Prime-Time Clashes Loom

Sep 21, 2008  •  Post A Comment

On the cusp of the official start of the 2008-09 season, Fox and The CW are enjoying a few perks for having been out of the gate ahead of the pack.
Fox’s “Fringe” skyrocketed 59% week-to-week in its ratings, while The CW’s “Gossip Girl” has steadily improved its numbers from its record-setting premiere three weeks ago.
But as the other networks prepare to unleash their new schedules this week, will Fox and The CW’s early starts prove to have given them a lasting advantage over the rest?
Heavyweight programming such as ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars,” CBS’ comedy block and NBC’s “Heroes” could dampen any head start Fox and The CW may have obtained.
“The best indicator will be next week when the majority of the fall shows will have premiered,” said Shari Anne Brill, director of programming at media agency Carat. “The performance of episode three [of ‘Fringe’] is critical. Audience flow from ‘House’ is not an automatic guarantee.”
After its so-so premiere, Fox’s sci-fi thriller “Fringe” bounced back in a big way Tuesday, scoring the largest increase from week one to week two in Nielsen recorded history.
“Fringe” captured a 5.1 rating/13 share in the 18- to 49-year-old demographic. The second episode also enjoyed a 46% increase in total viewers, with 13.3 million for Tuesday’s airing. The bounce is thanks in part to its lead-in, the return of “House,” and a repeat of its first episode that was sandwiched between previews for “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and “24: Redemption” on Sunday, Sept. 14.
“We felt that, with the two exposures of the pilot and the season premiere of ‘House’ as its lead-in, there was a good chance that ‘Fringe’ would grow in its second week,” said Preston Beckman, executive VP of strategic program planning and research. “We were confident that when people saw the pilot that it would not disappoint.”
“House,” in a new time period and premiering earlier in the season than usual, slid 28% from last year’s premiere to a 5.6/16 in adults 18 to 49.
It’s not all happy news in the Fox camp, as the network’s Wednesday comedies, “’Til Death” and “Do Not Disturb,” aren’t performing exceptionally well. Of note, “Disturb’s” most recent episode pulled in a lackluster 1.5/4 against mainly repeats.
On The CW, “Gossip Girl’s” second season premiered three weeks ago to its highest ratings ever, only to beat those numbers last Monday. Its third episode drew a 4.3/12 in The CW’s key demographic of women 18 to 34.
Combined with a high “One Tree Hill,” The CW achieved its highest Monday ratings ever in women 18 to 34 with a 4.0/11.
Out of the Big Three, NBC has been trickling out some premieres, with “The Biggest Loser: Families” last week and “America’s Toughest Jobs” in late August. “Loser” premiered on par with its previous fall iteration with a 3.2/9, while “Jobs” has slid consistently since its premiere, landing a 1.7/4 in its last episode.

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