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Competing Networks Brace for 'Idol' Wave

November 30, 2008 8:40 PM

Networks used to view January as a time to regroup and relaunch, setting aside the failures of the fall. Now the new year is all about one thing: Avoiding getting crushed by the return of Fox’s “American Idol.” “We anxiously await its arrival,” NBC scheduling chief Mitch Metcalf joked last week.

American Idol

Having long ago given up trying to beat the singing show tsunami, programmers these days aim merely for survival—usually via counterprogramming. NBC, repeating a strategy that worked OK last year, plans to enlist “The Biggest Loser” to fight the Tuesday edition of “Idol.” The network currently is set to sacrifice struggling drama “Knight Rider” against “Idol’s” Wednesday results show, perhaps hoping that young men will find a talking car preferable to Paula Abdul’s histrionics. ABC hasn’t yet said what it plans to air against the 8 p.m. Tuesday “Idol,” though there’s been industry speculation that the network might schedule the new male-skewing reality show “Border Security” in the slot. Wednesdays at 8 remain a mystery for ABC now that “Pushing Daisies” is set to go away. Don’t be surprised if “Lost” repeats end up in the slot for at least a few weeks. As for CBS, it traditionally has been hurt the least by Hurricane “Idol,” thanks to its schedule of older-skewing crime dramas. The network is sticking with red-hot “NCIS” on Tuesdays, and odds are comedies will remain at 8 p.m. on Wednesdays. The network that fears “Idol” most? The CW, which goes after the young females who make up the core of the “Idol” audience. Executives at The CW will be praying that new Tuesday success “90210” can hold up against Fox’s reality monster.

—Josef Adalian

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