Fast Track


The Really Big Game

Lost amid the fallout from the halftime show was the record number of viewers tuned in to watch the Super Bowl. According to Nielsen Media Research, some 143.6 million viewers watched at least a portion. That eclipsed last year's 138.9 million viewers making last Sunday's game the most-watched Super Bowl ever.

Average tune-in throughout the game was about 89.6, the highest since 1998's Super Bowl. Viewership peaked at 98.5 million during the last half-hour.

But innocents were not spared. Nielsen estimates 6.6 million kids 2-11 were watching when the halftime show turned decidedly TV-MA. And 7.3 million teens 12-17 were tuned in as well. …

IAG released its top five best-recalled product placements in the Super Bowl. Top ranked was Pizza Hut, featuring a "4 For All" pizza that sat atop the pregame commentators' desk. America Online
captured the next three slots for an online viewer poll to name the game's most valuable player; the AOL "top speed" sponsorship of the halftime show; and promotions for the Pro Bowl, of which AOL is an official sponsorship partner. Placing fifth was the General Motors' Cadillac Escalade, which was given away during the game.

What, No Starbucks?

It was basically the grand opening of a shopping mall, but that didn't stop 5,000 or so of Richard Parsons' closest friends from turning out for a black-tie gala for the new Time Warner Center. What opened Wednesday night was the upscale 40-store shopping area and a few restaurants, including a J. Crew, Borders and Crabtree & Evelyn. Divisions of Time Warner will start moving in next month. The twin 80-story towers cost $1.8 billion and will contain the stores, CNN's studios, apartments and a Mandarin Oriental hotel.

Shriver Steps Aside

Maria Shriver, Dateline anchor and reporter and new First Lady of California, left NBC News Tuesday, saying she fears her journalistic integrity would be questioned due to her position as First Lady. Shriver took an extended leave of absence last summer while her husband, Arnold Schwarzenegger, made his successful bid for governor of California. She said she will continue to work on specials connected to her series of children's books for other NBC properties.

Programming Notes

ESPN has sacked original drama Playmakers. The football series drew critical raves but dealt with some themes the National Football League
loathed. That put ESPN in a tough spot because the cable sports network and sister ABC carry NFL games. ESPN repeatedly said it would base its renewal decision not on outside pressure but on other factors, although the NFL made its displeasure evident. …

NBC is gambling on dramas Las Vegas and American Dreams for next season, giving both shows full 22-episode orders. Vegas
was the network's most successful rookie show this season. American Dreams is going into its third season.…

ABC has let go of Karen Sisco, even though executives assured TV critics at the winter press tour that they would bring the show back. The show struggled against NBC juggernaut Law & Order, even though critics liked it.

NBC's Trump Card

It looks like NBC's The Apprentice will become a journeyman. The network has picked up a second season of the Mark Burnett-produced reality show featuring Donald Trump. The show is expected to return next fall. With an average 9.4 rating/23 share among adults 18-49 and 19.1 million viewers after three episodes, Apprentice is TV's third-highest-rated among adults 18-49.

NBC Entertainment, News and Cable President Jeff Zucker last week called The Apprentice a "red-hot breakout hit" for the network.