CBS goes six for seven

CBS finished first six of seven nights to claim the Aug. 9-15 Nielsen crown, while the rerun-heavy summer lineup continues to result in a significant loss of younger viewers.

The Eye network, which won every night but Friday (swept by ABC) and tied the Alphabet web for household honors on Thursday, has now won five of the eight weeks since the NBA playoffs ended in June, with the other three frames going to ABC.

While ABC and CBS continue to perform reasonably well compared to their year-ago performance, both NBC and Fox Broadcasting Co. are off sharply in households from a year ago, and all four services have witnessed a flight of young adults to viewing alternatives.

ABC continues to run ahead in the key demographic of adults 18-49, where averages for the week were ABC, a 5.2 rating, 17 share; CBS, 4.3/14; NBC, 4.0/13 ; and Fox, 3.5/11, which did manage to edge CBS and NBC among adults 18-34.

Research has demonstrated that younger viewers are more apt to seek out other viewing options, and that trend seems to be holding this summer. All the webs have provided modest levels of original programming, with the exception of newsmagazines, which have generally flourished in the ratings (they accounted for five of the top 10 programs) versus repeat competition.

During the most recent week, for example, the aggregate household rating for the Big Three networks was off a modest 5%, but totals for men 18-49 were down 18% compared to the same week in 1992 and 10% for women in that age bracket. The falloff by Fox, which has expanded its programming lineup to additional nights, was even sharper.

Older viewers are making up some of the slack, with ABC noting that its average household rating for the third quarter is up 12% from a year ago, while CBS is up 2%. NBC, deflated compared to last year’s Summer Olympics-boosted total, is down 30%, and Fox has suffered a 20% decline.

An influx of original programming is also on the way, with a combination of summer tryouts and early premieres building from today through the official start of the fall season Sept. 20.

ABC started off the current week strong, winning the night thanks to “Monday Night Football” while CBS finished third for the fourth time in the last five weeks.

Still, CBS’ new Paramount sitcom “Big Wave Dave’s” (10.5/18) held up well in its second week, falling just 5% off its “Murphy Brown” lead-in, compared to a 3 % drop-off the prior week for its premiere.

Sunday

ABC has now won the 9-11 p.m. block with its Sunday movie three consecutive weeks, thanks to “Bull Durham,” and fared even better among adults 18-49, with CBS running third by that standard.

The Alphabet web also recorded its best share since June 27 with “America’s Funniest Home Videos” at 8 p.m. CBS, meanwhile, easily won the night thanks in part to the top-rated “60 Minutes” since June 6.

Saturday

Fox’s newsmagazine “Front Page” had its highest household rating yet and won the time period among adults 18-49. The show benefited from a wide lead-in advantage for “Cops,” which beat up on “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” in part due to low coverage. The in-house CBS drama reached only 84% of the U.S., as local O&O KCBS-TV in Los Angeles — which accounts for more than 5% of U.S. households — preempted the series to air preseason football.

Similarly, NBC’s entire Saturday lineup reached no more than 90% of the U.S., trailing Fox clearance levels. Nine of the 67 network shows programmed during the week, all on Friday and Saturday, suffered from preemptions.

Friday

ABC swept all six half-hours in households for the sixth consecutive week, as “Step by Step” looked solid at 9 p.m., its projected fall timeslot. In addition to homes, ABC won the night among adults 18-49 by 14 share points, with a 23 share compared to a nine for each of the three other webs.

Fox, meanwhile, needs “The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.” to ride to the rescue of its lineup quickly, as its latest stopgap movie repeat fell to the weblet’s worst Friday numbers in more than two years.

Thursday

All four of NBC’s comedies were off slightly from the previous week, but the web still took the adults 18-49 demo despite trailing both ABC and CBS in households and a third-place finish at 10 p.m.

CBS’ “Picket Fences,” meanwhile, enjoyed its highest Thursday rating since being moved to the night in early June. The show may be benefiting from NBC’s inconsistency in the hour, with a different program in the slot each of the last four weeks.

Wednesday

A pattern has developed for what’s seen as a pivotal night this fall, with ABC winning the adults 18-49 tally thanks almost entirely to “Home Improvement” while CBS finishes first in households. The Eye web managed the feat despite a falloff for “How’d They Do That?” and the lowest “48 Hours” rating in 11 weeks, since the newshour aired opposite the Daytime Emmy Awards.

Tuesday

“Dateline NBC” continues to ignite solid ratings against summer rerun competition, having now achieved a 20 share six of the last seven weeks.

CBS won the night thanks to the Miss Teen USA Pageant, which saw its crown tarnished to the tune of a 7% decline from last year’s special.

“Where I Live,” bound for Saturday night, isn’t making the most of its temporary slotting behind “Full House,” diving 21% off its lead-in — believed to be the steepest drop by any program since “House” took up residence in the time period back in August 1991.

Monday

CBS took the night thanks in part to “Big Wave Dave’s,” which crested with the best “Murphy Brown” lead-in retention since a second episode of “Murphy” last September (Daily Variety, Aug. 11).

Fox also finished competitively thanks to “Working Girl,” and continues to fare better with theatricals than made-fors in the movie slot — averaging a 10 share with made-fors since going weekly with the movie June 21 and a 14 share with features.

“The CBS Evening News” was back in third place, meaning NBC has now been second five of the last six weeks, the first time the Peacock has achieved that in nightly news since April 1991. ABC’s “World News Tonight” has been first for 48 consecutive weeks.

Each rating point represents an estimated 931,000 households, or 1% of the country’s TV homes. The share is the same sort of percentage, except that it’s measured against only the households watching TV during the timeslot involved.

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