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James Hibberd



When Newsmagazines Eat Their Own

September 10, 2007 2:44 PM

ABC’s “20/20” season premiere Friday aired an investigation of competitor NBC’s journalistically icky and oft-parodied “To Catch a Predator” segments on “Dateline.”

Before the ratings result, first some context: Comparing the average performance of the two shows is tricky since “20/20” only airs Fridays while “Dateline” airs Tuesdays, Saturdays and is used to plug holes throughout the week. Suffice to say, last season’s 33 “20/20” airings tended to average higher than the 72 “Dateline” outings—except when the NBC show included a “Predator” segment (those episodes of “Dateline” matched the “20/20” average of a 2.5 rating among adults 18 to 49).

So does this mean “20/20,” in a journalistically icky act all their own, went after “Dateline” in hopes of taking the wind out their competitor’s most popular segment? Or just figured the “Predator” issue is a fair-game story, and that maybe some “Dateline” loyalists could be lured to their premiere?

Whatever the intent, the result failed to bump the Nielsens. Though “20/20” won Friday as the highest rated show, the series was on par with last week’s episode and down 24 percent from last year’s premiere.

Elsewhere this weekend, the ratings drama was minimal.

After ABC’s Friday win, the network also won Saturday with NASCAR Nextel Cup (2.5).
On Sunday, NBC easily dominated thanks to Sunday Night Football with the New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys (6.7), which was down 24 percent from last year’s match between the Giants and Indianapolis Colts. Also, CBS’s “Big Brother” (3.0) rebounded from last week to have its highest-rated Sunday of the season.

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