- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Ghosts, ghouls 24/7

Fans of scary movies received a special Halloween treat yesterday.

Comcast, in partnership with Sony Pictures Entertainment and Lionsgate, has introduced FearNet, a new horror film network, Associated Press reports.

Viewers with a passion for chills and thrills can watch movies through Comcast’s video-on-demand service and on the Web at FearNet.com. The Web site also enables fans to blog about, search and tag their favorite flicks. They’ll also be able to upload their own videos in the near future. Meanwhile, cell phone users will be able to download free ring tones and wallpaper by year’s end and eventually will be able to watch video clips, too.

Sony and Lionsgate, the independent studio behind the Oscar winning film “Crash,” will contribute their vault of 1,000 horror movies, AP said.

Digital cable subscribers can watch 200 ad-supported free movies year-round through video-on-demand, with about 30 titles available each month. Selections include “Carrie,” “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” and “Night of the Living Dead.”

Web surfers can watch nine movies free each month, up to a total of 50 per year. They also have access to 100 shorts, including original programming from such horrormeisters as Wes Craven.

A partnership with Guba, a movie-download service, lets users rent movies online for up to 99 cents and buy films for as much as $9.99 for new releases.

Comcast says 60 percent of the advertiser-coveted 18-to-34-year-old demographic is composed of horror fans.

Brokaw’s back

Former “NBC Nightly News” anchor Tom Brokaw will join his successor, Brian Williams, and senior political analyst Tim Russert for the network’s coverage of the midterm elections, Reuters news agency reports.

Mr. Williams will anchor the broadcast with help from Mr. Brokaw and Mr. Russert from NBC headquarters at New York’s Rockefeller Plaza. Tuesday night’s Election Day coverage begins at 6:30 with “NBC Nightly News,” which the network said will be updated live for each feed. Hourly updates will begin at 8 p.m., followed by a one-hour “Decision 2006” special at 10 p.m.

Overall Election Day coverage will begin at 7 a.m. on NBC’s “Today,” with co-anchors Matt Lauer in the District and Meredith Vieira in New York (with help from Mr. Russert and Mr. Brokaw).

Cable news sibling MSNBC will have coverage all day, starting at 9 a.m. Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, Tucker Carlson and Joe Scarborough will anchor with Mr. Williams, Mr. Russert, David Gregory and Andrea Mitchell.

A live edition of Mr. Matthews’ “Hardball” begins at 7 p.m. and will be offered to NBC affiliates. Mr. Olbermann and Mr. Matthews will begin coverage on MSNBC at 6 p.m. and continue through the night with a number of other NBC journalists pitching in.

Couric still No. 3

A high-profile interview with Michael J. Fox last week wasn’t enough to push Katie Couric to the top of the network news ratings heap, Associated Press reports.

Her average audience of 7.3 million viewers left “The CBS Evening News” trailing ABC’s second-place “World News Tonight” by more than 1 million viewers — the biggest gap between the two broadcasts since the week of Feb. 6, according to Nielsen Media Research. NBC’s “Nightly News” was in first place with 8.9 million viewers.

Miss Couric scored the interview with Mr. Fox on Thursday after radio personality Rush Limbaugh accused the actor of playing up symptoms of Parkinson’s disease in a campaign ad. It didn’t boost her ratings, though. Thursday’s “Evening News” broadcast had 7.4 million viewers, Nielsen said.

CBS has experimented with the evening newscast, including longer interviews and a “Free Speech” segment in which guests offer opinions.

Miss Couric’s average was identical to that of the Bob Schieffer-anchored newscast during the same week a year ago, Nielsen said. ABC and NBC were down from a year ago. CBS has pointed to that movement, and its own broadcast’s improvement among younger demographics, as proof of progress.

The news was better for CBS in prime time, where it won yet again. All three versions of “CSI” finished in the top 10 last week, as did the strong sophomore series “Criminal Minds.”

None of the World Series games between St. Louis and Detroit on Fox — the lowest-rated World Series ever — managed to crack the top 10 last week.

For the week, CBS averaged 12.3 million viewers, ABC averaged 11.4 million and Fox had 10 million. Following were NBC with 9.7 million and the CW with 3.6 million.

Among the Spanish-language networks, Univision averaged 3.2 million viewers, Telemundo had 780,000 and TeleFutura had 550,000.

For the week of Oct. 23 to 29, the top five shows, their networks and viewerships were: “Desperate Housewives,” ABC, 21.2 million; “NFL Post Game Show,” CBS, 20.8 million; “Dancing With the Stars,” ABC, 20.7 million; “Dancing With the Stars Results,” ABC, 20 million; and “CSI: Miami,” CBS, 17.83 million.

Compiled by Kelly Jane Torrance from wire reports.

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