Nets chase Fox’s tale on Sunday

Rivals make significant sked changes

HOLLYWOOD — They’ll be hounding Fox on Sundays this season, as the net’s broadcast rivals look to chip away at its recent dominance while also trying to keep the cable world from making more inroads on the night.

Similar to the network leaders on other nights (CBS on Monday, NBC on Wednesday and Friday), Fox — last season’s champ on Sunday — is keeping its sked intact while its competitors make significant changes.

There are real wild cards on each of the other nets, including new Richard Dreyfuss drama “The Education of Max Bickford” taking over for “Touched by an Angel” on CBS, highly touted CIA/spy drama “Alias” replacing “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” on ABC, and a pair of new dramas — including yet another spin on “Law & Order” — taking over for a movie on NBC.

Fox, whose vets “The Simpsons” and “The X-Files” both showed year-to-year growth last season, should remain on top in adults 18-49, especially with the World Series, Super Bowl and preem of “Star Wars: Episode One — The Phantom Menace” comprising three of its Sundays. It could also move ahead in adults 25-54 (last year it finished just behind ABC), which would make it the only net to sweep a night in every key demo among 12-54.

But, in addition to battling its broadcast brethren, Fox and the others must also be wary of the advances cable has made on Sundays.

Last season, the broadcasters kept an advantage over cable in adults 18-49, but only barely. Their combined 51 share was down a disturbing 5 shares from the previous season and the third lowest for any night (better than only Saturday’s 38 and Friday’s 49).

HBO stole away some of the Sunday thunder with “The Sopranos,” but other nets including Lifetime (with original series) and TNT (with movies) also chipped away.

For its part, ABC believes its Sunday must get younger. While “Millionaire” continued to bring in lots of viewers at 9 last season, the quizzer’s older profile had a major effect on the net’s numbers.

According to Nielsen, ABC remained on top in adults 25-54 last season but fell further behind Fox to second in 18-49, 18-34 and teens, down 25% or more in each. “Alias,” sitting between ABC’s youngest-skewing show (“Wonderful World of Disney”) and its No. 1 drama (“The Practice”), is poised to grab a young aud, especially with Fox’s timeslot foe, “The X-Files,” not bowing until November.

To its credit, “The Practice” declined by only 6% year to year despite a whopping 41% drop-off for its “Millionaire” lead-in and remains the show to beat on Sunday night.

CBS, which edged out ABC on the night last season in total viewers thanks to its big “Super Bowl”/”Survivor” Sunday, is looking to rebound following a season that saw “Angel” and the “CBS Sunday Movie” both decline by about 20% in key demos.

“Max Bickford” reps something of a different direction for the net at 8 and should at least bow to big numbers. Its more urban and male skew could also help the net’s movie, which had been heavily female.

NBC is shaking things up the most, dropping its movie for the first time in 30 years and replacing it with “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” and “UC: Undercover.” Also, quizzer “Weakest Link” plays at 8.

It’s a big gamble, especially since the net hasn’t had a hit Sunday series — let alone three — in years. NBC was down by about 15% in demos last season, finishing fourth.

The new “Law & Order” seems out of place at 9 on Sunday, where it will face two other dramas. “UC,” meanwhile, hasn’t generated much critical heat and must skew very young to have success against “The Practice.”

Weblet the WB can only improve on Sunday, which is the weakest of its six nights despite slight gains last season. New out-there laffers “Men, Women & Dogs” and “Off Centre” could provide a spark, as could repeats of cable series “Ripley’s Believe It or Not,” which will kick off the night.

Official 2001-2002 Primetime Schedule

for Sunday







The Wonderful World of Disney

60 Minutes



Ripley’s Believe it or Not!

King of the Hill

The Education of Max Bickford

Weakest Link

The Simpsons

Steve Harvey Show

Malcolm in the Middle

Men, Women, & Dogs


CBS Sunday Night Movie

Law & Order: Criminal Intent

The X-Files


Off Centre

The Practice

UC: Undercover

Local news

Local programming 


2001-2002 Projections
Overall Viewers:

Adults 18-49:

Adults 25-54:


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