Summer Has Original Look

Apr 12, 2009  •  Post A Comment

The summer television schedules revealed last week reflect the tension between the broadcast networks’ dual goals: attracting advertisers with quality fare and keeping costs low.
In keeping with the trend of recent years, summer will not be light on original programming, with several networks using their established summer reality powerhouses to launch scripted programs.
Fresh unscripted shows will fill out the slates, but networks are leery of relying on them too heavily.
“If you announce seven new unscripted shows, I have to believe it’s a little harder to fill those up (with ads) because they’re not tested, and generally advertisers gravitate more toward scripted shows or the hit unscripted shows,” said Preston Beckman, Fox’s executive VP of strategic program planning and research.
Fox is anchoring its schedule around “Hell’s Kitchen” on Tuesdays and “So You Think You Can Dance” on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Those were the top two shows last summer among adults 18-49, with “Kitchen” ranking first and “Dance’s” Wednesday and Thursday editions second and third, respectively.
The network will launch two new shows: reality dating program “More to Love,” following “Hell’s Kitchen,” and drama “Mental” on Fridays after “Don’t Forget the Lyrics” and “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?”
NBC and ABC are using similar scheduling blocks to help launch new shows.
ABC is bringing back reality show “Wipeout” on Wednesdays and will launch “The Goode Family,” along with the remaining episodes of “Surviving Suburbia,” before starting a new season of “I Survived a Japanese Game Show.”
Meanwhile, “The Bachelorette” will return to the franchise’s Monday timeslot and serve as a lead-in for “Here Come the Newlyweds” and “Dating in the Dark.” The network also will launch “The Superstars” on Tuesday nights.
NBC is bringing back “America’s Got Talent,” which averaged the most viewers among the broadcast network shows last summer, to Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The network also is launching more reality competitions and scripted programs to go hand-in-hand with the launch of “The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien.”
A major show for NBC in June will be “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here,” which will be stripped Monday through Thursday for most of the month. (ABC previously gave “Celebrity” a go in the spring of 2003 but it lasted only one season.) After “Celebrity” wraps, “America’s Got Talent” will return to Tuesdays and Wednesdays, while the new reality show “American Road Trip” will air Wednesdays starting in July.
On the scripted front, NBC is airing three new series: “The Philanthropist,” “The Listener” and “Merlin.” While three scripted dramas is a heavy load for a summer schedule, the three shows run on less expensive production models. “Listener” and “Merlin” are foreign imports, while on “Philanthropist” production costs are split.
The CW is teeing up its reality series “Hitched or Ditched” and “Blonde Charity Mafia,” both airing Tuesdays at 9 p.m. at different points during the summer.
CBS, meanwhile, has yet to announce its summer programming slate, but “Big Brother” should make an appearance for its typical three-nights-a-week run.
As for the big nights to watch, ABC’s Monday lineup may be particularly popular among younger female demographics with dating- and relationship-themed programs. NBC will counterprogram with the broadcast TV premieres of “Law & Order: CI” and “Dateline.”
Tuesdays and Wednesdays will be the battleground nights, as all the networks are expected to have new programming on the line.
Last summer, NBC finished on top in both adults 18-49 and total viewers (3.0 rating/9 share, 9.4 million viewers), benefiting from an Olympics boost. Fox followed in second with a 2.2/7 (5.9 million). ABC (1.7/5, 5 million) and CBS (1.7/5, 6.6 million) tied for third. The CW averaged a 0.8/2 (1.9 million).
(Updated: Olympics mention in final paragraph. 10:20 p.m.)


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