MSNBC has rebranded itself.


Ten months after announcing that it would be known as "America's NewsChannel," the NBC-owned network has dumped that brand and this week started calling itself "NBC News on Cable, 24/7."

"NBC News is one of our greatest strengths," said a spokesman for MSNBC. This is not the same spokesman who had touted the switch to "America's NewsChannel" 10 months ago. MSNBC goes through spokesmen about as fast as it goes through brands and prime-time programming strategies.

"In looking for the best way to position ourselves, it makes the most sense to play to our strength," the rep explained.

"This is not a rebranding -- it's a reemphasis on what sets us apart from our competitors. We are the only cable news channel associated with a major network news organization. This gives us a lot of strength, in terms of breadth of coverage . . . why not emphasize that?"

Michael Jackson continues to pump up February sweeps ratings. "The Michael Jackson Interview: The Footage You Were Never Meant to See" clocked 14 million viewers from 8 to 10 p.m. Thursday.

The Fox program contained outtakes that Jackson had provided from his controversial interview with British journalist Martin Bashir for the documentary "Living With Michael Jackson." Jackson has condemned that documentary, in which he is seen telling Bashir that children not related to him sleep over in his bed and in which Bashir says he became increasingly concerned for the welfare of Jackson's three children. The performer has accused Bashir of being a "salacious ratings-chaser," according to published accounts.

While the two-hour Fox program fell about 13 million shy of the more than 27 million ABC secured on the same night a week earlier with the Bashir documentary, it was Fox's biggest Thursday audience in four years.

ABC and Storyline Productions shut down production on their remake of "Fiddler on the Roof" in Prague yesterday, citing the threat of war.

Storyline's Craig Zadan told The TV Column that the project, which was scheduled to air on ABC during the February 2004 sweeps, has been postponed but not scrapped.

"The dollar has changed so drastically, in the last two weeks we've lost in the exchange rate $250,000" on "Fiddler," Zadan said. "It could be half a million shortly and then a million. We were also told we had to get war insurance in case they bomb Iraq and we have to shut down. Plus, we would have had to have an incredible amount of security -- real security -- because they think there are a lot of sleeper cells in Prague, and this is a Jewish show. We'd have to have military security."

"Fiddler," set in a peasant village in Russia in 1905, is the story of the Jewish dairyman Tevye and his effort to preserve his family's traditions in a changing world. (Storyline had cast in the lead role Victor Garber, who played Mayor George Shinn in the company's redo of "The Music Man," Sid Luft in the highly rated "Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows" and Daddy Warbucks in the remake of "Annie" -- all for ABC.) "We were getting more and more nervous about the reports we were getting," Zadan added. "We decided, let's wait a couple of months and see . . . what kind of a world we have then."

Storyline had planned to produce a remake of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" for 2005. Instead it's pushing up development on that program for next year.

"We wouldn't go to a place like Prague," Zadan said. "We'd go to Canada, where we don't have any of these problems."

CBS News's "Early Show" averaged more than 3 million viewers for the fifth consecutive week last week.

That may not sound like much, but this is the first time the morning infotainment show has posted that large a number for that long in more than four years. Last week, "The Early Show" averaged 3.04 million viewers, compared with 2.5 million in the same week last year.

The Michael Jackson "Footage You Were Never Meant to See" nevertheless was seen by 14 million Fox viewers on Thursday.