Eye alone addresses Saturdays

'Angel,' 'Baines' should add to CBS lead

HOLLYWOOD — In some ways, it seems the networks’ Saturday programming strategies in recent years have resulted in a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Is it because nobody’s watching on this night that the nets have stopped programming aggressively? Or is nobody watching because of a lack of aggressive programming?

This fall, only CBS is making much of an attempt to woo back some of the millions of viewers who have deserted the broadcast nets on Saturdays. The net’s moves, which bring vet “Touched by an Angel” and new drama “Citizen Baines” to the night, should help it add to its Saturday lead in total viewers and also strengthen its demo standing.

Otherwise, there’s not much new happening on the loneliest night of the week, where Fox’s “Cops” and “America’s Most Wanted” return for a 14th and 15th season, respectively, and ABC and NBC trot out theatricals — mostly repeats, and some airing for a fourth, fifth or, seemingly, 16th time on network TV.

(NBC, for example, is bringing out the way-back machine on the season’s opening Saturday by cranking up 1985’s “Back to the Future.” ABC will also be dipping into the vaults for a few weeks in October, airing some James Bond titles that it hopes will appeal to its Saturday afternoon college football aud.)

Last season, according to Nielsen, the four nets combined for a 38 share in adults 18-49 on Saturdays — down from 43 just one year earlier and the lowest for any night of the week (Friday’s 42 share is second-lowest). It’s getting even harder for them to reach younger crowds, with a combined four-net share of 36 in adults 18-34 and 32 in teens.

One clue that viewers are no longer beholden to the networks on Saturday night came last February and March, when new football league the XFL produced record-low ratings on NBC: Neither CBS, Fox nor ABC saw much of a ratings boost at NBC’s expense, as viewers simply eschewed what the majors were offering and went elsewhere.

Fox, whose stable reality lineup won Saturdays last season by 2 shares in adults 18-49 and 18-34 and by 1 share in 25-54, should remain on top in at least the two younger demos, while waging a close battle with CBS for the lead in 25-54. Fox was up slightly in viewers and 18-49 last season.

CBS should prevail in women 25-54 and could claim victory in its target adults 25-54 demo if 9 o’clock entry “Citizen Baines” clicks. The new drama, from Lydia Woodward (“ER”) and John Wells (“ER,” “West Wing”), gets a fairly protected timeslot between “Touched by an Angel,” which returns to the night after five seasons on Sunday, and “The District,” one of last season’s rookie hits.

“The District,” meanwhile, should also benefit from a better lead-in flow after last season capping a lineup that included the ineffective “That’s Life” and incompatible “Walker, Texas Ranger.”

As for the movie networks, ABC clearly has the better inventory (repeats of “Ransom” and “Good Will Hunting”), although NBC — now without any other movie nights — will be able to sprinkle in some fresher, stronger titles, including preems of “Bowfinger” and “Mickey Blue Eyes.”

Look for football to also have a greater impact on the nets’ Saturday fortunes this season thanks to an increase in primetime action during the fall and early winter. More college games will air on the major nets — including a pair of biggies on CBS — and some NFL playoff games will spill over into Saturday evening in January for the first time.

An increased Saturday sports presence is a trend that’s also crept into the summer months, with CBS airing the women’s final of tennis’ U.S. Open this month. Fox and NBC will likely want to add more NASCAR primetime events after enjoying ratings success this summer.

One sports league that’s not in danger of airing in primetime next winter and spring, though, is the XFL. And nobody’s happier than NBC.


Official 2001-2002 Primetime Schedule

for Saturday

 

ABC

CBS

NBC

FOX

8:00
ABC Big Picture Show

Touched by an Angel

NBC Saturday Night Movie

Cops

8:30
Citizen Baines

Cops

9:00

America’s Most Wanted

9:30
10:00
The District

 
10:30

2001-2002 Projections

Overall Viewers:

Adults 18-49:

Adults 25-54:

Adults 18-34:

Teens:

 

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