HEROES WEAK ON TV, SUPER ONLINE

Although the season debut of NBC's Heroes was a disappointing bust Monday night with ratings plummeting 23 percent from last year's season starter, the episode turned out to be an enormous hit among those who watch pirated copies of TV shows online. According to the website TorrentFreak, on Tuesday, the day following the broadcast, Heroes was downloaded "well over a million times by BitTorrent users all over the world." The website observed that the downloads represented "the busiest day ever on many torrent sites." Heroes executive producer Jesse Alexander told the website that he believes the illegal downloads actually helps the show, particularly overseas, building a fan base before it arrives on the air. "People watching shows such as Lost and Heroes on BitTorrent is the present world reality," he said. "TV networks have to recognize this, give their viewers more ways to interact with the shows, and find ways to generate revenue from every member of the global audience,"

NEWSPAPER CUTS STAFF, COMBINES WITH TV STATION

The Baltimore Sun, which has been hit hard by firings, buyouts and other cutbacks over the past year, has reached out to CBS-owned WJZ-TV to share content and shore up its news coverage. The newspaper, part of The Tribune Co., which was purchased by Chicago real-estate mogul Sam Zell last December, cut 53 people from its staff in July, mostly from the newsroom staff. As part of the deal the newsrooms of the television station and the newspaper have agreed to collaborate on stories; the Sun will also be able to use news footage shot by WJZ-TV on its website. Editor Tim Franklin said that the arrangement also will result in expanded exposure for its writers. "It will allow us, in some cases, to make our newspaper personalities even bigger, which will make the paper even more personal and three-dimensional," he said. "For example, we expect to have some of our sports columnists and/or reporters on WJZ this fall analyzing the Ravens." (The announcement came on the same day that the Ravens, the Baltimore basketball team, announced that it had signed a four-year agreement with WJZ rival WBAL to become the Ravens' "TV home.")

MCCAIN HALTS CAMPAIGN; WILL OBAMA DEBATE HIMSELF?

Senator John McCain's campaign found itself having to weather a blizzard of controversy Wednesday after the Republican candidate, without consulting the Presidential Debate Commission (PDC), proposed that Friday's TV debate be postponed. The proposal was quickly rejected by his opponent, Democrat Barack Obama ("[Presidents] need to deal with more than one thing at once," he said) and the commission itself. In a statement issued early today (Thursday), the PDC said that it is moving forward with plans to hold the debate at the University of Mississippi in Oxford on Friday, whether or not McCain shows up. "The plans for this forum have been underway for more than a year and a half," it said. McCain had announced that he had decided to halt his campaign temporarily due to the economic crisis. But it was not clear what he intended to do in the meantime. Earlier in the day, he phoned David Letterman to cancel his appearance on Letterman's show Wednesday night, saying that he was rushing back to Washington. But during the broadcast a staff member in the control booth spotted McCain on a monitor with a makeup artist as he waited for an interview with Katie Couric in a studio only five blocks away. Letterman immediately put the video on the air. "He doesn't seem to be racing to the airport, does he?" the outraged Letterman, who previously had conducted affable interviews with McCain, shouted at the monitor. "Hey John, I got a question! You need a ride to the airport?" He then added, "This stinks!"

BLAINE A BIG HANG-UP FOR ABC

The first Wednesday of the new season was interrupted at 9:00 p.m. by an address by President Bush on the current economic crisis, affecting the night's ratings. ABC's Dancing with the Stars was the top-rated show of the night as it scored a 10.3 rating and a 17 share. But the network lost half its audience during a two-hour special, David Blaine: Dive or Death, which definitely wound up as a dive, averaging a 5.0/8 and falling to a 4.2/7 in its final half hour. CBS won the night with solid ratings for all of its programs, producing ratings that were 14 percent higher than those for the comparable Wednesday night a year ago, which it also won.

Cinemark Movie Club