ABC MAKES COMEBACK AT SEASON START

ABC, the seemingly forever-struggling broadcast network, wound up in first place for the first week of the new season among adults 18-49, according to the latest ratings from Nielsen Research. Much of the credit went to Grey's Anatomy, which moved to Thursday night and beat out CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, the usual weekly winner. NBC also had plenty to brag about as it finished in second place for the week, improving 12 percent in its overall numbers for the first week of last season (18 percent among adults 18-49) and despite a disastrous debut for its expensive new Wednesday-night series Kidnapped. CBS remained ahead in overall viewers. The overall ratings averages broke down this way: 1. CBS, 8.3 rating/14 share; 2. ABC, 8.0/13; 3. NBC, 7.1/12; 4. Fox, 4.7/8.

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

1. Grey's Anatomy, ABC, 15.8/23; 2. Desperate Housewives, ABC, 14.7/22; 3. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 13.7/20; 4. Dancing With the Stars (performance show), ABC, 12.1/19; 5. CSI: Miami, CBS, 11.4/17; 6. Without a Trace, 11.1/18; 7. CSI: NY, 10.7/17; 8. Brothers & Sisters, ABC, 10.5/17; 9. Criminal Minds, CBS, 10.2/17; 9. (tie) Dancing With the Stars (results) 10.2/17.

ESPN SCORES ANOTHER MONDAY TOUCHDOWN

If cable and broadcast ratings were combined, ESPN would have been the highest-rated network Monday night as the New Orleans Saints' victory over the Atlanta Falcons drew 14.99 million viewers, slightly less than the 15.6 million NBC attracted for Sunday Night Football a night earlier, according to Nielsen Research. Ratings for cable programs are released at least a day after those for broadcast programs. ESPN can be seen in only 83 percent of U.S. households.

CBS MELDS THREE SYNDICATION GROUPS

CBS is combining its syndication companies, including King World, CBS Paramount Domestic Television and CBS Paramount International Television into a single unit to be called the CBS Television Distribution Group. The company will be responsible for distributing some of television's most lucrative syndication packages ranging from Oprah to the off-network reruns of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. The new operation will be headed by King World's Roger King. In a statement on Tuesday, the company did not indicate whether the old King World or Paramount logos will continue to be used to identify the packages. Indeed, most of the most popular programs syndicated by the new group will not air on CBS-owned or -affiliated stations, raising questions about the use of a CBS logo on those stations. Other programs syndicated by the company include Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, Dr. Phil, Entertainment Tonight, Judge Judy, Everybody Loves Raymond, and CSI: Miami.

ASHLEE SIMPSON TRIUMPHS IN CHICAGO

Ashlee Simpson, who experienced a near career-wrecking debacle in 2004 when she was caught lip-syncing her supposedly live performance on NBC's Saturday Night Live, may have successfully revived her career -- on London's West End. Debuting Monday night as Roxy Hart in a production of the musical Chicago, Simpson received a huge ovation from the audience, and on Tuesday from reviewers, who called her performance "flawless" and "impressive." Meanwhile, it was announced that Jimmy Kimmel, who opened the 2004 American Music Awards by remarking, "We're here to celebrate the music and the performers who sing and/or lip-sync it," will return as host this year.

FOX NEWS CHANNEL MAY "UNLEASH" VIEWERS AGAINST CABLERS

Fox News Channel may call upon its viewers to help it achieve a fee increase from cable companies who currently pay it an average of 27 cents per subscriber per month. Fox is demanding $1.00 from the cable providers in upcoming contract negotiations. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Fox plans to yank the channel from balking cable outlets in hopes of "unleashing the wrath of the channel's base of vociferous viewers." Tim Carry, senior vice president of affiliate relations for Fox News, told the newspaper the network believes that getting $1 per subscriber is reasonable, based on the performance of the channel. It is the only news channel that regularly is included among the top ten cable outlets, placing seventh in September, according to Nielsen Research figures released on Tuesday.

FIRST TV SHOW TO BE RELEASED ON HIGH-DEF DVD

Discovery Communications, which operates the Discovery Channel, said Tuesday that it will be the first television outlet to release programs on high-definition DVDs. Its Discovery Atlas: China Revealed, set to air on Oct. 1, will be available on the HD DVD and Blu-ray formats later in the month at Discovery's retail stores, the company said in a statement. The DVD package will be supplemented with a number of online extras, including video shorts about Chinese culture, the company said.

Brian B.