Newsmagazines hold own in crowded field

NEW YORK — If you schedule it, they will come.

When it comes to newsmagazines that seems to be the mantra these days. “Now With Tom Brokaw & Katie Couric,” the latest entry into this crowded field, has charged out of the gate with two strong rating performances.

Its sparkling 12.2 rating and 20 share on Wednesday, Aug. 25, suffered only the slightest of dips from the Aug. 18 premiere when it snared a 12.3/21. Additionally, the presence of the newsmag at 9 p.m. inspired the 8 p.m. show “Unsolved Mysteries” to two of its best weeks of the repeat season at 11.8/23 and 12.1/22.

This news bodes especially well for the fall since “Now” was up against fresh episodes of CBS’ new Western drama “Ned Blessing” (a respectable 10.9/18 on the 18th but down to 8.8/15 on the 25th) and ABC’s “Home Improvement,” which performs well in repeats (14.1/24 on the 18th and 16.1/27 on the 25th; at 9:30, “Delta” scored a 9.3/16 and 11.2/19, respectively).

As if there were not enough newsmag series on the air, ABC tossed another newsmag special into the fray on Tuesday, Aug. 24, at 10 p.m. when “Good Morning America: Evening Edition” scored big with a Burt Reynolds piece (despite the show’s oxymoronic name). “GMA” nabbed an 11.8/21, although it lost 17% of its aud in the second half-hour, dropping from a 12.9/22 to a 10.7/20.

The special was not as successful as ABC’s July 27 effort to challenge “Dateline NBC” for the Tuesday newsviewing audience (these sporadic specials are perhaps a test to see whether there is indeed enough audience for two newsmags to go head-to-head). On that night, “Turning Point” with Barbara Walters snagged a 14.1/25, trouncing “Dateline’s” 8.7/15. But against “GMA,””Dateline” rose, at least partway, to the occasion drawing a respectable 10.5/19 overall, building to 10.8/20 to win the second half-hour. It also tied “GMA” with a 6.5 rating for adults 18-49 as “GMA” lost more than a quarter of its viewers in that demo in the second half.

For CBS, its best news was in the sitcom department. The web already has had one pleasant surprise this summer, with the modest success of “Big Wave Dave” on Monday nights. And on Friday, Aug. 20, “The Building” (from new CBS employee David Letterman’s production company) posted a solid 8.0/16 to finish second in its premiere at 9:30.

While that may not be an awe-inspiring rating, consider that the lead-in, “The Boys” (also a debut), drew a 6.6/13, and the lead-out, “Picket Fences” (in reruns), drew a 6.7/13. That means that 21% of the audience tuned in just to sample “The Building”– an impressive figure, even without factoring in that this was 9:30 on a Friday in August. If these viewers should come back during the rest of the show’s limited run, then CBS may return it mid-season in a stronger time slot.

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