NBC WINS FIRST NIGHT OF FALL SEASON

The eyes of the TV industry were focused on Aaron Sorkin's new NBC series Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip as the fall TV season officially got underway Monday. But the eyes of most viewers were on another unheralded show, Deal or No Deal, which gave NBC a win for the night. The two-hour game show, which saw Staten Island truck driver Matthew Sollena take home $675,000, scored an 8.9 rating and a 14 share in the 8:00 p.m. hour, then rise to a 10.2/15 in the 9:00 p.m. hour. Studio 60 debuted at 10:00 p.m. with a respectable 8.6/14, but it came in well behind the season premiere of CBS's CSI: Miami, which registered an 11.2/17, making it the top-rated program of the night. Worrisome for NBC may be the fact that the audience for the Sorkin show fell off significantly during the second half hour. Nevertheless, NBC won the night with an average 9.3/14, narrowly beating CBS, which averaged a 9.0/14. Fox placed third with a 5.3/8, while ABC trailed with a 5.1/8.

FOOTBALL RULES SUNDAY NIGHT

NBC's Sunday Night Football continued to devastate its rivals as Sunday's match-up between the Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys averaged 18.4 million viewers. That was 14 percent above the 16.1 million viewers who tuned into ABC's Monday Night Football one year ago, which also featured the same teams. The game registered an 11.9 rating and a 19 share versus last year's 10.8/18. In a statement, the network observed, "The ratings increase is especially impressive given the Cowboys' lopsided 27-10 win last night, while last year's game featured a Redskins' come-from-behind fourth-quarter 14-13 victory." The biggest loser of the night, however, may not have been the Redskins but CBS, which programmed a 90-minute The Amazing Race season premiere against the game. The program averaged just 10.1 million viewers to wind up in third place. ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition fared slightly better with 11.5 million viewers. But neither show even came close to attracting the more than 13 million viewers who tuned in a week earlier to Pt. 1 of the controversial ABC miniseries, The Path to 9/11.

COURIC KEEPS CBS NEWSCAST IN LEAD

The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric remained the most-watched evening newscast for the second week in a row last week, averaging 7.9 million viewers and edging out NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, which averaged 7.8 million. ABC's World News with Charles Gibson was close behind with 7.5 million. It was the first time that the CBS evening newscast had scored victories over two consecutive weeks win July 1998. In an interview with today's (Tuesday) New York Times, Jon Banner, executive producer of the ABC newscast, remarked, "It's a wide-open race. ... In six months, it's anybody's bet as to who's in first place."

BOXER DEMANDS PROBE OF QUASHED FCC REPORTS

California Sen. Barbara Boxer has revealed the existence of a second FCC study warning of the impact of greater media consolidation that may have been suppressed by commission members. On Monday, Boxer asked the FCC's inspector general to determine how and why the two reports came to be quashed by the agency. She also informed FCC Chairman Kevin Martin that she had asked the inspector general to "examine whether it was then or is now the practice of the FCC to suppress facts that are contrary to a desired outcome." Meanwhile, the StopBigMedia.com Coalition on Monday asked Martin "to determine the circumstances under which the public was denied access to this important, taxpayer-funded research, the parties involved and the processes that may have allowed any record of its existence to be destroyed."

FRIGHT FEST SCHEDULED FOR HALLOWEEN

Halloween may turn out to be a historic day for the entertainment media. On that day, America Online will relaunch its AOL Red site aimed at teens by selling -- for $7.99 -- the previously unreleased horror film Incubus, starring Tara Reid. The $5-million film is expected to test the market for direct-to-download film product. On the same day, a new cable channel, Fearnet, is scheduled to be launched on Comcast that will provide horror movies on demand. The channel is a joint venture between Comcast, Sony Pictures Television and Lions Gate Entertainment.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.