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Viacom's Mel Karmazin says the market that fed him won't turn and bite him. Karmazin last year sold a less-than-normal amount of CBS upfront inventory, but turned the gamble into a winner in the scatter market this spring. This year, Karmazin-and other broadcast networks-sold a higher-than-normal amount in the upfront as money gushed, allowing the possibility that ratings shortfalls could take CBS out as a scatter player. But the optimistic Karmazin says no worries: "We have great confidence in our ratings and what we told advertisers we will do."

David Letterman could be a big winner in Viacom's snaring the head of New York's WNBC, Dennis Swanson, to run its local stations group that includes CBS outlets. Letterman has said it's no joke that his ratings are impaired because Viacom stations in major markets don't provide a strong enough lead-in to him with their late local news. Swanson led WNBC past market leader WABC in the Big Apple in that genre.

Nielsen chief Susan Whiting says the ratings service has the technology in place and is prepared to begin measuring viewership through PVRs such as TiVo. But programmers and advertisers can't agree on how to use the data. Should a person who views "Friends" days late be counted in the total numbers for the episode's premiere or in some other category? "The programmers and the advertisers need to agree on what to do with the information," she says.

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