WB and CBS bringing out their big guns

Oct 15, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Among the last of the broadcast networks to premiere new fall-season programming, The WB and CBS finally had something to really brag about last week, courtesy of strong openings for “Gilmore Girls” and “Survivor: Africa.”
Midway through week 3 of the 2001-02 season, The WB, in particular, found that its core females 12 to 34 and teen demographic ratings are up 14 percent and 26 percent, respectively, over the year-ago period, according to Nielsen Media Research national data. Thanks to reinvigorated strength for its Monday-through-Wednesday lineup, The WB’s top-ranking 4.8 rating/13 share in females 12 to 34 and 4.4/14 in teens have again bolstered the Frog’s profile in its core demos for the three-day period last week (Oct. 8 to 10).
“To see the growth in what is more of a competitive and disjointed environment [because of the delayed start of the season], as well as our numbers returning with females 12 to 34 and teens, is a very gratifying situation,” said Jordan Levin, The WB’s president of entertainment. “It looks like we’re bringing back teens, aging down the network and providing more female-to-male balance.”
Mr. Levin says he is most excited about some “key growth stories” for the Frog’s Monday, Tuesday and Friday nights early into the new season.
In particular, the two-hour Tuesday season opener of “Gilmore Girls” reached best-ever marks in women 12 to 34 (5.2/14), total viewers (6.6 million), female teens (7.7/23) and adults 18 to 49 (2.6/6). Most significantly, “Gilmore Girls” beat UPN’s combination of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Roswell”-both defectors from The WB-by 18 percent in adults 18 to 49 (2.6/6 vs. 2.2/5) and 33 percent in households (4.0/6 vs. 3.0/5) for the night.
“`Gilmore Girls’ was a tremendous boost to the schedule and is performing at or above what `Buffy’ did in the time period [last year] in most of our young demos-all the while increasing our [ad] revenues and decreasing our license-fee costs in the exchange,” Mr. Levin said. “It is the first time a network has bet on itself by letting a successful show [“Buffy”] leave instead of getting tied up in expensive, multiyear contracts. It may have looked like a mistake to do that, but as the [TV] industry is facing declining ad revenues and increasing licensing costs, it seemed like a prudent choice to make.”
The addition of “Buffy” and “Roswell,” according to UPN researchers, has elevated the network by 62 percent in viewers year to year (4.7 million vs. 2.9 million) and 83 percent in adults 18 to 49 (2.2/5 vs. 1.2/3). But the true test, say industry watchers, is how the “Buffy”/“Roswell” tandem serves as a promotional and ratings platform for UPN’s other evenings of programming. On that score, it does seem to have helped UPN successfully plant the 8 p.m. Wednesday “Star Trek” prequel “Enterprise,” which is still the top-rated freshman drama in adults 18 to 49 at a 5.1/13 average for its first three outings.
Over the first half of last week, UPN still boasted the largest improvements in its core young male demos, up 50 percent in men 18 to 34 (2.4/7 vs. 1.6/5) and 53 percent in males 12 to 34 (2.3/7 vs. 1.5/4) compared to the year-ago period.
However, it also appeared that The WB continued to broaden its lead in the key teen demos against UPN (4.4/14 vs. 2.3/8) last week-also thanks to the ongoing broad-based strength of Monday’s “7th Heaven” and move of “Angel” from 9 p.m. Tuesdays last season. “7th Heaven” continued its build, posting season bests last week in teens (7.0/22), persons 12 to 34 (4.4/13) and adults 18 to 49 (3.2/8). Yet The WB appears to have an Achilles’ heel with its 8 p.m. Thursday premiere of reality/romance series “Elimidate Deluxe,” which dropped 65 percent in adults 18 to 49 from the week-prior average for the stellar two-hour debut of “Charmed” (0.9/2 vs. 2.6/7).
Speaking of last Thursday, it was season opener of CBS’s “Survivor: Africa” and “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” that propelled the network to a slight 5 percent win in total viewers over NBC (23.2 million vs. 22.0 million)-as all of the networks were challenged by a 45-minute delay that evening to accommodate President Bush’s first prime-time news conference (8 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. ET).
The pushing back of the schedule made year-to-year comparisons difficult, but “Survivor III” still drew a capable 10.4/23 in adults 18 to 49, 13.2/19 in households and 23.8 million total viewers from 8:47 p.m. to 9:49 p.m. last Thursday. Airing in the similar frame, NBC’s “Friends” (14.8/33) and “Will & Grace” (10.5/23) won the hour in adults 18 to 49 (12.6/28)-although the latter, with a 29 percent lead-out dropoff, fared as poorly as “Inside Schwartz,” which was scrapped for the week, did in that slot.
CBS’s 9:50 p.m. to 10:50 p.m. run of “CSI” scored 88 percent and 96 percent lead-out retention scores in adults 18 to 49 (9.3/21) and total viewers (22.7 million) to close out the Eye’s night. “CSI” actually held a 5 percent advantage in head count vs. “ER’s” 21.6 million viewers in the 10:22 p.m. to 11:22 p.m. frame Thursday.
Overall, CBS’s invigorated “Survivor”/“CSI” lineup, which bumped “The Agency” last week, saw its scores move up 113 percent in adults 18 to 49 (9.8/22), 59 percent in households (13.3/20) and 81 percent in total viewers (23.2 million) over the previous Thursday. NBC, though down by single-digit percentages week to week, still won Thursday by a 17 percent margin in adults 18 to 49 (11.5/26) and 3 percent in households (13.9/21) over CBS.
Still, for the comparable four-day period week to week (Oct. 1-7 and Oct. 8-11), the “Survivor”/“CSI”-fueled lineup had CBS’s 5.3/13 score in adults 18 to 49 for last week tracking 20 percent ahead of its previous week’s 4.4/11 score. NBC, on the hand, saw its adults 18 to 49 score (6.6/16 vs. 7.2/18) drop 9 percent over the comparable weekly span.