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Fall Broadcast Preview

Aug 27, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Before the 2001-02 prime-time schedules came together last May, there was widespread pessimism about the season even getting off the ground. Threatened actors and writers strikes gave way to the harsh realities of a worldwide advertising slump, costing the networks and their vertically integrated conglomerates more than $1 billion in lost upfront ad revenues.
Poof! Those unpleasantries aside, the 2001-02 prime-time schedule is actually getting off on time for the first time in two years–free of delays caused by the Olympics, presidential elections and debates. Yet the lone wolf, Fox, is going to use its first-time sole rights to the Major League Baseball playoffs and the World Series to promote its staggered fall rollout of shows in an effort to break through the early-season clutter.
Ultimately, though, legions of industry watchers are anticipating the 2001-02 season will be one of the most competitive and hard-fought races in years. Almost every night of the week shapes up as a battleground, with the exception of low HUT-level Saturday evenings, which may be best left to Fox and CBS to carve up what’s left of the younger and older audience demos.
Scripted dramas again dominate the network landscape, with almost everything from Fox’s “24” to CBS’s “The Education of Max Bickford” being viewed as legitimate time period players. As for the embattled comedy genre, hope springs eternal that shows like The WB’s “Maybe It’s Me” and “Reba,” Fox’s “Undeclared” and NBC’s “Scrubs” can bust up the “cookie-cutter” label attached to most sitcoms these days.
And then there’s the growing cultural and legal phenomenon known as the reality/alternative series genre. Dusting aside the legal skirmishes over CBS’s “Survivor” and Fox’s “Temptation Island” (among others), limited-run entrants such as CBS’s “Amazing Race,” NBC’s “Fear Factor” and ABC’s “The Runner” and “Mole II” could play a critical role in tipping the balance of ratings power toward any of the networks.
Here are industry insiders’ answers to Electronic Media’s “10 Burning Questions” for the 2001-02 season:
1. What night presents the biggest battle among the networks, and are there any particular programs that might benefit or suffer significantly because of their time slots?
Most industry watchers think Tuesday night, once considered an easy win for ABC with its “NYPD Blue”-fueled lineup, will be the biggest battleground for ratings supremacy. Nine new shows have been added to the evening, six series have been shuttled into new time periods and UPN’s grab of former WB stalwarts “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Roswell” further complicates the picture.
“There is something for everyone, but Tuesday could be a bloodletting for the networks,” said Andrew Donchin, senior vice president and director of national broadcast buying for New York-based agency Carat USA. “There just seems to be a confluence of new shows and established series that will be vying for viewer sampling and loyalty that night.”
Perhaps the greatest unknown is the 9 p.m. battle among three new dramas–Fox’s “24,” CBS’s “The Guardian” and The WB’s “Smallville.” Tuesdays will also feature comedy competition pitting ABC’s new “Bob Patterson” and “Spin City” against NBC’s “Frasier” and rookie “Scrubs.”
The unique nature of “24,” a presidential assassination plot drama that in each week’s hour-long episode covers–in real time–one hour of a 24-hour period of the characters’ lives, drew rave reviews, but pundits wondered whether viewers will dedicate themselves to watching a serialized drama in such a format.
“I do worry if `24′ could be too smart for the public, because it is going to require some dedicated viewing without missing some the intricacies and clues to unravel the assassination plot,” said Paul Schulman, president of the New York office of agency Advanswers PHD. However, Mr. Schulman said the 8 p.m.-to-9 p.m. lead-in scheduling of Fox’s proven “That ’70s Show,” along with “promising” new college comedy “Undeclared,” could translate to “24” capping off the night with wins in the key adults 18 to 49 or 18 to 34 demographics.
“There is no question that Tuesday will be one of the most newly competitive nights of the season,” said Fox Entertainment Group President Gail Berman. “But we also feel confident because of [the] amazing [ratings] growth story for `That ’70s Show’ and the favorable early reviews for `Undeclared.”’
At the two ends of the age spectrum, The WB’s “Smallville” and CBS’s “The Guardian” could allow those networks to make gains in their traditional stronghold demos.
ABC and NBC, say various sources, could be the most challenged in preventing further erosion in their one-two positions in adults 18 to 49 on Tuesdays last season. In the 8 p.m.-to-9 p.m. time slots, NBC is leading off with its unproven “Emeril” sitcom, pairing it with modest midseason performer “Three Sisters.” Those entries may further weaken “Frasier’s” hold on the 9 p.m. time period, damaging prospects for the Peacock’s well-received “Scrubs” hospital comedy.
“To have `Emeril’ start your night and have no other established shows–if you can call `Three Sisters’ that–it is going to be interesting to see what kind of negative effect that has on `Frasier,’ which was forced into a programming island last season,” said Laura Caraccioli, vice president and director of programming for Leo Burnett Agency’s buying arm, Starcom Media. “Much to NBC’s credit, they have a habit of sticking with sitcoms, and it could be `Scrubs’ showing the most long-term promise.”
Jeff Zucker, president of NBC Entertainment, said, “I do think the `Emeril’ that people see this fall will be quite different from what was in the original pilot.” Mr. Zucker noted the addition of Robert Urich to the cast and behind-the-scenes changes. “`Three Sisters’ established itself as a strong lead-out prospect coming out of `Frasier,’ and we’re particularly high on `Scrubs’ now building from its lead-in this fall,” Mr. Zucker added.
Some ad buyers expressed concern about ABC moving “Dharma & Greg” and “What About Joan” down to 8 p.m. to place its Jason Alexander-led “Bob Patterson” and “Spin City” up against NBC’s “Frasier” and “Scrubs.”
“I just don’t think `Bob Patterson’ will work on Tuesday,” Mr. Schulman said. “Jason Alexander is a great comedic talent as a supporting player, but, like Michael Richards, I think he might have a hard time shaking off his George Costanza [from NBC’s `Seinfeld’] persona.”
Stu Bloomberg, co-chairman of ABC Television Entertainment Group, acknowledged that ABC’s historical hold on Tuesday in the adults 18 to 49 demo is going to be “up for grabs.” But he stressed that critics “should not take `Bob Patterson’ lightly.”
“I know it is going to be tough going up against `Frasier,’ but watch out for `Bob Patterson,”’ said Mr. Bloomberg, who noted several cast additions and producer changes in the sitcom about a motivational speaker. “We do think that `Dharma & Greg,’ `What About Joan’ and `Spin City’ will help protect and nurture `Bob Patterson,’ as time often plays a factor in growing sitcoms.”
There may also be somewhat of a comfort factor in play with “Philly” going into ABC’s 10 p.m.-to-11 p.m. time slot. Another highly visible battle will take place between The WB’s “Gilmore Girls” and UPN’s newcomer, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” which UPN won from The WB with a controversial $2.3 million-per-episode bid.
The critical outpouring for “Gilmore Girls” was offset by the fact that it was in one of the toughest time periods (8 p.m. Thursday) to gain viewers, but some industry watchers think it will broaden its appeal beyond teen girls and young women next season in the opening Tuesday slot. However, ad buyers such as Initiative Media’s Tim Spengler still give “Buffy” an edge in adults 18 to 49, while predicting “Gilmore Girls” will win in teens next season.
2. What nights are totally up for grabs?
Critics and ad executives think Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings co
uld each be up for grabs among the networks in households and key demos. Of the three, Friday evening may be the most open for the spoils.
NBC is seen maintaining its hold in households and adults 18 to 49, with “Providence” and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” bookending the 9 p.m.-to-10 p.m. airings of “Dateline.” But some ad buyers think ABC could make inroads–minus an airing of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”–with the reality series “The Mole II” and new drama “Thieves” possibly taking the younger demos.
“ABC should considerably improve its young demographic position with `Mole II’ and `Thieves,”’ Mr. Schulman said.
“I was pleasantly surprised by `Thieves’ and enjoyed the playful chemistry between John Stamos and Melissa George,” USA Today TV critic Robert Bianco said. “However, it has to be more than just cute, because these kinds of caper comedies are hard to maintain, especially in a dramatic form.”
One of the nagging concerns, though, is if the two shows do skew younger in adults, then how will they flow into the 10 p.m. run of adult-oriented “Once & Again?”
In a controversial scheduling move, though, “Once & Again” shifts from last season’s 10 p.m. Tuesday berth to Friday in place of long-running newsmagazine “20/20,” which will share the 10 p.m. Wednesday slot with “NYPD Blue” this season. The absence of “20/20” on Friday could let CBS’s “48 Hours” newsmagazine claim the older adult demos the former has historically owned in the slot.
“I’m a huge fan of `Once & Again’ but I’m not sure if it’s worth moving a staple like `20/20′ for trying to salvage a show that has had three seasons to prove it can grow in the ratings,” Starcom’s Ms. Caracciolli said. “I think that `48 Hours’ [has] a golden opportunity to break out if it pops some major news features.”
Wednesday could also present a unique opportunity for CBS and UPN to claim sizable viewing stakes. The general consensus is that NBC will still win upscale adults 18 to 49 demos with “Ed,” “The West Wing” and “Law & Order.” But there is some sentiment that CBS’s “Amazing Race,” framed by “60 Minutes II” and “Wolf Lake,” could put chinks in NBC’s young-demo armor.
“`West Wing’ will be the household winner, but the early start [Sept. 5] of `Amazing Race’ could really present an opportunity for it to win the adults 18 to 49 demo,” Advanswers PHD’s Mr. Schulman said. “If [“Amazing Race”] really breaks out it could fuel `Wolf Lake’ in the younger demos, but I don’t think the latter could ever get near `Law & Order.’ The one that could really get hurt at 10 o’clock will be [ABC’s] `NYPD Blue’ having to start later [in November] against the full-swing buzz saw of `Law & Order.”
Mr. Schulman said Monday could also be up for grabs in certain demos.
“NBC has improved its Monday position in young adults with `Weakest Link,’ and `Crossing Jordan’ could be a sleeper,” he said. “Fox will continue to see `Boston Public’ and `Ally McBeal’ hold young females and CBS’s comedies will win households once ABC ends `Monday Night Football’ at the beginning of the year. `Millionaire’ will also be the strongest lead-in that football has had in years. And UPN’s comedies are still a strong, viable alternative with the urban demos, while `7th Heaven’ will hold its broad family viewing base–although I don’t know if its pairing with `Angel’ will make for heavenly flow.”
3. Which show is most likely to be canceled first, to be a breakout hit or to be a sleeper hit?
The top five vote getters for likely early cancellation, in no particular order, are CBS’s “Danny,” NBC’s “Emeril” and “Inside Schwartz,” The WB’s “Raising Dad” and ABC’s “Bob Patterson.”
“I would put `Danny’ over `Emeril’ as the earliest cancellation,” said Ms. Caracciolli. “I think CBS made a bit more of a prescient move in dropping the `American Wreck’ title to spare it from suffering the slings and arrows from TV critics when it is canceled. I really can’t think of anything that was remotely funny or original in `Danny.”’
“The early money is on `Emeril’ to be canceled first,” added a New York-based station rep programmer, who requested anonymity. “He’s a great cook and great personality [on cable’s Food Network], but he’s not an actor, and I really don’t know if they can salvage that show.”
Mr. Bianco and Mr. Schulman came to the defense of “Emeril,” suggesting its executive producers, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and Harry Thomason, and Carsey-Werner-Mandabach have a long track record of successfully tweaking troubled sitcoms.
“I think that some reporters are too easily influenced by their sources, including critics, in rushing to a judgment before the finished product makes it to air,” Mr. Bianco said. “Emeril has a name in the market, and he carried himself well enough to think they can make some adjustments and add stronger supporting players to make a go of it.”
In terms of breakout hits, the serious money is on CBS’s “Amazing Race,” given the ongoing success rate for most reality-based competition series that are in the vein of “Survivor.” Among scripted series, Fox’s “24” is being picked as the breakout drama. In comedies, the race appears to be a tossup between NBC’s “Scrubs” and Fox’s “Undeclared.” But insiders note that comedies have faced challenges in recent years in getting strong initial sampling.
Opinions vary on the potential sleeper series. On the comedy side, there has been some mention of WB’s Friday sitcoms “Maybe It’s Me” and “Reba,” while Fox’s 9:30 Wednesday entry “The Bernie Mac Show” has drawn favorable mention as a dysfunctional take on “The Cosby Show.”
4. Will CBS wrest Thursday nights from NBC this season?
It may be asking a lot of CBS Television Network President Leslie Moonves to top his deft move of scheduling “Survivor: The Australian Outback” and the biggest 2000-01 breakout hit, “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” against NBC’s long-vaunted “Must See TV” lineup last season. Though NBC’s lineup held its perennial lead in adults 18 to 49, households and total viewers for the night, its aging “Friends” comedy did not hold the young demo against CBS’s “Survivor”-fueled onslaught, and “CSI” grabbed adults 25 to 54 and households away from the Peacock’s “Will & Grace” and “Just Shoot Me.”
“On a year-to-year basis, `Friends’ largely maintained its young demo positions, so `Survivor’ had minimal impact on us,” NBC’s Mr. Zucker said. However, with the ill-fated “The Weber Show” being the latest in a long string of 8:30 p.m. duds leading out of “Friends,” NBC still looked bruised and battered.
This season, ad buyers are estimating that “Survivor: Africa” and “CSI” will average 20-plus shares in households, with those shows serving as springboards to CBS’s premiere of “The Agency” at 10 p.m. Thursday. Earning favorable kudos from critics, “The Agency” is projected to get a 13 share in households by Initiative Media’s Mr. Spengler and other ad buyers, but it is expected to get less than half “ER’s” estimated 24 share average.
Nevertheless, ad buyer projections have CBS’s three hours averaging about a 19 share for the night, good enough to beat NBC’s projected 17 share average by about 12 percent in households–even though the Peacock really only cares about holding its ground in adults 18 to 49.
“NBC is going to win Thursday night in the key adult demos, but Les [Moonves] is going to keep making inroads in the demos for the first two hours, regardless of what `The Agency’ does at 10 o’clock,” Ms. Caraccioli said. “`ER’ is the one piece of the puzzle to put NBC over, but they still have to be concerned if `Friends’ is ending its run next season and [NBC] still has no answer to its 8:30 p.m. Thursday woes as well.”
5. Will “Inside Schwartz” break NBC’s 8:30 p.m. Thursday time-slot jinx? If not, what other show would have a better chance to hold “Friends”’ lead-in and bolster NBC’s “Must See TV” lineup?
Industry watchers could call NBC’s nearly decade-long 8:30 p.m. Thursday loss of viewers Retention Def
icit Disorder. Sources are not so sure “Inside Schwartz” will be the antidote the network needs, however. “The idea of using a referee to score sexual advances, having the star talk directly to the camera, offering no real point of view and having no supporting cast makes `Inside Schwartz’ a pretty hopeless one-note proposition,” Mr. Bianco said. “It’s not offensive, but it is `Single Guy’ and `Conrad Bloom’ all over again. The corporate pabulum crap NBC has put on 8:30 [p.m.] Thursday has weakened the slot so bad that it will probably give CBS the night, and it will serve NBC right for doing so.”
With ad buyers projecting that “Inside Schwartz” will drop more than 25 percent from “Friends”’ lead-in share, there have been only a few industry watchers bold enough to guess what show would fare any better in the time slot.
Ms. Caraccioli said it “may make more sense” to schedule “Three Sisters” after “Friends,” but she also noted that the midseason entry had some trouble holding “`Frasier’s” lead-in last season. Rob Owen, TV critic for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, said “Inside Schwartz” is “not as bad” as other recent 8:30 p.m. Thursday attempts, but nonetheless thought “Scrubs” probably “deserves the time slot more.” One station rep source jokingly suggested a second run of “Frasier” in the post-“Friends” slot would make up for the show being “stranded” on Tuesday.
6. Which network looks like it has the chance for the most improvement going into the new season–from a ratings and creative standpoint?
Fox and CBS are most likely to improve their standings this season, said sources. It’s not just what these networks are planning for fall 2001 but what they have in development for midseason, and the reality-based-series stunting they have done, that has gained industry watchers’ attention.
Fox, which has had success in recent years planting such midseason comedies as “Malcolm in the Middle” and “Titus,” is finding that a pair of new comedies, “Andy Richter Controls The Universe” and “Nathan’s Choice,” in addition to new drama “Emma Brody,” is already getting some good advance buzz.
Mr. Schulman believes “Emma Brody” has a shot at gaining early sampling with Fox’s planned insertion of the drama for six weeks in “Ally McBeal’s” 9 p.m. Monday time slot starting in March.
“`Emma’ has one of the most charming, captivating leads [Arija Bareikis] and should have no problem keeping the time period warm for `Ally’ if not possibly do[ing] better,” Mr. Schulman said.
As Mr. Schulman and others are quick to point out, Fox has its turn with Super Bowl XXXVI next January and could use its post-game time period to springboard the new “Andy Richter” and “Nathan’s Choice” comedies. In fact, a few sources think Fox could eventually use the new pair to plug what is seen as the only weak spots on Fox’s prime-time lineup at 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday or Thursday.
Other than that, consensus among sources is that Fox may have the strongest freshman crop for next season.
“It’s tremendously gratifying to hear TV critics and others say we had the best development, and we do feel optimistic about the future,” Fox’s Ms. Berman said, adding, “But it is all about finding those strategic areas where we need to address some needs on our schedule [Wednesday and Thursday]. It really is about putting one foot forward at [a] time.”
On the other hand, CBS is aggressively scheduling a pair of sweeps-driven runs for “Survivor” and “Amazing Race” this season. “Survivor: Africa” starts in September and will air through the November sweeps, and “Survivor 4” will likely start in March and run through the May 2002 sweeps. After “Amazing Race” ends its first run in November, a second flight of the show is expected to start in February or March 2002.
CBS’ “Survivor,” in tandem with “CSI,” could help drive viewers to other CBS midseason entries with its promotional clout. “Amazing Race” and “First Monday” could get first priority.
Sources also have high hopes for CBS’ 9 p.m. Sunday drama, “The Education of Max Bickford,” and the 9 p.m. Saturday entry, “Citizen Baines.”
“Creatively, what CBS has done with `Amazing Race’ looks great, and `Max Bickford’ and `Citizen Baines’ seemed blessed with strong writing,” Ms. Caraccioli said.
7. What happens if UPN cancels a show, given it has little in development and has spent much of its budget outbidding The WB for “Buffy” and “Roswell”?
Believe it or not, sources believe that UPN is in surprisingly good shape–despite the recent charges of scenes in its “Manhunt” summer reality series having been rigged. Because UPN has programming only five nights a week for only two hours each night, industry pundits see very few gaps emerging in that network’s schedule.
“Can you say another night of `Buffy’?” joked Alesia Redding, a TV critic for The South Bend (Ind.) Tribune.
UPN is still without a programming chief (with Tom Nunan’s departure this summer), but the Viacom-owned network stepped up big for “Buffy” and “Roswell,” which should solidify its Tuesday schedule. And the “Star Trek” prequel “Enterprise” is seen as having a shot at boosting UPN’s Wednesday ratings presence–though 9 p.m. lead-out “Special Unit 2” is seen as potential weak link.
Ad buyers also still crow about UPN’s Monday comedy lineup providing a viable alternative in the urban demographics. Thursday’s “WWF Smackdown!” is a guaranteed draw in the young male demographics. That leads ad buyers to think Friday night’s movie showcase is the only movable franchise, but if UPN emulates what it did on Tuesday nights last season, it could be in fine shape there as well.
While UPN has not been as active in development, ad buyers like Mr. Schulman point to some carryover midseason development projects, such as Steven King’s “Dead Zone.” Depending what happens from the fallout on “Manhunt,” UPN has the family-stranded-on-an-island “Rebuilding Your Life” in the wings.
8. Is it possible The WB will have a show it can finally call a “homegrown” comedy hit?
Heavy on a historical diet of hard-to-repeat serialized dramas throughout its six-year history, The WB beat all the networks with 17 comedies in development–a record five of which were added to its fall 2001 schedule. As mentioned above, The WB’s Friday insertions of “Maybe It’s Me” and “Reba” have been met with favorable reviews, but the reaction was a bit more mixed on “Raising Dad.”
“There should be a chance to get favorable lead-in spin coming out of `Sabrina’ for `Maybe It’s Me,’ which I thought was very cute and kind of a female version of `Malcolm in the Middle,”’ Mr. Schulman said. “But I have to wonder if `Reba,’ given the way it deals with a philandering husband and a pregnant daughter, may be too adult coming out of those shows. I am really concerned about the humor in `Reba’ and the lack of it in `Raising Dad.”’
Mr. Donchin wonders if The WB is “playing it smart” by trying to emulate ABC’s one-time “TGIF” format, taking into account the network dropped the all-family sitcom lineup two years ago because adult viewers were abandoning the shows in large numbers. “If they can re-establish that audience, though, it could be real winner, given the quality of the first three sitcoms going in there,” he said.
“We’re confident about what we have done on Friday nights, because anytime you can target families and young adults when no else is doing [that] on the night, it’s worth taking the bet that it will work,” said The WB’s Mr. Levin. “We also believe that Reba is a star whose appeal cuts across many types of viewers. Her appeal is authentic in the way she deals with real-life situations and problems, and that’s why we feel we’ll have a show with fun, broad, family appeal.”
The WB’s Sunday night strategy, using TBS’s “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” to lead into comedy “Steve Harvey,” then “Men Women & Dogs,” “Nicki” and “Off Centre,” is seen by some as strange programming flow.
“Aside from basically repurposing a marginal
cable show [”Believe It or Not”], I don’t know for any reason why they have stuck with `Nikki’ and placed `Steve Harvey’ in an unfamiliar position. … It’s going to be a tough night for The WB.”
9. Will ABC be able to revive its younger-demo profile by cutting “Who Wants to Be Millionaire” in half to two exposures each week?
There is a broad consensus from the advertising community that the halving of “Millionaire” episodes, combined with the inclusion of new younger-skewing dramas like “Alias,” “Thieves” and “Philly,” will shave some years off ABC’s median age this season. In fact, Initiative Media’s Mr. Spengler is projecting that ABC will cut as much as two years from its median age year to year.
“That span of `Millionaire’ going up to four nights certainly played a major factor in aging ABC’s audience profile, but their successful introduction of midseason comedies like `My Wife & Kids,’ `What About Joan’ and `The Job’ proved they were capable of minimizing that effect later into the season,” Mr. Spengler said. “Combined with the fact they had time to develop some strong new fall dramas in `Alias’ and `Thieves,’ ABC should again be in a stronger position to compete with Fox for second or third place in adults 18 to 49 this coming season.”
By ABC cutting “Millionaire’s” exposures in half, Mr. Bloomberg thinks the 8 p.m. Monday and 9 p.m. Thursday airings will serve to “reinvigorate” the show’s profile in the younger demos this season.
“It really has been a case of where `Millionaire’ went from being phenomenal to a great show for us, in terms of the demo ratings and overall household numbers in its first two seasons,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “We love the job `Millionaire’ has done for us, and we could not be here without it, but we do think the uniqueness of it will return in the young demos with the special airing on Monday as well as the traditional run on Thursdays.”
10. Will Fox or ABC catch up to NBC in the adults 18 to 49 demo race and will CBS win households and total viewers?
If Fox wants to catch the hare … um, the Peacock, a lot is going to depend on the combined strength of its fall and midseason shows, in terms of it capitalizing on the promotional platforms of the Major League Baseball playoffs and the National Football League’s Super Bowl XXXVI. Industry watchers from all corners of media think NBC is still in the driver’s seat, and it is that network’s season to win or lose in the key demographic.
Although Fox will be the only network to stagger its fall 2001 debut from September through November, various industry watchers feel Fox will not be in a disadvantageous position because of its first-time sole carriage of the Major League Baseball playoffs and World Series.
“With the fact that a lot of the networks’ shows start in the third week in September [Nielsen Media Research recognizes Sept. 17 as the start of the 2001-02 season] and that there’s no Olympics, it could still work in Fox’s favor to stagger its debuts as a way to break through the clutter,” Mr. Schulman said.
As much as industry pundits like the strength of Fox’s freshman series crop, there are still widely perceived weaknesses in its Wednesday and Thursday schedules. But it is considered a possibility that Fox could add Tuesday to its Sunday and Monday wins in the young-adult demos.
NBC has made gains on Monday with the spring/summer 2001 planting of “Weakest Link” in the 8 p.m. time slot. Additionally, ad buyers think NBC could significantly improve its 9 p.m.-to-11 p.m. Sunday position with “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” and “UC: Undercover,” although both could find it tough competing against ABC’s “Alias” and perennial time period winner “The Practice.”
“I think that NBC has the most to lose, particularly on Thursday and Sunday, but I think they’ll still pull through with the win [in adults 18 to 49] for the season,” Ms. Caraccioli said. “It is always hardest to stay No. 1, because it’s always the No. 2 or No. 3 networks that have a goal in sight and try a bit harder. Jeff Zucker still has his challenges ahead, because somewhere NBC lost its way when it comes to comedy development.”
Hands down, sources think Fox will maintain its crown in adults 18 to 34 and teens. It could be CBS, though, that holds the next massappeal hits in “Amazing Race,” “Max Bickford” or “The Agency.”
“I do subscribe to the belief that any of the networks are one or two hits away from making their season,” Mr. Donchin said. “All it takes is for one network to come up with the next `Survivor’ or `CSI’ for them to win in households and some demographics.”