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CBS hopes ‘Love’ bowls over auds

CBS has opted to air the movie “For the Love of Aaron” Jan. 1 opposite primetime college bowl games after scoring big ratings with New Year’s-night series premieres two of the previous three years.

CBS will broadcast an original episode of “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” leading into the movie, which stars Meredith Baxter. Fox Broadcasting Co., meanwhile, will air its regular lineup of “Cops” and “Front Page.”

The network considered introducing one of its new series Jan. 1, most likely the Barney Rosenzweig drama “Christy,” hoping to capitalize on the limited male skew of the Sugar Bowl telecast on ABC and the Orange Bowl on NBC, freeing up female viewers.

Officials at the Eye network have resisted the temptation to stunt-premiere shows, maintaining that series’ fate is based on how they perform in their scheduled slot.

In addition, network officials noted that they didn’t have an immediate time period for “Christy” and sensed the new shows would be better served by premiering in March, using the Winter Olympics as a promotional platform.

Last season CBS premiered “Dr. Quinn” on Jan. 1, with the two-hour episode corralling an 18.2 rating/29 share in Nielsen. The show arrived in its regular 8 p.m. Saturday slot a few days later and has been a hit ever since.

CBS won the night the previous two years, in ’92 bringing back “Davis Rules”– which it had picked up from ABC — and a year earlier scoring a record “Rescue 911” rating (19.6/29) and solid numbers for another female-oriented movie, “Her Wicked Ways” (16.9/26).

NBC figures to get the better of the bowl battle with its No. 1 showdown between Florida State and Nebraska, while ABC’s West Virginia-Florida Sugar Bowl pairing lacks marquee value.

In terms of scheduling through January, CBS confirmed shifting “In the Heat of the Night” back to 9 p.m. Wednesdays and “How’d They Do That?” to “Heat’s” 8 o’clock Thursday post. It will bow the new drama “Burke’s Law” at 9 p.m. Fridays starting Jan. 7.

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