By ED BARK
A lot of it's been downhill, but certainly not in the national ratings.
Audiences for the first four nights of NBC's winter Olympics games from Vancouver are up 25 percent from the 2006 edition held in Torino, Italy.
The Peacock so far is averaging 27.9 viewers in prime-time, compared to 22.4 for the tape-delayed Olympics of four years ago. NBC says it's the highest Winter Games average since the "tabloid-fueled" 1994 Lillehammer games, which were awash in the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding scandal. Lillehammer drew an average of 37.4 million viewers for the first four nights.
Even so, NBC has projected it will lose $200 million on the Vancouver Olympics, largely due to inflated rights fees and a subsequent sluggish economy. But the live aspect of the ongoing Olympics -- and the resultant audience increases -- could well shave those losses.
Over the first four days, the Olympics so far are the most popular in Milwaukee among Nielsen's metered markets. Of Texas cities, only Austin is in the top 25, sharing 16th place with Providence, R.I. and Fort Myers, Fla.
***The CW has renewed five series for next fall, including its freshman drama, The Vampire Diaries. Also getting early pickups are America's Next Top Model, Gossip Girl, Supernatural and 90210.
***Comedian/actor Kevin James has signed on to get slimed as host of Nickelodeon's 23rd annual Kids' Choice Awards. The Paul Blart: Mall Cop star will preside over the March 27th live telecast.
By ED BARK
Barbara Walters is shuttering her annual ABC Oscar night special, signing off on March 7th with guests Sandra Bullock, Mo'Nique and clips from past shows.
She made the announcement on Monday's The View, telling viewers, "ABC has asked me to keep doing these specials as they have always been so successful . . . But to be honest, I feel like I've been there, done that."
Walters, 80, launched her Oscar specials on March 31, 1981, welcoming Ringo Starr, Barbara Bach and others. In the ABC release announcing The End, she noted the tingle she experienced when Oscar host Hugh Jackman gave her an impromptu lap dance last year.
Walters also recalled a tango lesson from Al Pacio and a sit-down with Bette Davis.
"It's those priceless moments that have made this special the Oscar tradition that it has become, but I truly feel enough is enough," she said.
ABC said that Walters will continue hosting her 10 Most Fascinating People specials, with First Lady Michelle Obama emerging at the top of 2009's list.