NEW YORK — TNT has given the go-ahead for a full 22 episodes of its well-publicized firstrun primetime series “Bull,” despite the fact that the first five runs in its Tuesday-at-10 timeslot are averaging an anemic 1.2 Nielsen rating.
“We’re really not disappointed in the ratings,” says Julie Weitz, executive VP of original programming for TNT. Weitz says TNT plays each episode three times in a given week, resulting in a cumulative total audience of about 2-million households per week.
Weitz also says that the number of men 18 to 49 has increased since the series started, and that TNT is continuing to pour on the advertising and promotion, spending record amounts of money to market an original series. TNT didn’t lay out as much on its two previous original series — “The New Adventures of Robin Hood” in 1996-97 and the final year of “Babylon 5” in 1998 — because they were purchased product, not “home-baked” like “Bull,” Weitz says.
The new-episode commitment is for nine episodes, to go on top of the 13 currently in production. TNT declined to discuss dollar figures, but sources say the production cost of “Bull” comes to about $1.5 million per hour, making it one of the two or three most expensive series of its kind on cable. The series keeps adding what it calls “recurring guest stars” to the cast, including Ryan O’Neal, Kathy Baker, David Ogden Stiers and Donald Moffat. Michael S. Chernuchin produces “Bull” for Warner Bros. TV.
Weitz says the new episodes will begin on the TNT schedule in January 2001.