ABC and UPN had reasons to be cautiously optimistic after last week’s premieres of reality show “Wife Swap” and legal drama “Kevin Hill.”
“Wife Swap” accomplished what few ABC shows have been able to do at 10 p.m. (ET) Wednesday-overcome NBC in the adults 18 to 49 demographic.
“Who would have thought it would beat `Law & Order?”‘ said Jeff Bader, executive VP, ABC Entertainment.
The premiere of “Wife Swap” scored a 5.0 rating and 13 share in adults 18 to 49, besting “Law & Order’s” 4.8/12 in the demo, according to Nielsen Media Research.
Running against an original episode of “The Apprentice” on NBC and a repeat of “CSI” on CBS-both of which were moved from Thursday to accommodate the presidential debate-UPN’s “Kevin Hill” scored 1.7/4 in the demo, a 55 percent improvement over the time period last year. “Kevin Hill” held 90 percent of its lead-in from 8 p.m. reality series “America’s Next Top Model 3” in viewers (3.93 million versus 4.36 million) and 77 percent in adults 18 to 49 (1.7/4 versus 2.2/6).
Kelly Kahl, senior executive VP of programming operations for CBS and UPN, said NBC’s and CBS’s shuffling of their Thursday 9 p.m. programming lowered company hopes for “Kevin Hill’s” debut.
“Certainly we went in with tempered expectations,” he said. “People at least wanted to see the premiere of `Kevin Hill.’ Hopefully they liked what they saw.”
ABC wasn’t the only network to receive a “Wife Swap”-like surprise. CBS found itself celebrating “Navy NCIS’s” Tuesday 8 p.m. performance in adults 18 to 49. The military procedural show scored a 3.2/9 in the demo for the hour, second only to Fox’s reality powerhouse “Trading Spouses” (3.6/10).
“The interesting thing is it actually had a really good summer,” Mr. Kahl said of “NCIS.” “You can usually tell shows that are hot by the repeat number the summer after their first season. To see it come out smoking even demowise is terrific.”
Success at 8 p.m. didn’t follow to 9 p.m. Tuesday, where “Clubhouse” scored a 2.5/6 in the demo and brought in 10 million viewers, 30 percent below “NCIS’s” 14.33 million.
John Rash, senior VP and director of national broadcast for ad agency Campbell Mithun in Minneapolis, said “Clubhouse,” despite its unique sports backdrop, is similar to another CBS show with unique appeal.
“There’s an interesting duality that is also seen in `Joan of Arcadia,’ where a show that is centered around a teen appeals to older adults,” he said. “As opposed to the teen portrayals on The WB, this is a projection of how teens should more ideally behave, thus appealing more to their parents, if not their grandparents. CBS will need to get younger viewers to embrace it to make it the success it needs to be.”
Mr. Kahl said “Clubhouse” is doing fine for the time period and should benefit from its lead-in.
“It came and it did `Guardian’-like numbers,” he said. “The question is can it grow? That will be the challenge, but with a younger audience coming in from `NCIS’ we should have the opportunity to do that.”
“The Guardian,” canceled after three seasons, aired Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on CBS last year.
At 8 p.m. Wednesday, ABC won the hour in both total viewers and adults 18 to 49, thanks to the second installment of new drama “Lost,” about survivors of a plane crash.
Mr. Rash said he likes “Lost’s” look and feel, but added that its premise brings with it a challenge.
“A particularly well-written and well-produced program with critical acclaim can break through the clutter to get a sample,” he said, before offering a warning: “It’s going to be hard to sustain this level of viewer interest without solving some of the key riddles on the island.”
The one show that did not perform on par with the rest of Wednesday night for ABC was “The Bachelor,” which got a 3.3/8 in the demo, down 49 percent from its lead-in, and 7.84 million viewers, less than half of “Lost’s” total audience.
Mr. Rash said one of two things was happening.
“Either audiences have begun to grow weary of `The Bachelor’s’ formula, or they have become more savvy and they are waiting until there are just a few key contestants to tune in and become reacquainted with the new program,” he said. “If it’s the former, it’s a considerable disappointment to ABC, which looked to `The Bachelor’ as their reality franchise.”
Mr. Bader said since “The Bachelor” has been airing against shows like “The Apprentice,” and “CSI,” it’s no wonder it hasn’t performed as strongly. Last season the reality dating show was competitive against the regularly scheduled NBC drama “The West Wing,” which won’t premiere for weeks.
“We won’t really know about `The Bachelor’ until Oct. 20, when it finally airs against regular competition,” he said. “Whatever level `The Bachelor’ starts at, it grows throughout its run.”
Besides premiering “Kevin Hill” last week, UPN debuted “Veronica Mars” in its Tuesday 9 p.m. slot. “Veronica” got a 1.0/2 in the demo and brought in 2.21 million viewers.
Mr. Kahl said “Veronica’s” urban comedy lead-ins “All of Us” and “Eve” were “not exactly compatible.”
He also said “Veronica” needs time to grow.
“There is a place where we really had modest expectations,” he said. “That’s a show we all like and we’re going to be patient with.”