With the first few weeks of the 2006-07 season under their belts, the broadcast networks are beginning to tweak their schedules and move programming that has struggled to find an audience in the face of strong competition.
The two earliest casualties of the new season are NBC’s Wednesday drama “Kidnapped” and CBS’s Tuesday one-hour “Smith.”
In a step just shy of cancellation, NBC is moving “Kidnapped” to Saturdays starting Oct. 21, with original episodes of newsmagazine “Dateline” filling the new drama’s Wednesday 10 p.m. time slot.
On Friday, CBS announced it was benching “Smith,” the high-profile crime drama from “ER” creator John Wells starring Oscar nominees Ray Liotta and Virginia Madsen. This week a “CSI” rerun is scheduled to run in its place, at 10 p.m. Tuesday, with “Criminal Minds” repeats running in the time slot Oct. 17 and 24. “Smith” currently has no additional airdates.
The early demise of both “Kidnapped” and “Smith” are “cases of quantity, not quality,” said John Rash, senior VP and director of broadcast operations for ad agency Campbell Mithun and author of online newsletter the Rash Report.
“They were both relatively well-written and well-produced programs,” Mr. Rash said. The casualties are “indicative of the challenge the most ambitious new programs are facing this year,” he added.
Not all the news coming from NBC last week dealt with new series disappointments. The network also announced it is giving a full-season pickup to its Monday night drama “Heroes.”
The most significant broadcast scheduling move came from network newcomer The CW. Starting Oct. 9, the network is moving its two-hour Sunday comedy block to Monday, emulating the long-running sitcom schedule programmed by one of its predecessors, UPN.
The Chris Rock-produced “Everybody Hates Chris,” which ran on Thursdays last season on UPN, will start The CW’s Monday prime-time schedule at 8 p.m. (ET), followed by former Monday time-period holders “All of Us” at 8:30 p.m. and “Girlfriends” at 9 p.m. The CW’s sole fall debuting comedy, “The Game,” finishes out the night at 9:30 p.m.
Former Monday family drama veteran “7th Heaven” will run at 8 p.m. on Sundays, followed by The CW’s sole new fall drama, “Runaway.” Reruns of “America’s Next Top Model” will air at 7 p.m.
The move returns comedies to a night many CW viewers associate with half-hour programming, Mr. Rash said.
“`7th Heaven’ and `Runaway’ are well suited for Sunday night but will face keen competition regardless of when they run,” he said.
ABC racked up consistent wins among the broadcasters in the adults 18 to 49 ratings demographic last week, but Sunday, Oct. 1, belonged to NBC, thanks to its telecast of NFL football, which scored a 6.7 rating in adults 18 to 49, a number that includes live viewing and same-day viewing via digital video recorders, according to Nielsen Media Research. ABC’s 9 p.m. “Desperate Housewives” was the top-rated network series on Sunday with an 8.6.
On Monday CBS was the top broadcaster in adults 18 to 49 with help from the highest-rated series for the night, “CSI: Miami” (5.9). The network is addressing the ratings challenge facing its new 8 p.m. comedy “The Class” by moving the series to 8:30 p.m. starting Oct. 9 and giving it the more established “How I Met Your Mother” at 8 p.m. as a lead-in.
Tuesday was a draw between ABC and NBC for the top position in adults 18 to 49. NBC’s veteran 10 p.m. procedural drama “Law & Order: SVU” (5.3) edged out ABC’s 8 p.m. 90-minute “Dancing With the Stars” (5.2) as the top-rated program for Tuesday in adults 18 to 49. Tuesday also marked the kickoff of Fox’s postseason baseball coverage, with the Detroit Tigers/New York Yankees game scoring a 2.7 rating.
On Wednesday, the season premiere of ABC’s “Lost” scored a 7.7 rating in adults 18 to 49, down 25 percent from its premiere last September but still strong enough to win the network the night in the demo.
Thursday, the night most prized by advertisers marketing to weekend shoppers, was once again a broadcast win for ABC, with 9 p.m. medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy” scoring a 9.4 to take the top-show crown for the night.