LENO SCORES AGAIN IN SECOND INNING

The second night of The Jay Leno show averaged 10.74 million viewers, according to Nielsen overnights. That was down from a final figure of 18.42 million for the show's opener on Monday -- but it was still far ahead of the competition. which included CBS's Big Brother, which has been enjoying its biggest season to date. Against Leno it drew 7.9 million viewers, while on ABC, a repeat of Barbara Walters's January interview with Patrick Swayze delivered 6.1 million. More worrisome for the producers of scripted television was the fact that the second night's ratings for Leno represented a 19-percent improvement over the season debut a year earlier of NBC's stalwart Law and Order: SVU. Nevertheless, analysts cautioned that the curiosity factor is still at play and that Katie Couric also drew big audiences just after she switched from NBC to CBS, only to see her ratings quickly erode.

NBC'S PEACOCK FLIES AGAIN

It was just like the old days of "Must See TV" last week as NBC dominated the top of the Nielsen ratings list with seven of the top ten shows. Those shows were either episodes of the network's America's Got Talent or they were related to football (either the games themselves or the pregame analyses), but no one was complaining, except, perhaps, a few TV writers, who regard the primetime football telecasts and talent shows as threats to scripted entertainment. The top-rated show of the week was NBC's Sunday Night Football telecast, which drew 21.1 million viewers. (By contrast, Leno's much-hyped primetime premiere on Monday drew 17.56 million viewers.) Among the nightly newscasts, NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams and ABC World News With Charles Gibson wound up in a virtual tie as viewers tuned into Gibson's program during the week that he announced his retirement plans. The ABC newscast averaged 7.24 million viewers, while the NBC 'cast averaged 7.15 million, a difference that is considered statistically insignificant but did allow ABC to boast that it had overtaken NBC for the first time in months. The CBS Evening News With Katie Couric remained far behind with 5.16 million viewers.

The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:

1. Sunday Night Football, NBC, 12.6/21; 2. NFL Thursday Special, NBC, 12.8/22; 3. Sunday Night NFL Pre-kickoff, NBC, 10/17; 4. NBC NFL Thursday Pre-kickoff, NBC, 9.5/17; 5. America's Got Talent (Tuesday), NBC, 7.2/12; 6. Football Night in America Pt. 3, NBC, 7.2/12; 7. The OT, Fox, 6.8/12; 8. NCIS, CBS, 7.2/12; 9. 60 Minutes, CBS, 6.9/12; 10. America's Got Talent (Wednesday 9:00 p.m.), NBC, 6.2/10.

FOOTBALL DRAWS CABLE'S BIGGEST AUDIENCE OF YEAR

Monday night's Jay Leno Show wasn't the only TV show that generated big ratings on that night. On cable, ESPN's Monday Night Football opened the football season with a doubleheader that produced the two biggest cable TV audiences of the year. In fact, ESPN averaged a bigger audience in primetime than any of the broadcast networks, including NBC, which not only aired the Leno show but also the summer hit America's Got Talent. Game No. 1, played in the Eastern time zone between the New England Patriots and the Buffalo Bills, averaged 14 million viewers. While Game No. 2, between the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders, played in the Pacific time zone, averaged 11.95 million viewers. In addition ESPN.com reported that it delivered 123 million page views of NFL content from Monday through noon on Tuesday -- up 31 percent from the comparable period a year ago.

AILES NOW EARNS MORE THAN MURDOCH

Roger Ailes, the president of Fox News Channel (FNC) and chairman of the Fox Television Stations Group, received nearly $24 million last year in salary, bonuses, stock grants and other benefits -- almost $2 million more than his boss, Rupert Murdoch, Business Week observed Tuesday, citing a News Corp proxy statement. According to the magazine, a "big chunk" of Ailes's $5.5-million cash bonus resulted from a 65-percent rise in FNC's cash flow, which came from a rise in the fees that it charges cable and satellite operators and additional advertising revenue. (Ailes's salary is hinged to FNC's financial performance.)