They are no longer desperate for sweeps success at ABC.
ABC’s saucy new Sunday night breakout hit, “Desperate Housewives,” was the show to beat during this November sweeps. It swept to the top in the key adults 18 to 49 demo and was the No. 1 show in adults 18 to 34 and all key women demos.
And it wasn’t ABC’s only new hit. Three other shows cracked the November sweeps top 10: The network’s home remodeling reality show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” was ranked No. 5, new mystery drama “Lost” was No. 9 and “Monday Night Football” came in at No. 10.
As a result, ABC was the only broadcast network to see growth in total viewers during November sweeps, climbing 6 percent from 10.14 million viewers in November 2003 to November 2004’s 10.71 million.
ABC was also up 8 percent among adults 18 to 49 and 13 percent among adults 18 to 34 from last November. In fact, ABC grew its ratings in every major male, female and teen demo except adults 55-plus. Unlike CBS and NBC, however, ABC declined to hold a sweeps conference call and refused to comment on any sweeps media coverage beyond a single press release.
“We’re really encouraged by the start we’ve gotten off to this year,” Stephen McPherson, president of ABC Primetime Entertainment, said in the release, “but for us it’s all about the work, not hype or spin, so we’re happy to let the numbers speak for themselves.”
John Rash, senior VP of national broadcast for Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis, said the strength of two new character-based scripted programs is a sign of a shift in the marketplace.
“The happiest Hollywood citizens are scriptwriters,” he said. “The program pendulum has shifted toward scripted fare, particularly dramas. And most networks, while maintaining a reality presence on their schedule, will redouble their efforts to develop breakout hits with the potential of `Lost’ and `Desperate Housewives.”‘
Bruce Goerlich, executive VP and director of strategic resources for ZenithOptimedia USA, said new scripted fare has helped change the ratings landscape.
“It’s the return of the drama,” he said, “and the decline of the reality show. Perhaps the problem of the past couple years wasn’t that reality shows were all that compelling, but people weren’t coming up with good story ideas. People are [now] telling very good stories.”
Mr. Goerlich also said the focus on innovative prime-time programming has returned to the networks, while in past seasons all the action was taking place on cable networks.
“There is not much cable buzz this year,” he said. “People are not saying, `Gee, I have to see “Huff” on Showtime.’ It’s my sense that the buzz in television is about network and not about cable, and that’s an interesting phenomenon.”