ESPN DRAWS BIGGEST AUDIENCE IN CABLE HISTORY

The biggest cable-TV audience in history tuned in Monday to ESPN's Monday Night Football coverage of the Dallas Cowboys/Philadelphia Eagles contest, the network said Tuesday. The game drew 18.608 million viewers, beating a record set a year earlier. Meanwhile, football also proved to be potent on broadcast television as well, as NBC Sunday Night Football's telecast of the Pittsburgh Steelers/Cleveland Browns game topped Nielsen's weekly ratings list. NBC appeared to be ending the summer season in high style, placing six other shows in the top ten. It has been the most-watched network for the past six weeks, representing its longest hold on first place in more than six years. For the week, NBC averaged a 5.3 rating and a 9 share. CBS came in second with a 4.9/8. ABC placed third with a 3.9/6, while Fox trailed with a 3.9/6.

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

1. NBC Sunday Night Football, NBC, 10.8/18; 2. 60 Minutes, CBS 8.3/13; 3. Sunday Night NFL Pre-kickoff, NBC, 7.9/13; 4. America's Got Talent (Tuesday), NBC, 7.3/11; 4. America's Got Talent (Wednesday), NBC, 7.3/12; 6. Saturday Night Football, ABC, 7.0/13; 7. Football Night in America Pt. 3, NBC, 6.4/11; 8. America's Got Talent, NBC, 6.3/11; 9. Deal Or No Deal- (Monday), NBC, 6.2/10; 10. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 6.0/10; 10. Two and a Half Men, CBS, 6.0/9.

SO, WHAT HAPPENED TO GE'S "MOST IMPORTANT PRODUCT?"

Shares of General Electric, parent of NBC Universal, fell to a low of $22.16 Tuesday, their lowest level since February 2003, but ended the day at $25.06, up 1.9 percent over Monday's close, reversing a two-day 10-percent plunge. However, the downturn continued in early trading today (Wednesday) as GE shares traded at around $23.00, down another 8 percent. The plunge had little to do with the company's entertainment holdings, however, and much to do with its GE Capital subsidiary. Since Sunday's announcement of the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, investors have been reducing their exposure to the financial sector.

FCC CHIEF CAN'T FIND ANALOG-TO-DIGITAL CONVERTERS IN STORES

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has called on large retail chains to stock settop boxes that will enable millions of viewers who watch analog TV over the air to continue watching TV after the February switchover to digital. In a letter to Christopher McLean, executive director of the Consumer Electronics Retailers Coalition, Martin acknowledged that the device is available online, but he pointed out that the $40 device is also attended by a $10.00 shipping fee. None of the major retailers, he indicated, are carrying the converters.

COURIC NEXT TO TAKE A CRACK AT INTERVIEWING PALIN

CBS News anchor Katie Couric has landed Sarah Palin's second major broadcast interview. The network said Tuesday that Couric's interview will take place on Sunday, Sept. 28 and Monday, Sept 29 and air the next day, on Monday and Tuesday, ahead of the vice-presidential debate later in the week. Meanwhile, tensions mounted between the McCain campaign and NBC/MSNBC after McCain, during a guest appearance, described Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski as "a supporter of Senator Obama." Brzezinski, clearly irritated by the remark, responded, "'Supporter of Senator Obama?' I'm not sure I would characterize myself that way." Brzezinski is the daughter of Zbigniew Brzezinski, who served as National Security Advisor in the Carter White House. But she pointed out that her brother Ian works for McCain's campaign. Also on Tuesday McCain's wife Cindy expressed outrage over the way she and her husband were treated on ABC's The View last week. "They picked our bones clean," she complained.

TOTAL REQUEST LIVE YANKED AFTER 10 YEARS

After ten years and declining ratings, MTV is shutting down its musical-hit countdown show Total Request Live. The Viacom-owned channel said Tuesday that it plans to give the show a two-hour farewell special in November. In an interview with the Associated Press, TRL executive producer Dave Sirulnick suggested that the show might return eventually. "Let's let it have a little bit of a rest for a minute," he said. "Let it catch its breath." Nevertheless he conceded that it had become "more of a mainstay and more of an institution than ... the new kid on the block."

EUROPEAN BROADCASTERS AIRING ONLINE HD VIDEO

Eighty-two percent of European broadcasters plan to offer high-definition videos online over the next year, according to a survey conducted by Akamai Technologies and reported today (Wednesday) on the Broadcast Engineering website. About 20 percent of broadcasters who participated in the survey said that they are already offering HD features online, most of them short-form. However, nearly 50 percent of the broadcasters said that they are planning to offer long-form content as well, including movies and TV episodes.

Brian B.