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Nov 2, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Posted Friday, Nov. 2, at 10:30 a.m. (PT); last updated at 4:35 p.m.

ABC’s ‘Bob Patterson’ gets the ax

Add another name to the list of post-“Seinfeld” sitcom casualties. ABC has canceled the Jason Alexander-led sitcom “Bob Patterson” after five weeks on the air and a move two weeks ago from 9 p.m. (ET) Tuesday to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday. Since its move, “Patterson” improved slightly in the ratings, but its 3.8 rating/9 share average in adults 18 to 49 still dropped almost one-third of its “Drew Carey Show” lead-in (5.3/13), said an ABC spokesman.

In “Patterson’s” place, ABC will be scheduling repeats of “Drew Carey” for the through the November sweeps. Coming out of the sweeps, it is expected that ABC could schedule the critically received Denis Leary sitcom “The Job” to take over the Wednesday slot — though the ABC spokesman said no decision has yet been made.

Mr. Alexander’s departure comes one season after fellow “Seinfeld” alumnus Michael Richards saw his NBC sitcom pink-slipped. In recent weeks, NBC went so far as to air promotional spots featuring Jerry Seinfeld playfully prodding viewers to watch Mr. Alexander’s ill-fated sitcom. Nonetheless, the Peacock Network is pushing on with the development of Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ projected fall 2002 sitcom “23:13” (also under the working title of “23 Minutes and 12 Seconds in the Life of Eleanor Riggs.”

November sweeps kicks off with NBC win: For the first night of the November sweeps (Nov. 1), NBC’s “Friends”-fueled Thursday lineup asserted its dominance again, despite stiff competition from Fox’s Game 5 of the World Series and CBS’s “Survivor”/”CSI”-charged lineup. NBC exhibited surprising resiliency, not only winning the night in adults 18 to 49, households and total viewers but also posting week to week growth in all of categories.

An original episode of “Friends” at 8 p.m. (ET) charged out of the gates with a top-ranked 13.5 rating/33 share in adults 18 to 49, moving up 8 percent over it previous week’s average (12.5/33), according to final Nielsen Media Research national data. “Friends” also managed 4 percent ratings growth in households (16.8/25) and 6 percent in total viewers (26.9 million) en route to being the most-watched program of the evening.

In the 8:30 p.m. slot, a repeat of “Friends” also took the top rank in adults 18 to 49 (11.3/26), managing 84 percent lead-in retention and a 38 percent spike over what the now-on-hiatus “Inside Schwartz” managed in last week’s time slot (8.2/20). The double pumping of “Friends” episodes, averaging a 12.4/29 in adults 18 to 49 for the hour, managed a commanding 59 percent advantage over CBS’s fourth weekly outing of “Survivor: Africa” (7.8/18). After experiencing growth last week, “Survivor III” was down 3 percent in adults 18 to 49, 7 percent in households (11.2/16 vs. 12.1/19) and 6 percent in total viewers (18.7 million vs. 20.4 million) — possibly due in part to Fox’s airing of the World Series.

Even the World Series appeared to face some night-to-night erosion in counter-reaction to NBC and CBS’s somewhat entrenched lineups. Fox’s 8:30 p.m.-to-12:40 a.m. telecast, which featured the New York Yankees’ second-consecutive extra-innings win over the Arizona Diamondbacks, was down 8 percent in households from the previous night’s Game 4 telecast (14.4/24 vs. 15.8/27). Similarly, Game 5 of the series dropped 13 percent in adults 18 to 49 (7.4/20) and 10 percent in total viewers (21.2 million) from the night before.

In particular, NBC’s 9 p.m.-to-10 p.m. comedies “Will & Grace” (10.2/22) and “Just Shoot Me” (8.7/13) improved 12 percent and 9 percent week to week, respectively, because of “Friends'” double-dose lead-in. CBS’s “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” (8.7/19) came in second for the hour in adults 18 to 49 (down 3 percent week to week) but won the hour in households (14.5/21) and total viewers (23.1 million) — though it was down by single-digit percentages week to week.

Due to increased viewership for the latter innings of the World Series matchup, NBC’s “ER” dipped 9 percent week to week, although it still won adults 18 to 49 (12.4/30) by handsome margins over CBS and Fox. CBS’s “The Agency” was down 6 percent in adults 18 to 49 (3.3/8) and 8 percent in households (6.5/10).

Overall, NBC came out winning the first Thursday of the sweeps with 6 percent growth in adults 18 to 49 (11.4/26), 6 percent in households (14.4/21) and 5 percent in total viewers (22.2 million). CBS was down 4 percent in adults 18 to 49 (6.6/15), minus 8 percent in households (10.8/16) and down 6 percent in total viewers (17.1 million) on a week to week basis.

Including the 8 p.m.-to-8:30 p.m. World Series pregame, Fox finished second in households (12.8/20) and third in adults 18 to 49 (6.1/15), down night by night but up more than twofold over last week’s limp airing of the movie “Varsity Blues.”

ABC’s 8 p.m.-to-10 p.m. “United We Stand” relief concert was flat in adults 18 to 49 (2.7/6) vs. time period averages and was followed by a 42 percent week to week drop in newsmagazine “PrimeTime Thursday” (2.7/7). ABC finished the night down 18 percent week to week in adults 18 to 49 (2.7/6).

Murdoch not expecting second chance for Hughes bid: News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch said Friday he is not “holding his breath” for a second chance to bid for Hughes Electronics after the company announced plans to merge with EchoStar earlier this week. Having conducted extensive due diligence on Hughes’ financial books, Mr. Murdoch said the new merger partners could face stiff challenges such as lowering churn and a cancellation rate of more than 20 percent. He said he will discuss with Liberty Media Chairman John Malone, 20 percent owner in News Corp., ways that News Corp.’s Sky Global can work with Liberty’s newly acquired cable companies in Germany. Mr. Murdoch made his remarks following BSkyB’s annual shareholders meeting in London.

NAB says dual carriage unnecessary during DTV transition: The National Association of Broadcasters TV board Friday morning approved a plan that could free cable operators from any obligation to carry both the analog and digital signals of broadcasters during the transition to DTV. NAB has been lobbying long and hard for such so-called “dual carriage.” But the concept has failed to gain traction in Congress or at the Federal Communications Commission.

Under NAB’s new total carriage plan, cable operators would continue to be obliged to carry the analog signals of broadcasters during the transition. But they would only have to start carrying the DTV signals after the transition. In addition, however, operators would have to carry all of the information on the broadcaster’s DTV signal and ensure that all of their subscribers are capable of receiving it. In a statement, the NAB TV board also said it had directed the association staff to try to attempt to negotiate a deal that would ensure that all new TV sets include DTV tuners and that cable equipment is compatible with broadcast DTV needs.

One broadcast industry source said the board’s move signaled its willingness to dump dual carriage if other industries affected by the transition are also willing to give some ground. Said Paul Karpowicz, NAB TV board chairman and a vice president for Lin Television, “Broadcasters are willing to negotiate to try to get something done and to move the transition forward.”#

(c) Copyright 2001 by Crain Communications