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Sep 17, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Posted Tuesday, Sept. 17

‘Dr. Phil’ premieres to huge numbers

King World’s “Dr. Phil” was expected to get off to a strong start to the syndicated season-and it did, to say the least.

The freshman series opened Monday with a spectacular 5.2 rating/14 share to mark the syndication’s highest talk show debut since “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” The premiere rocketed up 6 share points from both its lead-in (a 2.6/8) and its October 2001 time-period average ( a 2.9/8), coming in first place in 35 of the 53 metered markets carrying the show.

Buena Vista’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” debuted in 44 metered markets yesterday, (following “Dr. Phil” in five of the top ten) to average its own hefty 3.1/7, which is down a share point from its lead-in (3.4/8) and running even with last October’s time period average (a 3.0/7).

Sony’s “Pyramid” premiered on 51 metered markets to earn a 2.1/5 average. That number is off a share form both October 2001 and lead-in. However, in Detroit, where WDIV-TV aired a special of the show at 8 p.m., the series earned first place honors with a 7.8/12.

Twentieth’s “The Rob Nelson Show” debuted in daytime slots in 50 markets to a 1.2/4 premiere average. The figure is down a share from both lead-in and October 2001 numbers. The strip fared best in Birmingham, Ala., where it earned a 3.1/8 on WBRC-TV.

Tribune’s launch of “Beyond With James Van Praagh” opened in 47 metered markets to a 0.8/3 average, off a share from lead-in and October 2001. “Beyond’s” best showing was in New Orleans, where it pulled a 4.2/12 at 1a.m. on WGNO-TV.

Two off-net strips also debuted, with Carsey-Werner-Mandabach’s “That ’70s Show” nabbing a 2.4/4, while Twentieth’s “The Hughley’s” earned a 1.5/3.

McEwen exits as ‘Early Show’ morphs: Weatherman-entertainment editor Mark McEwen is the next personality set to leave “The Early Show.” The date of his departure has not been locked in.

It is uncertain what will happen to weather segments under the morning show’s long-awaited format changes, which increasingly are expected to produce a format in which an ensemble shares segments, a la “The View” on ABC.Informed sources insisted that the ensemble will include former NBC Sports personality Hannah Storm and “Biography” host Harry Smith. Ms. Storm’s agent declined to comment, as did Mr. Smith’s attorney. The same sources say that “Early” news reader (and “Big Brother” host) Julie Chen also would be part of this “View”-ish ensemble.

Mr. McEwen survived each of the program’s numerous talent, format and title changes since he joined what was called “This Morning” as weather reporter in early 1987. He was given the additional title of popular music editor in 1988 and was named entertainment editor in 1992. He had been talking about branching out for some time, and he might yet end up doing other projects within the CBS or broader Viacom family, sources said.

“Mark McEwen, who has been a mainstay of our mornings on CBS for a record nearly 16 years, has finally decided to catch up on some sleep and pursue some adventures he’s been putting off for way too long,” CBS News President Andrew Heyward said in a statement released early Tuesday evening. “With significant changes under way on ‘The Early show,’ Mark is going off to tackle some projects that are close to his heart, including a book he’s been dying to write.

He has been waking up at ungodly hours for CBS — always with energy, warmth and humor — since January 1987. That’s an astonishingly long run in morning television equaled by very few — a testament to Mark’s talent, professionalism, and versatility.”

Jane Clayson only last week worked out her release from the show she began co-hosting three years ago with Bryant Gumbel, who left in May. After Sept. 27, Ms. Clayson will return to her roots as a reporter, with her work to be showcased in “Eye on America” segments on “The CBS Evening News” and on “48 Hours Investigates.” She also will become a substitute anchor for CBS News.

NBC’s ‘Files’ run boosts Court ratings: The repurposing of Court TV’s “Forensic Files” on NBC has paid off handsomely, driving record numbers of viewers back to Court and making the Sept. 12 “Forensic” episode on Court the single highest-rated telecast in the cable network’s history.

The episode, “A Bitter Pill to Swallow,” delivered a 1.8 household rating, attracting 1.77 million viewers.

With the episode as a tentpole, Court TV tallied a 1.2 rating in prime time for the night, putting it in ninth place among the ad-supported basic cable networks and in sixth and fifth, respectively, among adults 18-49 and adults 25-54.

“The record-setting ratings of the past few weeks indicate that Court TV’s marketing experiment with NBC has been an unqualified success for both networks,” Court TV CEO Henry Schleiff said in a statement.

NBC’s “Forensic” play averaged a 5.8 rating in its first four weeks, increasing its lead-in average by 27 percent, according to Court data.

Fiddick to Emmis International president: Radio industry veteran Paul W. Fiddick has become president of Emmis International. Mr. Fiddick, 52, had been assistant secretary for administration for the Bush administration’s Department of Agriculture from November 1999 through May 2001. He co-founded of Heritage Media Corporation in 1987 and was president of its radio division until it was sold in 1998. His earlier career also included four years as president of Multimedia, Inc.’s, 12-radio station operation, and positions on the boards of the National Association of Broadcasters (1983-99) and the Radio Advertising Bureau (1993-94).

‘MNF’ breaks ABC out of doldrums: After a near-summer-long ratings drought, struggling ABC was definitely ready for some football. For the 51st week of the 2001-02 season (Sept. 9-15), the network came out a winner in the key adults 18 to 49 demo for the first time since the week of the Academy Awards telecast.

The Sept. 9 regular-season return of “Monday Night Football” held the top ranking among all programs for the week ending Sept. 15 in adults 18 to 49 (8.3 rating/24 share) and total viewers (19.0 million), according to final Nielsen Media Research national data. The pregame “NFL Monday Showcase” from 9 p.m. to 9:07 p.m. (ET), preceding the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots’ win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, came in second in the rankings among adults 18 to 49 (7.0/21) and total viewers (17.1 million).

Other than “MNF”-related programming, ABC’s only other programs ranking in the top 20 among adults 18 to 49 and total viewers were ABC News’ 9/11 anniversary specials last Wednesday at 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. (3.9/12, 10.9 million viewers) and 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. (3.8/11, 8.8 million), and “Primetime Thursday” (3.6/10, 10.3 million). Overall, ABC won the week in adults 18 to 49 (3.5/10), improving 52 percent on its previous week’s average (2.3/7) and beating second-ranked CBS (3.1/9) by a 13 percent margin. Fox (2.9/9) came in third, followed by NBC (2.8/8), UPN (1.6/5) and The WB (1.1/3).

Although CBS has not won a week in adults 18 to 49 dating back to Dec. 3-9, 2001, the Eye Network won total viewers (9.09 million) and households (6.3/11) for the 13th consecutive week of this summer. In fact, CBS saw its largely repeat series holding six of the top 10 rankings in total viewers: “Everybody Loves Raymond” (14.2 million), Thursday and Monday runs of “CSI” (13.7 million; 13.9 million), the replayed Naudet brothers documentary “9/11” (12.1 million), “Becker” (11.8 million) and “60 Minutes” (11.2 million).

‘7th’ has heavenly season debut: The season premiere of The WB’s “7th Heaven” turned in its best-ever ratings, including an unexpected win among all networks in the key adults 18 to 49 demographic Monday night. Overall, it was a huge night for the Frog Network, with its lead-out 9 p.m.-to-10 p.m. (ET) series premiere of “Everwood” also turning in a healthy third-ranked performance in adults 18 to 49 for the time slot.

“7th Heaven” broke out at 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. with a 3.5 rating/10 share in adults 18 to 49, beating ABC’s first-run episodes of “The Drew Carey Show” (2.6/8) and “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”
(2.6/8) by a commanding 35 percent margin, according to final Nielsen Media Research national data. (“Drew” and “Whose” averages are hurt somewhat by post-“Monday Night Football” airings in the Pacific and Mountain time zones.) Additionally, the family-values “7th Heaven” reached personal-best records in female teens (10.0/29), females 12 to 34 (5.9/18), persons 12 to 34 (4.4/14), total viewers (9.1 million) and households (5.5/9).

Meanwhile, “Everwood,” a father-and-son bonding drama starring Treat Williams and Gregory Smith, held 86 percent of its lead-in by scoring a 3.0/7 average in adults 18 to 49 for the 9 p.m. hour. “Everwood” also scored 73 percent retention in females 12 to 34 (4.3/12), 94 percent in females 18 to 34 (4.1/10) and 81 percent in total viewers (7.4 million) from its lofty “7th Heaven” lead-in.

‘Crime & Punishment’ renewed by NBC: Coming off a somewhat successful inaugural run this summer, “Crime & Punishment,” Dick Wolf’s reality-based courtroom series, was renewed by NBC for a midseason 2003 run. “Crime & Punishment” routinely won (10 out of 12 weeks) its 10 p.m.-to-11 p.m. Sunday time period, scoring a 3.1 rating/9 share average among adults 18 to 49 and 8.6 million total viewers during its summer run, based on Nielsen Media Research national data.

Billed as a nonscripted “drama-mentary,” “Crime & Punishment” comes from Mr. Wolf-the creator and executive producer of NBC’s three highly rated “Law & Order” series-and Academy Award-winning documentarian Bill Guttentag (“You Don’t Have to Die”), who, along with David Kanter (“Traffic”), is co-creator and executive producer. Peter Jankowski (“Law & Order”) also serves as executive producer. “Crime & Punishment” is produced by Wolf Films, Shape Pictures and Anonymous Content in association with Universal Television Distribution.

Bornstein to advise NFL: Former ESPN and ABC Television President Steve Bornstein has become an advisor to the NFL on television and strategic media issues. He reports to league Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and works closely with Roger Goodell, executive VP and chief operating officer, and the NFL Broadcasting Committee.

Mr. Bornstein will work out of the NFL office in New York and focus on all aspects of the NFL on TV, including development of the digital production center at NFL Films in Mount Laurel, N.J.

The NFL is in year five of its eight-year TV contract and soon will have a window of several months in which the league can decide whether to ride out the last three years as negotiated or start negotiations on brand-new deals. Thus far, broadcasters have been inclined to think the NFL knows the networks feel they are paying more than the market will bear — earlier this year, Fox took a write-down of nearly $400 million it chalked up to NFL losses — and most likely will let the contracts ride.

“We are at an important and opportune time in the area of NFL television,” said Commissioner Tagliabue in making the announcement, which listed the need to consider alternatives for such things as the “Sunday Ticket” satellite package and “the evolving digital cable universe.”

Science Channel announces two new series: The Science Channel, the Discovery digital network formerly known as Discovery Science Channel, is adding two new series in fourth quarter 2002 and first quarter 2003.

“Cosmic Odyssey,” narrated by William Shatner (“Star Trek”), will focus on astronomy. “The Critical Eye,” hosted by William Davis (“The X Files”), will cast a scientific gaze at common myths and mysteries.

Specials set for fall include “Return to Hubble,” about this year’s shuttle mission to repair the space telescope, and “2025,” about the technologies and scientific breakthroughs that are likely to shape the world 23 years in the future.

Faith & Values launches sales department: Faith & Values Media, a service of the National Interfaith Cable Coalition, which represents both Jewish and Christian faith groups, has launched a new sales and licensing department that will be headed by Madeline McEneney.

Ms. McEneney was most recently co-producer and director of development for Terra Associates, a television and interactive media company.

Faith & Values is currently in production on a feature on the life of St. Francis of Assisi, based on a book by biographer Donald Spoto that will be published in October.