Regular Shows Off In 4th Quarter ’94

Another invasion has begun. Just as Fox has firmly established its seven-night network schedule, a new batch of intruders has popped up on Nielsen’s NTI weekly rankings.

UPN’s “Star Trek: Voyager” – 13.0 rating and 19 share – finished 22nd for the week of Jan. 16-22; that’s higher than “Nanny” (23rd), “Beverly Hills, 90210” (38th) and “Wings” (tied for 44th).

Fortunately for the Big Three and Fox, the other new fare from UPN and fellow upstart Warner Bros. sank straight to the bottom of the chart, settling into slots 98 through 103 – that’s worse than “Mommies” (91st) or even “M.A.N.T.I.S.”(96th).

However, the major networks can ill afford extra competition of any kind at this point. According to a recent study by Bozell Inc., their regularly scheduled programs lost a significant chunk of their share of the audience in the fourth quarter of 1994.

For instance, on Mondays, regular programs on the Big Three were down three share points compared with fourth quarter 1993. And while Fox negated those losses, the quartet was down six share points from 1992.

Only on Tuesday did the Big Three hold steady (at a combined share of 61) – but considering that “Home Improvement,” “Grace Under Fire” and “Frasier” all moved to that night, flat is really a failure. Thanks to Fox, as a foursome the nets were up two for Tuesday. Fox also boosted the nets over the top on Friday, where the 68 combined share was up a point over a year ago.

Down, down, down, down

But on the other four nights the network viewing levels were down no matter how one sliced it. Compared with fourth quarter 1993, the four-network total dropped two share points for Wednesday to 70, down three for Thursday (69), down five for Saturday (62, and the Big Three slipped below 50%) and down three for Sunday (72).

Fox was the only clear winner and CBS the biggest loser, while ABC and NBC earned mixed fourth-quarter results.

Compared with the previous season, Fox showed improvement on five of seven nights. It slipped a point on Wednesday to a 15 share, but that was because it moved “Melrose Place” to Monday, which paid off by boosting that night by three share points. Only Thursday, which was off by one point (two compared with 1992’s fourth quarter) is cause for concern.

CBS, by contrast, lost ground on four of seven nights and improved only on Fridays. Even Friday, which improved to an 18 share, only returned the web to its 1992 level. The Eye web was down to a 20 share on Monday, two points below 1993 and down five from 1992, when it was still strong enough to beat Monday Night Football.

CBS’ Tuesday lineup slipped to third place with a 17 share, four share points below 1993’s fourth-quarter average. The web was flat on Wednesday and Thursday. And while it finished second to NBC on Thursday, it was a distant second. CBS won Saturday and Sunday nights again, but its margin of victory narrowed as it slipped three share points on each of them.

Like CBS, ABC held steady on two nights and improved on a third. But the Alphabet web stayed even on Tuesday and Wednesday, where it remained in first, and it improved by a share point on Mondays, to 24, while CBS and NBC both slipped from 22, to 20.

ABC does need major improvement the rest of the week, but with the exception of Thursday – where ABC plunged five share points to a 14 – its declines were not as sharp as CBS’. The network was down two on Friday, but remained in first place, down one on Saturday (but both NBC and CBS dropped more) and down one on Sunday.

NBC improved on two nights and held steady on a third, with three shows having the most impact. “Wings” and “Frasier” helped boost Tuesday night to second place, with 19 share points, up four from the previous year, while “ER” jolted the web upward by three points on Thursday. The 26 share on that night was six points higher than NBC’s numbers for 1992, and the web is performing even stronger in the first quarter (it snagged a 33 share Jan. 19).

But NBC too has some serious problems on its hands: Monday and Saturday are in a state of steady decline. Monday dropped to a 20, off two share points from 1993 and three from 1992. On Saturday, the web dropped into a tie for second, down two share points from 1993 and three share points from 1992, when it won the night with an 18 average in the fourth quarter.

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