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ABC, CBS Take Early Leads

Oct 11, 2004  •  Post A Comment

With only two weeks under their belts, ABC and CBS have a long way to go before they declare their new programming and the 2004-05 season a success. But early results for the season indicate the two networks have made programming choices that are resonating with viewers.

For the first two weeks of the 2004-05 season, CBS was up 8 percent over the first two weeks of last season in the adults 18 to 49 demographic, averaging a 4.0 rating in prime time, according to Nielsen Media Research.

ABC also saw a gain, growing 3 percent in adults 18 to 49 from a 3.9 in the first two weeks of last season to a 4.0 for the first two weeks of 2004-05, driven largely by the surprise early success of a couple of new shows.

ABC did what it was unable to do last season-it captured the No. 1 spot in adults 18 to 49 and total viewers with one of its scripted series for the week ending Oct. 3. Sunday night’s campy soaplike drama “Desperate Housewives” led the pack with an 8.9 rating, while mystery plane crash series “Lost” came in seventh in the demo for the week with a 6.5 rating.

The last time ABC had two dramas rank in the top 10 among total viewers and adults 18 to 49 was more than four years ago, when “NYPD Blue” and “The Practice” were benefiting from “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’s” halo effect.

For ABC executives, the initial payoff has been satisfying.

“We all felt really confident about the shows creatively, but as far as those who were watching it, and the volume to which they were going to come in, we were all very pleased,” said Francie Calfo, executive VP of development, ABC prime time.

Ms. Calfo said it would be too easy to explain the success of “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives” as just a change of pace from the many franchise procedural dramas that have dominated the ratings over the past few years. Unlike some other serialized programs, the new ABC shows are using elements like flashbacks that will allow for closed-ended episodes and story lines.

“It’s not just one thing,” Ms. Calfo said. “As serialized as they might be, there are elements in it for people that are dropping in.”

Ms. Calfo said the fact that the shows are well made helped both series’ initial ratings performance.

“It’s all about execution,” she said. “`Desperate Housewives’ has nearly perfectly drawn characters with specific points of view. At the heart it is about something.”

At CBS, the franchise business is alive and well, with “CSI: Miami” and the premiering “CSI: NY” both making the top 10 shows among adults 18 to 49 for the weeks ended Sept. 26 and Oct. 3. The original “CSI” was the No. 1 show in the demo with an 11.4 for the week ended Sept. 26.

Nina Tassler, CBS entertainment president, said the numbers show the audience is still very much engaged in procedural mysteries, and the success of shows like “Lost” and “Housewives” does not mean the beginning of the end of the genre. “It just means there is an appetite out there for different kinds of shows,” she said.

Among the other networks, only one, The WB, broke even year to year in adults 18 to 49. NBC, Fox and UPN are down so far this season. It’s still early, but below is a network-by-network breakdown of the first two weeks of 2004-05 in terms of good ratings news, bad ratings news and unanswered questions.

ABC

The Good News: Thanks to “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and the out-of-the-gate success of “Desperate Housewives,” ABC is up 64 percent on Sundays in adults 18 to 49 year to year (5.4 versus 3.3). On Wednesdays “Lost” is bringing in audiences at 8 p.m. that the network could only dream of last year. Even with “The Benefactor” struggling on Mondays, a resurgent “Monday Night Football” helped drive up the night’s year-to-year adults 18 to 49 number by 7 percent.

The Bad News: Tuesday’s comedy block and the final season of “NYPD Blue” are down 24 percent from last year in the demo, with newcomer “Rodney” at 9:30 p.m. down an average 14 percent in adults 18 to 49 from its “According to Jim” lead-in for the first two weeks of the season. A ratings drop for “The Bachelor” has ABC down 6 percent on Wednesdays, despite “Lost.” Friday night’s revamped TGIF comedy block and newsmagazine “20/20” are down 21 percent in the demo year to year, with a 36 percent drop in male teens (0.9 versus 1.4) despite the male-skewing “Complete Savages.”

Unanswered Questions: If the serialized “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives” lose their early momentum, it could mean big trouble for ABC. “The Bachelor” has been running against “CSI” and “Law & Order” repeats and “The Apprentice,” so a more traditional schedule of CBS comedies and “The West Wing” could mean a bump in its numbers. Once football and “NYPD Blue” finish, ABC tries out “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Blind Justice.”

CBS

The Good News: “CSI: NY” is beating “Law & Order” on Wednesdays, driving CBS to a 68 percent increase for the night year to year in adults 18 to 49. On Thursdays the latest installment of “Survivor” and the original “CSI” have given the network an edge over NBC and upped its adults 18 to 49 performance by 5 percent. The sophomore season of “Navy NCIS” has been a nice surprise for CBS, helping to increase Tuesday’s demo average by 44 percent (2.7 versus 3.9).

The Bad News: Friday night’s lineup of “Joan of Arcadia,” “JAG” and the new series “dr. vegas” is down 34 percent year to year. Tuesday baseball series “Clubhouse” was ranked third at 9 p.m. in its Sept. 28 time period debut, down 22 percent from its “Navy NCIS” lead-in. The Sunday night movie has been a third-place finisher both weeks, while “Cold Case” was 37 percent behind ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” in the demo (3.7/9 versus 5.9/15).

Unanswered Questions: On Wednesdays the 9 p.m. comedy block “King of Queens” and “Center of the Universe” has yet to debut. With three network series, a cable run on Spike TV and a weekend syndication airing, there’s always a chance audiences will tire of “CSI.” On Mondays “Listen Up” grew on its lead-in “Still Standing” in adults 18 to 49, but lags its lead-out “Everybody Loves Raymond.” Whether “Listen Up” will rise to the Monday night occasion and get “Raymond”-like ratings is an open question.

NBC

The Good News: On Fridays “Third Watch” and “Medical Investigation” have won their time periods in adults 18 to 49, helping NBC increase its performance in the demo 12 percent for the night from last year. “Fear Factor” won its time period in adults 18 to 49 both weeks. Despite a weak preseason opening, “The Apprentice” remains competitive at 9 p.m. Thursday, and “ER” won the night of Sept. 23 in adults 18 to 49 with a 9.8/25.

The Bad News: On Thursdays a “Friends”-free NBC is down 25 percent in the demo from last year, and the network is down 20 percent on Mondays, thanks in part to “LAX,” which has a two-week average of 3.2/8. On Wednesdays at 8 p.m. “Hawaii” has averaged a 2.4/7, coming in either fourth or fifth in the time period. The network announced last week it was removing “Last Comic Standing” from Tuesday’s schedule, where NBC was down 9 percent from last year.

Unanswered Questions: “The West Wing” won’t premiere until Oct. 20, leaving open the question of how the network will perform on Wednesdays. Next week also marks the debut of weight-loss reality show “The Biggest Loser,” which has a 90-minute premiere on Oct. 19. “Joey” has been second to “Survivor” in the demo on Thursdays at 8 p.m., but it is still unclear whether the show will build an audience as “Friends” watchers warm to it, or whether it will continue to drop. “Joey” was down 16 percent from Sept. 23 to Sept. 30. “Crossing Jordan,” which is up 24 percent on Sundays at 10 p.m. from last year’s time slot occupant, “The Lyon’s Den,” could be a time period winner if ABC’s “Boston Legal” falters.

Fox

The Good News: Reality series “Trading Spouses” has worked, winning its time period Sept. 28 in adults 18 to 49. Fox’s “North Shore” and “Renovate My Family” have helped Fox raise its ratings among women 18 to 34 by 12 percent (2.9/8 versus 2.6/7) on Mondays and increase its adults 18 to 34 ratings by 4 percent. On Wednesdays Fox’s comedy bl
ock is up 68 percent among male teens, 3.2/11 to last year’s 1.9/7.

The Bad News: “Method & Red” is already gone. Fox is down every day of the week in adults 18 to 49 from last year except for Monday, where the network is flat. The network has shuttled the remainder of “The Next Great Champ” off to cable, while “The Complex: Malibu” has contributed to a 48 percent decline in the network’s Thursday number.

Unanswered Questions: Because of baseball, Fox isn’t premiering performers such as “The O.C.,” “The Simpsons” and the Emmy-enhanced “Arrested Development” until November. Monday reality show “Renovate My Family” shows promise and could build with a better lead-in than “North Shore.” Until all the repeats are gone and replaced by original 2004-05 fare, it will be hard to compare the network against original programming on competing networks.

The WB

The Good News: Tuesday’s “Gilmore Girls” has shaken off the slump of last year, while “One Tree Hill” is a second-season hit; on Tuesday the network is up 64 percent in adults 18 to 49 year to year (2.3/6 versus 1.4/4), and up 65 percent in adults 18 to 34 (2.8 versus 1.7). “Reba” has been the Friday night performer with a 1.8/6 in adults 18 to 49.

The Bad News: Game show “Studio 7” was canceled. Wednesday’s “The Mountain” is down an average of 48 percent from its “Smallville” lead-in, while on Sundays “Steve Harvey’s Big Time,” “Charmed” and “Jack & Bobby” have combined for a 25 percent drop in the demo from last year. Monday’s “7th Heaven” and “Everwood” are down a combined 12 percent year to year in adults 18 to 49, and down 15 percent in adults 18 to 34 (2.2/6 versus 2.6/7).

Unanswered Questions: The WB has already picked up drama “Jack & Bobby” for the season. The recast and health-delayed “Commando Nanny” is still a question mark. “Blue Collar TV” started off strong and has leveled off. But will “Drew Carey’s Green Screen Show” help raise the sketch comedy bar?

UPN

The Good News: The third installment of “America’s Next Top Model” on Wednesdays has driven up UPN’s 18 to 49 number by 13 percent from last year, with a 67 percent jump in adults 18 to 34 (2.0 versus 1.2) and an 1,100 percent rise among teen girls (2.4 versus 0.2). “Top Model” reruns and airings of “Kevin Hill” and “Veronica Mars” on Fridays have increased the network’s adults 18 to 49 rating 17 percent (0.7 versus 0.6).

The Bad News: Monday’s comedy block is down 26 percent in adults 18 to 49 (1.4/4 versus 1.9/5) and down 36 percent in adults 18 to 34 (1.4/4 versus 2.2/6). “WWE SmackDown!” is down 12 percent in the demo (1.5/4 versus 1.7/5) and down 17 percent in men 18 to 34 (1.9/6 versus 2.3/8).

Unanswered Questions: Will the critically acclaimed “Kevin Hill” benefit from its “Top Model” lead-in? On Tuesdays another critics’ favorite, “Veronica Mars,” is considered a breakout possibility as the season progresses.