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CNBC Stands Behind ‘McEnroe’

Aug 9, 2004  •  Post A Comment

CNBC has pledged to keep John McEnroe in center court despite ratings that have inspired some to begin taking bets on how soon his talk show “McEnroe” will be canceled.

NBC Universal Television Group President Jeffrey Zucker said the results for “McEnroe” are “showing promise so far and we remain completely committed to the series. Like all new shows, it has some good nights and some not-as-good nights, but we remain pleased with the show’s performance overall.”

The best night for “McEnroe” was its July 7 debut, when an average of 266,000 people tuned in, according to Nielsen Media Research. The worst night occurred July 27, up against former President Bill Clinton’s speech to the Democratic National Convention, when “McEnroe” averaged a mere 39,000 viewers and ended up ranked 180th among 190 cable shows for the week.

On its first three nights last week, the show bounced back to an average of 103,000 viewers. Over the course of the month that the show has been on the lineup at 10 p.m. (ET), with repeats at 1 a.m., “McEnroe’s” original-run average is 102,000 viewers. The audience that tunes in to “McEnroe” has a median age of 47, while CNBC’s prime-time median age for the month of June was 54.

Bob Meyers, senior VP of prime-time programming for CNBC, also has faith in the show. He even went so far as to invoke what many in the TV industry might consider a holy name: “Seinfeld,” which started as a little-watched series of specials called “The Seinfeld Chronicles” and with patience and persistence became one of NBC’s biggest hits.

Mr. Meyers said CNBC is committed to bolstering “McEnroe’s” exposure. The network, for example, plans to “hijack” news breaks during CNBC’s 5-to-8 p.m. weekday Olympics programming block-which will feature mostly boxing-pack them with “fun and original stuff” and turn them into “`Mac’ breaks” that promote the show, he said.

The show will also get additional runs. From Aug. 13 to 29 “McEnroe” will be telecast at 8 p.m. weeknights with repeats at 10 p.m. and 1 a.m., Mr. Meyers said.

“The idea is to really expose John to a larger, different audience,” he said. “We expect the boxing audience will be a heavily male audience, but potentially different people than would normally watch CNBC.”

“Confidence” is a word that arises frequently in Mr. Meyers’ conversations about prime time in general, and “McEnroe” in particular.

“The people I deal with understand that these things take time,” said the CNBC executive, who described internal anecdotal feedback as mostly positive with some “constructive criticism.”

“They know that it’s August,” Mr. Meyers said. “They know that it’s a competitive environment and they also know, especially the people I work with, this place is rife with stories of shows that took a little time to get in gear and for the audience to find them, had a really creative spark and just a little bit of a difference that set them apart, and they took off and became big hits.”