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‘Dateline’ making some appointments

While new series which are generally hammocked between well-established shows are measured to a large extent by their ability to hold their lead-ins, hit shows in the anchor spots at 9 and 10 p.m. are expected to attract their own viewers. Yet weighing how much these anchors improve on a lead-in – a strong indicator of people tuning in specifically for that show – is an often overlooked stat.

Surprisingly, the strongest performer in this category is the Wednesday edition of “Dateline NBC.” The newsmagazine, averaging an 11.6 rating and 18 share season to date in the 9 p.m., slot has scored an astonishing 84% higher than the 8 p.m. sci-fi drama “seaQuest 2032,” 6.3/10. (All figures are based on Nielsen ratings.)

No other show has drawn such a large percentage of viewers on its own. NBC has abandoned ship on “seaQuest,” and if it can improve significantly in the 8-9 time period, the web could make a run at ABC on Wednesdays.

(The other two versions of “Dateline” – Tuesday and Friday – have not produced similar numbers. The Tuesday 10 p.m. edition is averaging an 11.7/20 – slightly higher than the Wednesday version, but only a lackluster 17% improvement over the 9:30 flop “The Pursuit of Happiness.” The Friday 9 p.m. edition is scoring a 10.6/18, only 5% higher than the 8 p.m. show “Unsolved Mysteries.”)

X-Files’ performance

Less shocking is the showing of “The X-Files” on Fox Fridays at 9. Although the 8 p.m. show “Strange Luck,” with its 6.3/12 average, is outperforming predecessors such as “MANTIS,” “X-Files” is still forced to build its own audience. And it is more than equal to the task, adding 70% to “Strange Luck” for its 10.7/19 average. “20/20” is another Friday show that is left to its own devices. It’s a strong performer, but it would likely see a jump in the ratings with a more potent lead-in. (A more compatible line-up than the TGIF block would also help.) Through the first eleven weeks, “Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper” managed only a 10.0/17 at 9:30, the weakest of ABC’s four comedies. But “20/20” snags enough of its own viewers to post a 14.8/27,48% higher than the lackluster sitcom.

The margin between the lead-out and the anchor can also indicate whether a hammocked show is dragging down a lineup.

“Married… With Children” has been declining steadily for several years, but it still has enough of a core audience to score decent numbers – if Fox could find a show that works after “The Simpsons” in the Sunday 8:30 time period.

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