AUDIENCES DESERT KATIE

After claiming first place for her first two weeks as anchor of the CBS Evening News, Katie Couric slipped to second place last week, 500,000 viewers behind Bryan Williams' NBC Nightly News. Her audience was down 24 percent from her first week, while Nightly News was up 15 percent and ABC's World News with Charles Gibson was up 10 percent. The NBC newscast posted a 5.7 rating and a 12 share; CBS, a 5.5/11; and ABC, a 5.4/11. Particularly worrisome for CBS may be the fact that Couric's audience dwindled each night. Although her newscast placed second on Monday through Wednesday, it fell to third on Thursday and Friday. NBC Universal CEO Bob Wright suggested Monday that NBC might have considered Couric to replace Tom Brokaw when he retired last year but that "she never really raised her hand to go in that direction." Meanwhile, Elizabeth Vargas, who stepped down as anchor of ABC's World News to have a child, has told the Philadelphia Inquirer that she plans to "do everything I can to get back into a nightly chair" in a year or two.

NBC FORECASTS BIG RETURNS FROM DIGITAL ADS

NBC Universal CEO Bob Wright said Monday that he expects the company will earn between $400 million and $500 million from digital advertising within the next year. He also said he expected revenue from digital downloads will be greater than the potential losses from syndication that those downloads could cause. Asked about the increased appearance of product-placement ads within programs, Wright said that he expected even more "advertisements will move into programs" in order to counter the use of digital video recorders, which can easily allow viewers to skip commercials. He also indicated that the network may attempt to increase the amount of live-event programming, such as the network's NFL schedule on Sunday nights, which does not lend itself to DVR use. Meanwhile GE reported a 14-percent increase in profits to $4 billion during the last quarter -- none of it attributed to its NBC unit, which saw profits plunge 25 percent. Its Universal Studios film company and its USA, Sci Fi, Bravo, CNBC and MSNBC cable channels together reported a 22-percent rise in profits.

HEROES MAKES HEROIC DEBUT TO HELP RESCUE NBC

NBC, hoping to make a comeback after its disastrous season last year, got some good news Monday as its new series Heroes got off to a solid start, posting a 9.9 rating and a 14 share in the 9:00 hour and averaging a first place in the hour. (It was beaten in the first half hour by CBS's Two and a Half Men, which nabbed a 10.2/15 but rose well above The New Adventures of Old Christine, which drew a decent 8.4/12 in the second half hour.) More importantly, Heroes improved on the numbers of its lead-in, Deal or No Deal , at 8:00, which drew an 8.3/13, which also place first. At 10:00, however, NBC's highly touted Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip saw its audience slip from last week as it scored an 8.8/14 versus the previous 10.3/16. It remained in second place, however, behind CBS's CSI Miami, which drew the biggest audience of the night with a 12.6/20.

SONY TO LICENSE 500 MOVIES TO STARZ

Under a deal announced on Monday, the Starz and Encore pay-TV movie channels will have the rights to air more than 500 movies from Sony Pictures' vast library. The films will also be available on Starz's video download service, Vongo, which charges subscribers a monthly fee of $9.95. While the licensing deal with the cable channels won't kick off until 2008, the deal with Vongo is set to begin next month and will include such recent hits as The Da Vinci Code and Talladega Nights: the Ballad of Ricky Bobby, the companies said in a statement. Terms of the deal were not disclosed; however, Daily Variety reported that it will net Sony $100 million.

POSTHUMOUS EMMYS GO TO PETER JENNINGS

"Iraq: Where Things Stand," a series of reports by the late ABC News anchor Peter Jennings that aired ten weeks before he disclosed that he had lung cancer, won two News & Documentary Emmy Awards Monday night for outstanding continuing coverage and best story in a newscast. The reports aired on ABC's World News Tonight, which also received the award for investigative journalism for its series, "The Money Trail." CBS's 60 Minutes received three Emmys, including an investigative journalism award for its report about a CIA operation that turned terrorism suspects over to Third World countries that use torture in their interrogation process.

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.