Nets Still on Hunt for Breakout Hit

Oct 16, 2006  •  Post A Comment

With help from its returning hits, ABC maintained its ratings hold over the other broadcasters in adults 18 to 49 last week in a new season that as yet has failed to produce a breakout success.

While CBS announced Thursday it is giving a full-season order to its Wednesday apocalyptic drama “Jericho” and NBC continued to enjoy ratings momentum from its Monday superhero drama “Heroes,” the rest of the fall debuts have been modest ratings performers, said Brad Adgate, senior VP and director of research for Horizon Media.

“It’s just going to get harder and harder to expect new shows to do blockbuster numbers because of the competition out there and the fractionalization,” Mr. Adgate said. “You have to set sights a little lower for shows coming out of the box like that.”

That has set up a ratings scenario similar to that of last year, when ABC enjoyed growth from its returning shows in the fall and Fox was waiting out the time until the return of “American Idol” and “24” in January, Mr. Adgate said.

“The real difference is NBC is a little more competitive with CBS,” he said, “but there [are] a lot of weeks ahead.”

On Sunday, Oct. 8, ABC edged out NBC for the top spot among the broadcasters in adults 18 to 49. The network was propelled in part by its 9 p.m. ratings performer and No. 1 network program for the night, “Desperate Housewives,” which pulled an 8.6 rating, a number that includes live plus same-day viewing via digital video recorders, according to Nielsen Media Research.

NBC’s telecast of the NFL game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the San Diego Chargers was the second-highest-rated network program for the night with a 6.4 rating. ABC’s new 10 p.m. drama “Brothers & Sisters” held steady in adults 18 to 49 from the previous week with a 5.3 rating, outperforming CBS’s former Thursday night drama “Without a Trace” (4.5) in the time period, but lagging behind the last hour of football on NBC (6.7).

Monday was another close night for the broadcasters, but unlike Sunday, NBC was the broadcast winner in adults 18 to 49, edging out CBS. The 9 p.m. drama “Heroes” (5.9) was the top broadcast program for the night, while CBS’s 10 p.m. drama “CSI: Miami” was second with a 5.7 rating. Though CBS lost the 8 p.m. hour to NBC’s “Deal or No Deal” (4.4), CBS’s flip-flop of “How I Met Your Mother” at 8 p.m. (3.4) improved the time period by 26 percent in adults 18 to 49 over the previous week’s performance of “The Class.”

At 8:30, “Class” scored a 3.5, up 30 percent from its performance the previous week when it was scheduled at 8 p.m. Despite the quick schedule reshuffle, The CW’s 9 p.m. comedies “Girlfriends” and “The Game” outperformed its rescheduled (to Sundays) drama “Runaway” in the time period by 25 percent.

ABC took the dominant position Tuesday with “Dancing With the Stars” (5.6). NBC’s “Friday Night Lights” declined 19 percent from its debut to a 2.2. The opening game of Major League Baseball’s American League championship scored Fox a 2.8, down 22 percent from last year’s game.

Wednesday also belonged to ABC thanks to 9 p.m. drama “Lost” (6.9), which was down 10 percent from its season premiere the previous week. CBS’s 10 p.m. drama “CSI: NY” was second for the night in adults 18 to 49 (6.0), outperforming ABC’s “The Nine” (3.1) and NBC’s quickly rescheduled “Dateline” (3.0), which bested former time-period holder “Kidnapped’s” previous three-week average by 30 percent.

In the season’s emerging battle royal, ABC surpassed CBS on Thursday with its 9 p.m. drama “Grey’s Anatomy” (9.4).