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App-centuate the positive for WFAA8

Dallas-based WFAA8 sends word that its brand new free Apple iPhone/iTouch app ranks No. 10 on the most downloaded news charts.

That so far puts it ahead of national entities such as msnbc.com, HuffingtonPost.com, Time mobile, CBS News and The Today Show according to itunes current list of top 100 free news apps.

A rival North Texas news outlet, CBS11, currently ranks No. 57 on the list. The only other area entrant, The Dallas Morning News, is No. 73. All apps can be downloaded at the iTunes App Store.

10th place WFAA8 launched its app on Jan. 15th, according to the itunes chart, although the station didn't officially announce it until Jan. 25th. Here are the up-to-the-moment top 9 free news apps, in order of finish:

1. The White House (launched Jan. 20)
2. Engadget (Dec. 30)
3. NY Times (Nov. 24)
4. Yahoo! (June 4)
5. NPR News (Jan. 4)
6. USA Today (Dec. 23)
7. ABC News (Dec. 7)
8. Fluent News Reader (Jan. 9)
9. AP Mobile (Jan. 15)

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Wed., Jan. 27) -- Idol Dallas auditions on single network outdraw State of the Union on four

American Idol's one-hour audition show from Dallas predictably drew the show's largest audience of Season 9 in these parts. Not so predictably, it also had more viewers than President Obama's State of the Union address on all four of the big broadcast networks.

Idol rolled in with 807,570 D-FW viewers on Fox, dominating the 7 p.m. hour by a seven-to-one margin over the most-watched competing program, ABC's repeat of Modern Family (115,367 viewers).

The elongated State of the Union address, which stretched to 9:20 p.m., was then carried on Fox, ABC, CBS and NBC as well as other broadcast and cable networks. The combined audience on the Big Four nets was 800,783.

Here's the overall breakdown for all networks carrying the State of the Union address:

Fox -- 346,101 viewers
ABC -- 190,016 viewers
Univision -- 142,512 viewers
CBS -- 135,726 viewers
NBC -- 128,940 viewers
Telemundo -- 74,649 viewers
Fox News Channel -- 47,504 viewers
CNN -- 40,718 viewers
PBS -- 27,145 viewers
MSNBC/CNBC -- 13,573 viewers each

In Wednesday's local news derby results, the 10 p.m. race was downsized to three competitors when CBS chose to air a full rerun of Two and a Half Men that delayed CBS11's start time to 10:17 p.m. WFAA8 took both 10 p.m. golds, winning in total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

NBC5 easily controlled the 6 a.m. competitions with twin wins while WFAA8 notched a pair of firsts at 6 p.m. The 5 p.m. golds were split between WFAA8 in total viewers and Fox4 among 25-to-54-year-olds.

Staying a spell: New Fox action-comedy cop series begins six-month stretch, with Dallas Fair Park as home base


Former West Wing-er Bradley Whitford will sport a stache for his new role in a Dallas-made Fox series. He's pictured here during the recent Television Critics Association "press tour." Photo: Ed Bark

PASADENA, Calif. -- Bradley Whitford's old-school cop character won't be living in a van down by the river when production on a new Fox action-comedy series begins Tuesday in Dallas.

But he will hunker down in an Airstream RV near a Fair Park ferris wheel. And the former co-star of NBC's The West Wing had better get used to it.

Code 58 (working title) will have its principal stages on the Fair Park grounds, where 13 episodes will be filmed in the next six months. The series already has an announced premiere date -- May 12 -- and is the main attraction of Fox's effort to ramp up its summertime programming.

"It's incredible. We can do so much stuff there," says executive producer Matt Nix, also the mind behind USA network's Burn Notice series. "I can totally geek out about how awesome it's going to be. To have stages where you can actually do a car chase -- it's ridiculous because it's so huge."

Whitford plays Dan Stark, a throwback detective lauded for saving the governor's son 30 years ago. Now he's a largely forgotten drunk who finds himself teamed with the considerably younger Jack Bailey (Colin Hanks), a snarky under-achiever who's also been sentenced to a life of mostly solving petty crimes.

"Suddenly I've gone from thinking I'm a young actor to feeling like Ernest Borgnine," says Whitford, who played presidential advisor Josh Lyman for the full seven-season run of West Wing. "The one thing I do share with this character is I think I have a bright future behind me."

The working title, which Nix says will be changed, refers to an actual Dallas police code for routine investigations.

"In Japan, we're hoping they're going to call it Opposite Buddy Cop Show," cracks Hanks, son of Tom Hanks and lately a recurring regular as a Catholic priest in AMC's Mad Men.


On-location shooting in Dallas and environs is scheduled to stretch all the way to July, making Code 58 the biggest boon to the area film industry since Fox's Prison Break. ABC also settled in relatively briefly last fall, filming several episodes of the legal drama The Deep End, which otherwise is set in L.A.

"I make it a practice to only set shows in cities I've never visited," Nix says. "So I had never been to Miami before Burn Notice. And I had only been to the Dallas-Fort Worth airport before putting this in Dallas."

Whitford's character lives in semi-seedy splendor.

"The conceit is that when the State Fair's not running, he just sits in an Airstream trailer about 40 feet away from the ferris wheel," Nix says. "So it's a lot of production value. It's not upscale Dallas at all, although we'll see hints of that. We're not portraying Dallas as scummy and crime-ridden by any means."

Still, it's decidedly not the Ewings. Nix instead lauds Dallas as a city that has both highly accomplished film crews and "this classic cop show look, down to the power lines in the streets and old brick buildings. You walk around there and think Starsky and Hutch or T.J. Hooker. It is a great city to jump on the hood of a car."

Whitford, who recently separated from actress Jane Kaczmarek (Malcolm In the Middle), has grown a mustache for the role and thinks the character needs one.

"Women are very creeped out. I don't know if it's Boogie Nights or what," he says. "And my kids hate it . . . My growing this mustache, I gotta say, it reminds me of a lot of the work De Niro did in Raging Bull."


Hanks and Whitford during Code 58 session. Fox photo

Both Whitford and Hanks also will have to get accustomed to living in Dallas. Whitford, a native of Wisconsin, says he "spent my youth going down to Corpus Christi" visiting his uncle and cousins but has "never really stayed in Dallas for any length of time."

Hanks has been in the city for a "couple of press junkets" and spent a "night or two in Fort Worth not too long ago."

"Shooting on location is never particularly easy," he says. "Especially if you just moved into a house four days before you found out you're going to be moving again. But that's part of the gig . . . and Dallas seems to be a fantastic place to shoot. In a strange way for us, it's kind of like the circus rolling into town. . . It's the hard part of the job, but it's also the fun part. You get to explore new cities."

North Texans in turn can do a little star-gazing, whether the show is filming at Fair Park or maybe down the road in Waxahachie or McKinney.

"This is something that Prison Break discovered," Nix enthuses. "Within 30 miles of Dallas you can shoot anything. You can get into the middle of nowhere and you're just outside of town. It's fantastic."

Enthusiasm duly noted. Now let's get on with the show.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Fri.-Sun., Jan. 22-24) -- high profile weekend with NFL conference championships, Conan finale, Haiti telethon


Conan O'Brien played himself off Friday with ample help from Will Ferrell, Beck, Ben Harper, ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons and his Tonight Show band. The song, appropriately, was "Freebird." Photo: Ed Bark

Sunday night's Saints-Vikings overtime spine-tingler dominated D-FW television screens, amassing an average of 1,574,422 viewers on Fox.

The 31-28 Saints win, which came on a 40-yard field goal at 9:19 p.m., outdrew the majority of this season's Cowboys games. Including the two post-season contests, it would have ranked sixth on a list of 18 games, ahead of the Oct. 4th Dallas loss at Denver (1,472,627 viewers) and behind the Nov. 8th win at Philadelphia (1,649,071 viewers).

Sunday's earlier game, in which the Colts beat the Jets on CBS, averaged a very nice-sized 1,058,663 viewers. That was barely behind the least-watched Cowboys game of the season, Sept. 13th's opener at Tampa Bay (1,065,449 viewers).

On Friday night, Conan O'Brien's final Tonight Show on NBC easily was the day's most-watched program on a single network. It drew 291,811 viewers, with a robust 176,126 of them in the advertiser-coveted 18-to-49 age range.

The night's preceding 7 to 9 p.m. telethon on behalf of earthquake victims in Haiti was telecast on an unprecedented array of broadcast and cable networks. Of the networks for which we have D-FW ratings, here's how it broke down in the total viewer Nielsens:

NBC -- 88,222
ABC -- 81,436
Fox -- 61,077
CBS -- 47,504
The CW, CNN, TNT and HBO -- 13,573 each
PBS -- 2,035

In Friday's local news derby results, NBC5's 10 p.m. news found it helpful to serve as the warmup act for O'Brien's Tonight finale. The Peacock swept the competitions in both total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

Fox4 nipped NBC5 at 6 a.m. in total viewers, but the order was reversed among 25-to-54-year-olds. WFAA8 had a nice time at 5 and 6 p.m., running the table at both hours.

WFAA8 hires two new weekend anchors

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Newcomers Shon Gables and Casey Norton and incumbent Debbie Denmon will be changing WFAA8's weekend anchor mix.

Dallas-based WFAA8 is adding two new weekend anchors, station management confirmed Tuesday.

Shon Gables, who had been freelancing at WPIX-TV in New York and also hosting the syndicated Black Enterprise Business Report, will be the ABC station's new morning weekend anchor, starting next week.

Casey Norton, a weekend anchor with Seattle's KOMO-TV since 2007, will co-anchor WFAA8's Sunday night newscasts and also report four days a week. He's scheduled to join the station in March.

Debbie Denmon, the incumbent weekend morning anchor, will move to a weekend evening anchor slot. She has been with WFAA8 since October 2000.

Gables earlier co-anchored WCBS-TV's early morning newscasts in New York from 2003 to 2006. She also has guest-hosted on ABC's The View and formerly was married to Bryan Abrams of the defunct band Color Me Badd. The Oklahoma native also has worked at TV stations in Oklahoma City and Detroit.

Before joining KOMO, Norton spent seven years in Oklahoma, working as a morning news anchor at KOTV-TV in Tulsa and weekend news anchor at KWTV-TV in Oklahoma City. He's also been a sports reporter in Memphis and a reporter/photographer in Tyler, Texas.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Sun.-Mon., Jan. 17-18) -- Cowboys' closeout falls short of 2 mil mark


Hey kid, I've been there. Brett 'n' Tony meet post-game. Photo: Ed Bark

Building to a peak between 2:15 and 2:30 p.m. -- and then dwindling after that -- Sunday's Cowboys playoff exit on Fox fell well short of being the team's most-watched game of the season.

Running from 12:05 to 3:05 p.m., the 34-3 loss to the Vikings averaged 1,696,575 D-FW viewers. That puts it fourth on the season-ending list, with the Cowboys' first-round playoff thrashing of the Eagles topping the charts with 1,940,882 viewers in prime-time on NBC.

Cowboys-Vikes peaked at 1,927,309 viewers between 2:15 to 2:30 before sliding to 1,587,994 in the closing minutes. Every Cowboys game this season drew over one million viewers.

Sunday's other playoff game, the Jets' upset of the Chargers, averaged 739,707 viewers on CBS.

In prime-time action, NBC's three-hour telecast of the Golden Globes won the night with 339,315 viewers.

Fox's sneak-preview of its Human Target series, which returns on Wednesday, got off to a decent start in the 7 p.m. hour with 264,666 viewers before the two-hour Season 8 premiere of 24 upped that total slightly to 271,452 viewers.

24 ran third in the 8 p.m. hour behind both the Globes and ABC's Desperate Housewives (305,384 viewers). It then moved up to second from 9 to 10 p.m., whipping ABC's Brothers & Sisters (183,230 viewers).

The Globes also topped Sunday night's ratings among advertiser-favored 18-to-49-year-olds, with 24 beating both Desperate Housewives and B & S in that measurement.

24 returned with a second two-hour dose on Monday night, averaging 264,666 viewers from 7 to 9 p.m. It narrowly lost to ABC's first hour of The Bachelor from 7 to 8 p.m., but beat The Bach in the following hour. The 8 to 9 p.m. roost was ruled, however, by CBS' new episodes of Two and a Half Men (393,605 viewers) and The Big Bang Theory (366,460 viewers).

In the 9 p.m hour, a new episode of CBS' CSI: Miami (291,811 viewers) barely beat ABC's increasingly popular Castle (285,025 viewers).

On The CW, Monday's premiere of Life Unexpected drew 81,436 viewers to finish fifth from 8 to 9 p.m. But in the network's 18-to-34-year-old target audience, Life Unexpected moved into fourth place just behind the second hour of The Bachelor.

NBC's Heroes was the mega-loser in this age group, drawing a sub-piddling 5,075 viewers compared to Life Unexpected's 45,679. The 33's 9 p.m. local newscast then dove down to 11,843 viewers in the 18-to-34 age range.

In local news derby results, WFAA8 had a big day that won't officially count because it took a Martin Luther King holiday designation for all four of its principal newscasts. That wipes out total viewer wins at 5, 6 and 10 p.m., plus golds at 6 and 10 p.m. among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

NBC5 likewise coughed up two 6 a.m. wins by opting for the Holiday asterisk.

Among the stations that came to play, CBS11 swept the 10 p.m. newscast ratings and Fox4 did likewise at 6 a.m. NBC5 ran the table at 6 p.m., as did Fox4 at 5 p.m.

Cowboys routed, but key first quarter cave-in clearly set the tone


His confidence shaken and again under duress: Tony Romo prepared to throw a debilitating interception late in 3rd quarter. Photo: Ed Bark

Every loss has a root cause. And for me, the beginning of the end for the Cowboys Sunday was the boneheaded, momentum-sucking decision NOT to go for it on 4th and 1 just outside the Vikings 30 yard line with 5:48 left in the 1st quarter.

The score was still 0-0, and Dallas had been moving the ball. But the brain trust instead sent in wobbly Shaun Suisham to try a 48-yard field goal.

Suisham, clearly not the team's kicker of the future, predictably missed it wide right. A few plays later Minnesota QB Brett Favre hit receiver Sidney Rice with a 47 yard touchdown pass. Vikings 7, Cowboys 0. You could see Dallas deflate and the offense lose confidence. NEVER play that conservatively when you're on the road against an offensive powerhouse.

But in these key early moments, the coaches put the ball on Suisham's foot instead of in Tony Romo's hands. It sowed the seeds of an eventual 34-3 drubbing in which the defense pretty much held up for three quarters while an increasingly rattled Romo ran for his life in the face of a fearsome pass rush. In the early going, though, Dallas' offense had Minnesota on its heels. But on fourth and one, the team went to the old soft shoe instead of continuing to play smash-mouth.

That said, Favre was sensational throughout, never making the key mistakes he used to make against the Cowboys when he played for the Packers. At age 40 he was nimble, quick and completely in charge. His second touchdown pass to Rice, in which he first ducked an onrushing defender, was another of the game's defining plays.

Some will want to fire head coach Wade Phillips, but that's not the answer. What the team and Romo really need is a third go-to receiver to complement Jason Witten and Miles Austin. That's obviously not Roy Williams, who likely has played his last down for the Cowboys. He was less than a no-show Sunday. In fact, to my knowledge, Fox commentators Joe Buck and Troy Aikman never even mentioned his name.

The Cowboys' first blowout loss of the season wasn't the day's most painful, though. The San Diego Chargers, allegedly the NFL's hottest team, went one and out with a shocking home loss to the New York Jets.

In Dallas' case, the Vikings likely are the better team -- when playing on their home field at least. But what if the Cowboys had been able to take a 7-0 lead at gut-check time rather than bank on Suisham to kick a long FG?

We'll never know. And that's the real shame of it all.

Over and out for NBC5 anchor Brendan Higgins, CBS11 news director Scott Diener

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Done in D-FW: NBC5's Brendan Higgins, CBS11's Scott Diener

Two surprise departures left NBC5 and CBS11 with significant holes to fill while your friendly content provider was otherwise occupied at the Television Critics Association "press tour" in Pasadena.

Brendan Higgins, co-anchor of NBC5's No. 1-rated early morning newscast, reached a contract talk impasse that led to his decision to leave the D-FW station after Sunday. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Robert Philpot reported confirmation of Higgins' departure Friday via an official statement from NBC5 vice president of content development Susan Tully.

"With Brendan's contract coming to an end, he and the station have agreed that Sunday will be his last day as a member of the NBC D-FW team," Tully said.

Higgins, who joined Deborah Ferguson as the early morning co-anchor in December 2003, later said in an email to the Star-Telegram, "My contract expires this weekend, and during talks we just decided to make an amicable split. I'm really going to miss working every day with an amazing team."

Various NBC5 newsers will fill in for Higgins until a permanent replacement is named. NBC5 topped the early morning ratings during the November "sweeps" ratings period in both total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming. In both measurements, the station edged Fox4, which recently added Lauren Przybyl to its early morning team.

Higgins will continue to team with his wife, Jennifer on their Miss Oops company, which produces "solution-oriented products." Oops, the early morning ratings race just got wide open again, even though Ferguson, meteorologist Jennifer Lopez and traffic reporter Tammy Dombeck will remain in place. The puckish Higgins will be hard to replace, though. His sudden departure leaves No. 4 CBS11 with the longest standing waker upper duo in D-FW, Scott Sams and Ginger Allen.

***Shortly after leaving D-FW-based CBS11/TXA21 for KCBS-TV in Los Angeles last month, former president and general manager Steve Mauldin has pirated Scott Diener to join him.

Diener, who had been CBS11 and sister station TXA21's news director since August 2007, will be replacing former KCBS news director Nancy Bauer-Gonzales, whom Mauldin sacked. Diener also will run the KCAL-TV news room in Los Angeles.

Diener, a native of Los Angeles, "has an outstanding reputation as a great leader who does an outstanding job of inspiring his colleagues to produce quality newscasts," Mauldin said in a statement announcing his hiring. "He will do a terrific job of leading our news team to exciting new heights."

Diener had joined CBS11/TXA21 in June 2006 as assistant news director. While in that capacity, Mauldin passed him over twice for the top job. He first hired Greg Easterly from Cleveland's WJW-TV in December 2006 to replace the departing Tom Doerr. But Easterly belatedly reconsidered over the Christmas holidays, prompting Mauldin to turn to Regent Ducas from Kansas City's CBS station. Ducas' disastrous reign ended after just five months, when Diener finally got the top job.

In a companion statement announcing his hiring at KCBS/KCAL, Diener said, "I am honored to be given the opportunity to lead the largest and one of the most distinguished local television news teams in the country and look forward to coming home to the Los Angeles area with my family."

CBS11 topped the 10 p.m. newscast ratings for the first time ever in November, edging WFAA8 by a speck in total viewers while the ABC station remained first with 25-to-54-year-olds.

Gary Schneider, who had been the incumbent senior vice president and station manager, has replaced Mauldin on an interim basis at CBS11/TXA21. There is no word yet on Diener's replacement.

Wingwoman role for Fox4's Gutierrez; CBS11 announces day and date for 4 p.m. news expansion

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Fox4's Krystle Gutierrez; CBS11's Keith Garvin and Tracy Kornet

Dissatisfied with flat and generally second-place ratings for its early morning Good Day program, Dallas-based Fox4 has decided to re-fold Krystle Gutierrez into the anchor desk mix.

The plan is for her to periodically sit with co-anchors Tim Ryan and Lauren Przybyl, who joined the program in September after a lengthy search for Megan Henderson's replacement.

Gutierrez, who had been the most frequent fill-in during the nearly seven-month interim, mainly will read feature stories and then chat with Ryan and Przybyl. A livelier, breezier program is the objective.

It's a key time for Good Day, which won Monday's 6 a.m. ratings race against latter day frontrunner NBC5, the November "sweeps" victor. Fox's American Idol will be returning on Tuesday, providing what likely will be another big prime-time promotional platform for Good Day. Fox4's 9 p.m. local newscasts also should enjoy ratings increases with Idol as a lead-in on a number of nights.

***As previously reported on unclebarky.com, CBS11 will be expanding its weekday 4 p.m. newscasts to a full hour. The station now has a day and date -- Monday, Jan. 11th -- with Tracy Kornet and newcomer Keith Garvin anchoring.

The displaced Inside Edition will relocate from 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. weeknights on sister station TXA21. It will be followed by EntertainmentStudios,com, hosted by the never-ending Byron Allen. Repeats of Dr. Phil will move from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. on TXA21. First-run episodes of Phil remain at 3 p.m. on CBS11.

Odds/ends from WFAA8's Big D NYE telecast

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Shelly Slater then and now: still toothsome after all these years.

Credit WFAA8 anchor Shelly Slater for having a mega-toothy smile and a self-deprecating sense of humor during the station's live New Year's Eve telecast of Victory Park's Big D NYE celebration.

Slater and Ugly Betty co-star Michael Urie, who also appeared on the program, used to be classmates at Plano Senior High School. She made fun of their above junior yearbook picture while conversing with Urie, whose appealingly snarky sense of humor may make him a match for Neil Patrick Harris someday. Harris has been a much-in-demand awards show host, and it's easy to envision the quick-on-his-feet Urie in the same role someday.

Former WFAA8 PM Magazine host Leeza Gibbons also made the Big D NYE scene, in the company of sports anchor Dale Hansen and weathercaster Pete Delkus, who served as co-hosts.

Hansen of course did most of the talking -- and nuzzling with Gibbons. He couldn't help himself after the blissed-out former Entertainment Tonight personality said of her return to Dallas, "This is like a hug." The big lug then wrapped his arms around her.

Gibbons also threw in a memorable description of Hansen, telling him, "You're a little softie marshmallow teddy bear."

Delkus is still trying to get a word in.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Mon., Jan. 4) -- purple passion among viewers, purple haze on the field

TCU's humbling 17-10 Fiesta Bowl loss to Boise State Monday night otherwise vanquished all competing programming, including ABC's local angled season premiere of The Bachelor: On Wings of Love and NBC's two-hour return of Heroes.

Running from 7:21 to 10:49 p.m., Fox's telecast averaged 868,646 D-FW viewers. That's not quite Cowboys-sized -- all of their regular season games drew more than one million viewers -- but a very impressive haul nonetheless.

Rivals were helpless, particularly Heroes. It drew a sub-paltry 54,290 viewers from 7 to 9 p.m. while a competing two-hour Bachelor (starring Dallas pilot Jake Pavelka) managed 149,299 viewers.

CBS punted with a night full of reruns, but still managed to run second from 8 to 10 p.m. with Two and a Half Men (196,802 viewers), The Big Bang Theory (210,375) and CSI: Miami (210,375).

ABC's 9 p.m. eyesore, Conveyor Belt of Love, limped in with 122,153 viewers, still enough to beat NBC's increasingly hapless Jay Leno Show (95,008).

TCU-Boise State also cleaned up among advertiser-coveted 18-to-49-year-olds, amassing 391,392 viewers in this age range. Belt of Love moved up to the No. 2 spot in this key demographic, outdrawing both Leno and CSI: Miami.

In local news derby results, CBS11 edged NBC5 at 10 p.m. in total viewers with a downsized 162,871 opposite the closing quarter of the Fiesta Bowl. The Peacock rebounded to run first with 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

NBC5 scored twin wins at 6 a.m. while Fox4 controlled the 5 p.m. news numbers.

CBS11 nipped WFAA8 and a Fiesta Bowl-themed edition of Fox4's 6 p.m. newscast to win in total viewers at that hour. Fox4 had the gold to itself among 25-to-54-year-olds.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot -- special Cowboys edition

The Dallas Cowboys' division-clinching win over Philadelphia likewise made a very big bang in Sunday's FW Nielsen numbers.

The late afternoon/early evening game, which ran from 3:15 to 6:12 p.m. on Fox, roped in a gargantuan 1,744,079 viewers. In contrast, the preceding day's Cotton Bowl at Cowboys Stadium -- Mississippi vs. Oklahoma State on Fox -- managed a smallish 352,888 viewers to rank as Saturday's most-watched attraction.

The mega-audience for Dallas' regular season closer barely topped this season's previous record of 1,737,293 viewers for the Sept. 20th unveiling of Jerry's Palace, in which the Giants beat the Cowboys 33-31 on NBC's Sunday Night Football.

In order of audience size, here are the crowds for this season's 16 Cowboys' regular season games. (Note: some previously posted totals have been revised to reflect Nielsen's yearly D-FW viewer estimates, which were updated earlier this fall. Each rating point now equals 67,863 viewers, an increase from the previous 66,430. All audience totals reflect actual game running times.)

Jan. 3: Philadelphia at Dallas on Fox -- 1,744,079 viewers
Sept. 20: New York Giants at Dallas on NBC -- 1,737,293 viewers
Nov. 8: Dallas at Philadelphia on NBC -- 1,649,071 viewers
Oct. 4: Dallas at Denver on Fox -- 1,472,627 viewers
Dec. 6: Dallas at New York Giants on Fox -- 1,445,482 viewers
Nov. 26: Oakland at Dallas on CBS -- 1,431,909 viewers
Dec. 27: Dallas at Washington on NBC -- 1,411,550 viewers
Nov. 15: Dallas at Green Bay on Fox -- 1,411,550 viewers
Oct. 25: Atlanta at Dallas on Fox -- 1,397,978 viewers
Dec. 19: Dallas at New Orleans on NFLNet/TXA21 -- 1,384,405 viewers
Sept. 28: Carolina at Dallas on ESPN/TXA21 -- 1,241,893 viewers
Dec. 13: San Diego at Dallas on CBS -- 1,214,748 viewers
Nov. 1: Seattle at Dallas on Fox -- 1,197,395 viewers
Oct. 11: Dallas at Kansas City on Fox -- 1,126,526 viewers
Nov. 22: Washington at Dallas on Fox -- 1,096,465 viewers
Sept. 13: Dallas at Tampa Bay on Fox -- 1,065,449 viewers

And there you have it, with Saturday's prime-time playoff rematch against Philadelphia on NBC a strong candidate to approach or top the 2 million mark.

Cable/network wars are good business for print news neutrals (and other D-FW news updates)

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Well, it was fun while it lasted, particularly for newspapers on the receiving end of an unexpected holiday season windfall.

Inevitably and predictably, the Fox Networks Group and Time Warner Cable settled their showy distribution dispute in eleventh hour fashion on New Year's Day. But the agreement, which will keep Fox's broadcast and cable programming available to Time Warner's 13 million subscribers, came only after a barrage of pricey, back-and-forth full-page ads in major market newspapers, including The Dallas Morning News.

"Pay Fox's Price Or You'll Never See Your Shows Again," barked Time Warner. Fox reportedly was holding out for payment of $1 per subscriber while Time Warner had 30 cents in mind.

Fox fought back with "No Fox? No Way!" full-pagers that envisioned a desultory life without NFL playoff games, some of college football's BCS bowl games, American Idol, etc. "Get tough with Time Warner Cable," the ads trumpeted, providing horrified viewers with a 1-866 number and a website to vent.

Some of Time Warner's rivals smelled blood. Full-page ads for DISH network warned, "You may lose more than 40 of your favorite channels! Don't risk missing your favorite shows. Switch to DISH network now!"

Time Warner had an immediate answer for that. "Fox is threatening to squeeze every cable operator -- so switching is not a real solution," its updated ads contended.

The rhetoric downshifted to bland when the two sides announced their New Year's Day pact in a joint statement after likely meeting each other halfway on subscriber fees. Terms, of course, weren't announced.

"We're pleased that, after months of negotiations, we were able to reach a fair agreement with Time Warner Cable -- one that recognizes the value of our programming," Fox said demurely.

"We're happy to have reached a reasonable deal with no disruption in programming for our customers," Time Warner curtsied.

The increased costs eventually will be passed on to Time Warner customers. And the pinch likely will be felt again and again as other networks seek compensation for their old-line broadcast properties rather than allowing free retransmission.

Fox was publicly backed in its war with Time Warner by Disney-owned ABC, which likewise owns an array of cable networks (most notably ESPN) in addition to its longstanding over-the-air broadcast network. Declining ratings and ad revenues, at both the local and national level, have emboldened semi-desperate broadcasters to seek the same dual revenue streams enjoyed by their cable counterparts.

It's a tricky business, though. Fox had a lot to lose if Time Warner cut it loose. But Fox also had ample leverage, given the impending season premieres of American Idol and 24 among its high-profile attractions. This time it was far better for both sides to blink rather than continue to bluster.

But newspapers wouldn't mind a continuing series of cable company/network soap operas. In a lower profile fight, Cablevision subscribers recently found their menus without Food Network and HGTV, which were dropped during an ongoing distribution fee dispute.

A subsequent full-page ad in Sunday's New York Times depicted an overturned Food Network cooking pot and an upended HGTV paint can.

"Cablevision customers: Your best Friends In Food and Home Have Been Dropped," the ad said, providing a 1-866 number and a website for viewers to demand an end to this outrage.

The Times and other beneficiary newspapers wouldn't mind a prolonged spat between the two media companies. It's a revenue stream from heaven, and 2010 could be a very good year in that respect.

WFAA8 PETITIONS FCC FOR STRONGER DIGITAL SIGNAL -- Acknowledging ongoing complaints from viewers in the still fledgling post-digital age, Dallas-based WFAA8 has asked the Federal Communications Commission to increase its signal power from 45 to 55 KW.

In its December 17th filing, the ABC affiliate says that after the June 12th transition from analog to digital, it "began to receive a deluge of calls from viewers that could no longer receive the station's digital signal via their indoor antennas. Despite attempts to walk callers through the process or resetting and/or re-scanning their equipment, station personnel were unable to resolve many indoor reception issues."

Belo Corp., which owns WFAA8, says the station is "not attempting to increase the coverage of WFAA, as the proposed power increase will only result in the station coverage increasing by 1.6 percent . . . Rather, Belo is proposing the power increase to improve service to its existing viewers by providing them with a more robust signal."

As previously reported on unclebarky.com, rival CBS11 petitioned the FCC earlier this year for an enhanced digital frequency. The request was quickly approved.

SUBTRACT ANOTHER BODY FROM CBS11's NOW BARREN INVESTIGATIVE UNIT -- Aaron Wische, executive producer of Special Projects and Investigations at CBS11, is leaving the D-FW station to take a similar post at Phoenix's ABC station, KNXV-TV. His last day will be Jan. 15th, news director Scott Diener said in a memo sent Sunday to staffers.

Wische spent two and a half years with CBS11. His departure is on the heels of the station's former chief investigator, Bennett Cunningham, who left in early December over a salary dispute.

That nominally leaves weekday early morning co-anchor Ginger Allen as the last member of "The Investigators," although she's long since shifted to periodic lifestyles reporting on the station's late night newscasts. CBS11's outdated web page for "The Investigators" still pictures Cunningham and Allen as the remaining two team members.