken the action, Moonves replied, "I don't want to talk a lot about Viacom because I don't want to get myself into trouble."

MOONVES SAYS ABC WAS "PARTIALLY MISLED" BY 9/11 PRODUCERS

CBS Corp. Chairman Les Moonves added his voice to the controversy over rival ABC's miniseries The Path to 9/11. Speaking at a luncheon of the Hollywood Radio & TV Society in Beverly Hills. While remarking that he didn't want to second-guess Robert Iger, his counterpart at the Walt Disney Co., which owns ABC, Moonves said, "When you do drama based on fact, you have to be careful -- especially on something as sensitive as 9/11." He said he believed that the network "got partially misled" by the producers of the miniseries, several of whom have ties to conservative groups. Meanwhile, audience figures released by ABC on Tuesday indicated that The Path to 9/11 would have been the third highest-rated program to air last week. However, Nielsen does not included unsponsored programs in its ratings data. (Path aired without commercials.) The results were all the more remarkable given the fact that the episode competed against the top-rated program of the week, NBC's Sunday Night Football. Notwithstanding the big scores for football, CBS continued to dominate the overall household ratings for the week, averaging a 7.2 rating and a 12 share. ABC placed second with a 5.9/10. NBC was close behind with a 5.7/10, while Fox also remained competitive with a 5.5/9. (Indeed, on Tuesday night Fox's season debut of Dancing With the Stars produced ratings that were identical to those of NBC's Sunday Night Football telecast.)The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:

1. Sunday Night Football, NBC, 14.3/23; 2. NBC NFL Thursday Special, NBC, 12.6/21; 3. House, Fox, 11.6/19; 4. NBC NFL Thursday Pre-Kickoff, NBC, 9.3/16; 5. Sunday Night NFL Pre-Kickoff, NBC, 9.2/15; 6. Standoff, Fox, 8.3/13; 7. Saturday Night Football, ABC, 8.2/15; 8. The OT, Fox, 7.6/13; 9. Football Night in America, NBC, 7.5/13; 10. Without a Trace, CBS, 7.4/12.

U.K. NEWSPAPER SUGGESTS 9/11 DIRECTOR HAD AGENDA

Britain's Guardian newspaper reported today (Wednesday) that David Cunningham, the director of The Path to 9/11, recently appeared at a conference in England organized by Youth With a Mission, a fundamentalist group founded by his father Loren Cunningham. The newspaper said that Cunningham, who was asked to speak on the making of the 9/11 film, titled his talk, "Christ-like Witness in the Film Industry." A publication of YWAM described Cunningham and his wife as "the nucleus of an association of more than 40 YWAM alumni who are called to the communications industry in the Los Angeles area ... to create an independent film company whereby he could both influence the Hollywood film industry and produce major motion pictures that would carry a Biblical, values-based message."

WARNER JUMPS INTO DOWNLOADABLE TV BIZ

NBC, ABC, and Warner Television announced a deal Tuesday that would make programs produced by Warner available online in two different versions. Under the first, the shows would be available as streaming video with commercials, and the networks and their affiliates would keep the profits. Under the second scheme, the programs would be made available for permanent downloads with no commercials. Warner would keep the profits from them. Meanwhile, NBC, in a separate announcement, said that it will begin syndicating its video programming to Internet sites via a new venture called National Broadband Company, or NBBC.

NEW YORK TIMES TO SELL STATIONS

The New York Times said Tuesday that is getting out of the TV broadcasting business and will sell the nine stations it owns in medium-market areas across the country. Together, the stations are reported worth about $500 million on today's market, analysts said. They are located in Des Moines, Iowa, Oklahoma City (2), Fort Smith, AK, Huntsville, AL, Memphis, Norfolk, VA, Moline, IL,and Scranton, PA.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.