Shuttle coverage pulls viewers from weeklies

Feb 17, 2003  •  Post A Comment

News coverage of the space shuttle Columbia tragedy brought a significant shift away from weekly syndicated fare as February sweeps began.
According to Nielsen Media Research for the week ending Feb. 2, four of the top 12 weekly hours tumbled from their previous week’s scores, which were already deflated as a result of Super Bowl coverage and competition.
Top-scoring weekly hour “Entertainment Tonight” weekend edition, from Paramount, slid 12 percent to a 3.6 but still outpaced Twentieth’s second-place finishers “The Practice” and “The X-Files,” which both finished the week at 2.4. “The Practice” dropped 8 percent week to week, while “X-Files” stayed even for the week.
Fourth place among weeklies fell to Warner Bros.’ off-net runs of “ER,” which managed to buck the downward trend and gain 5 percent for the week to a 2.3. For fifth place, a three-way tie emerged among action hours. MGM’s “Stargate SG-1” fell 19 percent and matched the scores of Tribune’s tandem “Mutant X” and “Andromeda.” “Mutant X” was off 9 percent for the week while “Andromeda” was unchanged. Fellow Tribune series “Adventure Inc.” was right behind at a 2.0, up 5 percent week to week.
The weekend run of NBC Enterprises’ “Access Hollywood” rose 19 percent for the week to finish with a 1.9, tying Twentieth’s runs of “World’s Wildest Police Videos.”
Wrapping up the top weekly hours were Twentieth’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” down 25 percent, and MGM’s “She Spies.” The two shows tied at 1.8.
The latest ratings results included the first two days of sweeps for strips, which generally had highs the previous week due to frigid weather and increased HUT levels. King World’s “Wheel of Fortune” remained the top game show, up 1 percent to a new season best of 10.3, and was the only game show to improve week to week. Warner Bros.’ “Friends” took off-net honors despite a 1 percent dip to a 7.8. In fact, none of the other top 10 off-net sitcoms showed any improvement for the week. King World’s “The Oprah Winfrey Show” continued as the queen of talk, rising 4 percent to a 5.8, while Paramount’s “Judge Judy” ruled the courtrooms with a 5.7, down 3 percent. Newsmagazine leader “Entertainment Tonight” dipped 2 percent to a 6.3.