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Oct 29, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Posted Tuesday, Oct. 29

Fox cancels ‘girls club’

After a poor second weekly outing for David E. Kelley’s “girls club” on Monday night, Fox has decided to immediately cancel the once highly touted freshman legal drama.

A spokesman for Fox said an “encore” episode of Mr. Kelley’s 8 p.m.-to-9 p.m. Monday lead-in “Boston Public” will fill the 9 p.m.-to-10 p.m. vacancy Nov. 4. To fill the rest of the November sweeps, three weeks of specials will occupy the 9 p.m. slot-presumably some reality-based programming Fox can quickly pull off the shelf.

Last night’s airing of “girls club” hit a personal-low 2.1 rating/5 share average in adults 18 to 49, off a whopping 52 percent from its “Boston Public” lead-in (4.4/11), according to final Nielsen Media Research national data. Other telltale signs of trouble came from “girls club” dropping off 19 percent from its prior week’s premiere score in adults 18 to 49 (2.5/6), in addition to sliding 59 percent from what Mr. Kelley’s 9 p.m. predecessor “Ally McBeal” averaged in the comparable year-ago time period (5.2/12).

Despite in-stadium seating for the cast of “girls club” during Fox’s recently concluded World Series and other advance promotional hype, the show’s 4.9 million total viewers last night represented a 52 percent drop from “Boston Public’s” 10.3 million head count average.

Production on “girls club,” produced by David E. Kelley Productions and 20th Century Fox Television, was slated at 13 episodes-in keeping with most other fall series orders. However, the Fox spokesman did not immediately know how many remaining episodes of “girls club” are already produced and will count toward the network’s license fee to Mr. Kelley and 20th Century Fox.

World Series lifts Fox to victory: Stronger-than-expected ratings for the final two games of the all-California World Series helped Fox break NBC’s hold on the adults 18 to 49 ratings for the first time in the fifth week of the new season. Furthermore, despite the 2002 World Series going down as the second-lowest-rated fall classic in history, Fox also took home its first weekly wins in total viewers and households.

Sunday’s deciding Game 7, won by the Anaheim Angels over the San Francisco Giants 4-1, came out as the week’s (Oct. 21-27) top-ranked show in adults 18 to 49 (11.1 rating/26 share), households (17.9/28) and total viewers (30.8 million), according to final Nielsen Media Research national data. With the last four games of the World Series cracking the top 20 in adults 18 to 49, Fox won the key demo for the week (5.6/15), holding a 33 percent margin of victory over second-ranked NBC (4.2/11) in prime time.

Nevertheless, there were some interesting dichotomies to Fox’s winning week. Fox’s latest weekly score in adults 18 to 49 is 37 percent higher than the comparable week five (4.1/11) last year, when the World Series was pushed back a week as a result of Sept. 11. But the latest demo score marked a 24 percent drop from the comparable World Series week (7.4/19) last year.

Fox, despite also winning the week ending Oct. 27 in total viewers (16.3 million) and households (10.2/16), slid 22 percent (vs. 21.0 million) and 24 percent (vs. 13.4/21) in the two respective categories from last season’s World Series-driven prime-time schedule.

As for the other broadcast networks last week, CBS made a strong third-place showing in adults 18 to 49 (3.9/10) and second place in total viewers (12.6 million), counting five series-“CSI,” “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “Survivor: Thailand,” “CSI: Miami” and “Still Standing”-among the 10 most-watched programs for the week. ABC, with “The Bachelor” (7.0/17) and “Monday Night Football” ( 6.5/18) setting the pace, turned in a third-ranked 3.7/10 in adults 18 to 49-stemming demo erosion to 5 percent from its year-ago week average (3.9/11).

The WB, with “Smallville” (4.2/10) and “7th Heaven” (3.3/9) within the 50 top-ranked shows in adults 18 to 49, saw its weekly demo score (2.0/5) hold even year to year due in large part to increased competition from the World Series. UPN, on the other hand, saw its 1.7/4 in adults 18 to 49 drop 19 percent from it year-ago weekly average (2.1/6).

Second season of ‘Osbournes’ to rock MTV: MTV has made it official: “The Osbournes,” America’s favorite reality-sitcom family, will debut its new season on Nov. 26.

Critics have had a field day comparing the heavy-metal Osbournes, with their rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle and easy resort to expletives, to the Nelsons of “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet,” the Cleavers of “Leave It To Beaver” and other Golden Age sitcom families who lived in a more or less perfect middle-class world.

This season on “The Osbournes,” which won an Emmy for outstanding reality program in September, mom Sharon undergoes chemotherapy and the family takes in an orphaned teenager.

No surprises at broadcast execs meeting: The annual appearance of the broadcast networks’ top programming executives this morning before the International Radio & Television Society in New York produced no trade headlines and no industry themes.

Indeed, aside from the startlingly barbed introductions of the high-powered guests who had schlepped in from the West Coast by moderator Joe Flint of The Wall Street Journal, the verbal jabs were all but nonexistent.

And the best joke was delivered not by the George Bush impersonator who chided the networks for not carrying all presidential speeches and the French for not thinking outside the box (“They don’t have a word for ‘entrepreneur'”) but by IRTS Chairman Timothy McAuliff, president & CEO of Petry Media Corp., who suggested a gathering in a front corner of the packed Waldorf-Astoria ballroom of “anybody who hasn’t been interviewed or offered a job by Dennis Swanson,” the fast-hiring new chief operating officer of the Viacom Television Stations Group.

There was a brief joust between CBS’s Nancy Tellem — she said CBS’s dramatic improvements at 10 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays are giving David Letterman’s ratings a boost on those nights — and NBC’s Jeff Zucker — he said viewers long ago voted for Jay Leno. ABC’s Susan Lyne said her network is “looking at no particular number target” with the January launch of the Jimmy Kimmel late-night show, but will give it “leeway to incubate.”

The WB’s Jordan Levin declared a recent New York Times Sunday Magazine article attacking “The Myth of 18 to 34” and the media obsession with that demo “an insult to many people in this room.”

But there was no momentum and little or no strenuous disagreement among the high-powered competitors about subjects ranging from spinoffs and remakes (“Some of the best television began as spinoffs,” said Ms. Lyne) to the scheduling of like shows head-to-head (Fox’s Gail Berman maintained “The Bernie Mac Show” was slotted opposite “My Wife and Kids” not to blunt the ABC hit but because Fox had no other show it felt could launch Wednesdays).

Mr. Levin’s belief that TiVo and similar technology loom significantly over the broadcast networks did not convince his counterparts there is a threat, “at least in the next five years,” Mr. Zucker said. Indeed, Ms. Tellem predicted TiVo is on the road to VCR-like status once consumers decide whether the technology and the cost are worth it to them and it is deployed more widely.

Ms. Berman acknowledged the “unique advantages and challenges” of having postseason baseball series break up the launch of the Fox prime-time season but said, “We know we have baseball the next four years and we have to program accordingly. … We are trying to figure it out.”

Asked whether Saturday had become a night ripe for abandonment by the networks, Ms. Berman and Ms. Tellem got to tout their networks’ very different success stories — Fox with “Cops” and “America’s Most Wanted” and CBS with straight-ahead dramas.

Ms. Lyne said the current tendency to burn off unevenly performing movies is “all about priorities. This is not about abandoning a night.”

Mr. Zucker said he expects to get more aggressive about programming Saturday in the next 18 months. “There’s no reason to give up Saturday night,” he said.

“If you can figure i
t out, it can be a very profitable night for the network,” Ms. Berman said.

Sniper coverage delivers more top ratings for news networks: The focus on the sniper killing spree that terrorized residents in and around Washington, D.C., gave big ratings boosts to the all-news networks this month

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Fox News Channel’s “Hannity & Colmes” averaged 1.65 million viewers for the month ended Oct. 27 and for the first time beat CNN’s “Larry King Live” (an average of 1.577 million viewers) for an entire month.

For total day (an average 926,000 viewers) and prime time (1.575 million viewers), Fox won the viewership crown for the 10th month and managed to post 2 percent increases compared with the previous year’s post-9/11 viewing swell. Compared with the less dramatic news cycles of September, Fox viewership was up 43 percent for total day and up 33 percent in prime time in October.

CNN, which averaged 794,000 viewers for total day and 1.190 million in prime time in October, was down year to year (37 percent for total day and 39 percent in prime time) but posted month-to-month gains of 55 percent in prime time and 38 percent in total day.

Third-place MSNBC averaged 341,000 viewers for the total day in October and 445,000 in primetime, down 52 percent and 56 percent respectively year-to-year and up 44 percent and 32 percent month-to-month.

Meanwhile, CNN Headline News averaged 257,000 viewers for total day and 252,000 viewers in prime time, down 34 percent and 46 percent, respectively, year to year, but up 13 percent and 3 percent, respectively, month to month.

UPN takes the runway with ‘Supermodel’: Think of its as “American Idol” meets “Victoria’s Secret,” a new reality series UPN has picked up under the tentative working title of “Supermodel.” Featuring model Tyra Banks as its judge and executive producer, the eight-episode run of “Supermodel” will present a nationwide talent search for eight everyday women who think they have the glam to make it in the “high-stress, high-stakes world of supermodeling.”

Even though UPN has historically targeted men with such testosterone-driven shows as “WWE Smackdown!” and “Enterprise,” UPN Entertainment President Dawn Ostroff said in a statement that “Supermodel” offers a twist on the reality genre and is a perfect fit for UPN and our audience.”

“The series combines the excitement of competition and the real-life drama of people pursuing their dreams,” she said.

The network says a panel of “Supermodel” experts, including modeling agency representatives, photographers, fashion magazine editors and Ms. Banks, will oversee the competitions. The ultimate prize will have a contestant winning a modeling contract with a top agency.

“Supermodel” is a production of Right Brain Entertainment, in association with TY TY Baby Productions. Ms. Banks, who appeared in Victoria’s Secret and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit special issues, serves as executive producer alongside Ken Mok (“Making the Band”).

NASCAR coverage drives more viewers to NBC: NASCAR’s hot TV streak continued last weekend, when NBC Sports’ coverage of the Winston Cup NAPA 500 from Atlanta scored a 5.1 rating/11 share, its highest national Nielsen rating yet opposite pro football. The UAW-GM Quality 500 from Charlotte on Oct. 13 set the previous record of 5.0 up against football. Ratings for NASCAR coverage on NBC and TNT this season are up 16 percent.

The audience for the rain-delayed and shortened NAPA 500 was up 31 percent year to year and peaked at 5:30 p.m. ET with a 6.0/12.

Board of Governors meetings scheduled for NATPE: NATPE organizers have corralled CBS, Fox and NBC to hold their Board of Governors meetings at the 40th annual NATPE conference and exhibition in New Orleans Jan. 20-23. Fox is also considering holding an affiliate event during NATPE in conjunction with its Board of Governors meeting.

In addition, major station group owner Post-Newsweek Stations has scheduled a group meeting for its six stations to take place during the confab. Among its stations to participate are WDIV/Detroit, WPLG/Miami, KSAT/San Antonio, WJXT/Jacksonville, WKMG/Orlando and WPRC/Houston.

Cartoon Network drawn to ConAgra: Cartoon Network and ConAgra Foods are serving up two integrated promotions that will pair the network’s cartoon characters with the packaged-food company’s brands.

The first campaign, “Cartoon Food Bash 2002,” features eight Cartoon Network characters from four of the cable channel’s shows — “Johnny Bravo,” “Samurai Jack,” “The Powerpuff Girls” and “Ed, Edd n Eddy” — in a Chef Boyardee promotion that includes an instant-win sweepstakes and online digital trading cards. Marketing support for the campaign includes a 30-second spot on Cartoon Network to drive kids to Chef Boyardee products.

The second campaign, “Super Power vs. Brain Power,” launches in January 2003 and runs for four months. That campaign includes “Dexter” and “Powerpuff Girls” games on 5 million Kid Cuisine packages, as well as limited-edition Kid Cuisine meals tied directly to the two shows.