GIBSON'S DEPARTURE LEAVES ABC NEWS IN FLUX

The largely perfunctory manner in which it was announced that Diane Sawyer would replace Charles Gibson as anchor of ABC's World News has left many analysts questioning the timing of Gibson's announcement and the network's response to it. Many noted that in Gibson's lengthy farewell message to ABC staff members, he made no mention at all of Sawyer. And news chief David Westin's statement merely suggested that he had no other candidate in mind when he decided to elevate Sawyer to the anchor post. Sawyer herself paid tribute to her onetime Primetime and Good Morning America cohost ("There is no one like Charlie Gibson") but limited her comment to two sentences, the second one being, "Until then, I'll be getting up early." The statement appeared to dash speculation that she might wind up anchoring both Good Morning America and World News, something that both she and Gibson did for a time following the death of Peter Jennings in 2005. Nor was there any hint of a replacement for Sawyer on GMA. The network has always insisted that the morning program was a far greater contributor to its bottom line than the evening newscast and that the decision to keep Sawyer having to rise early was a recognition of that fact. That a transition in the evening was announced before a morning host was selected seemed peculiar, especially since it was made four months in advance. In its report about Sawyer's elevation to the more prestigious post, Broadcasting & Cable observed, "If her move to World News -- where she'll have more reasonable hours and a lighter workload with more time to pursue newsmagazine projects -- is bowing to the inevitable, it creates a big hole on the network's most important broadcast."

MORE FOOTBALL BLACKOUTS LIKELY THIS SEASON

Given slow season-ticket sales, it now appears that many NFL games will be blacked out on television in local markets this year, National Public Radio reported Wednesday. "It's all part of the challenges that we're seeing in the economy, and what our clubs are going through," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told the network. Under NFL rules, games that are not sold out 72 hours before kickoff are blacked out on local TV. Daniel Kaplan, a reporter for Sports Business Journal, said in an interview with NPR that while only nine of 256 regular-season games were blacked out last year -- all involving just three teams, this year the league is now forecasting that as many as 12 teams could have at least one game blacked out.

CABLE ESCAPES ADVERTISER MEDIA RETREAT

Cable TV was the only medium to post growth in the first half of 2009, Advertising Age reported Wednesday, citing a new report by Nielsen Media Research. At that, the growth was minuscule -- just 1.5 percent. However, the amount was significant given that ad spending as a whole fell 15.4 percent in the first six months compared with last year. Sunday supplements in local newspapers were hit hardest, falling 45.7 percent. By contrast, network TV was down 7 percent and syndicated TV, 11.6 percent. And while most big advertisers cut their spending by as much as 31.4 percent (the auto industry), movie ads bucked the trend, perhaps reflecting the fact that many of the studios are owned by media conglomerates, who, in effect, took money out of one pocket and put it into another.

SONY'S EUROPEAN SETS TO CONNECT TO INTERNET

Impelling broadcast and Internet convergence one step closer -- at least in Europe -- Sony announced today (Thursday) that its Bravia TV sets and Blu-ray Disc players will come with a new feature, Bravia Internet Video. The company said that it will work with Germany's ARD, France's M6, Italy's Mediaset, Spain's RTVE, Antena3 and LaSexta, and the U.K.'s Channel 5 to allow buyers of the sets to watch Internet video content on their TV sets. "Bravia Internet Video will free viewers from the limitations of TV scheduling and provide Internet-based TV services direct to the television," Sony said in a statement. It did not indicate what it expected to deliver the new TV sets and players or when the VOD system will go into effect.

OBAMA TAKES ANOTHER NIGHT FROM NETWORKS

Fox TV must have felt less than gleeful Wednesday as the White House announced that President Obama plans to address a joint session of Congress on Sept. 9 on his health-care proposals. Fox has been promoting the premiere of Glee on that night, as well as the season debut of So You Think You Can Dance. Moreover, as the Washington Post's Lisa De Moraes observed, "Show premieres generally command bigger audiences and, therefore, higher prices" to advertisers. Should Fox decide not to cancel either show, it would likely provide further ammunition for Obama supporters who have claimed that the network's sibling cable operation, the Fox News Network, is little more than a soap box for opponents of the president's health-care program. (The news channel, however, almost certainly will air the address.)