NBC on defense as big guns target Thursday

HOLLYWOOD — If any more slings or arrows were hurled in the direction of NBC’s vaunted Thursday lineup, it would need to check into “ER.”

Battered and bruised yet amazingly resilient during last season’s three-month challenge from CBS’ “Survivor,” NBC’s Thursday remained primetime’s strongest night — but this seems to have the other nets itching even more to bring it down. After tasting some Peacock blood, the sharks are ready to pounce this fall.

Not only will NBC have to endure two more editions of “Survivor” and a full season of CBS drama “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” it must also fend off Fox’s young-adult magnet “Temptation Island,” which moves over from Wednesday. Also, at 10, CBS challenges “ER” with new CIA drama “The Agency.”

At 9 o’clock, the addition of “Temptation” to a time period that already includes “CSI” on CBS, “Will & Grace” and “Just Shoot Me” on NBC, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” on ABC and “WWF Smackdown” on UPN makes this the toughest hour in memory — and Thursday by far the strongest night for broadcast television.

Share of the pie

Last season, according to Nielsen, the six broadcast nets combined for a 67 share in adults 18-49 on Thursdays, 8 more than the next best day, Wednesday (59). And that figure could climb this season, especially if Fox — which has been a Thursday afterthought for years — becomes a player.

So, while NBC’s Thursday barely flinched — down 2% last year in adults 18-49 rating — its slice of the night’s lucrative pie got smaller (down 2 share points to 25). This is the night that movie studios shell out big bucks to trumpet weekend releases, and each net wants some of the action.

Look for the Peacock — with 8:30 laffer “Inside Schwartz” its only change — to stay on top in key demos such as adults 18-49, 25-54 and 18-34. Net also should get off to a good start, as “Survivor” doesn’t bow until Oct. 11 and “Temptation Island” waits until Nov. 1; of course, this means the reality skeins will face a fair number of NBC repeats.

CBS, which barely showed up on Thursdays prior to “Survivor,” should prevail among total viewers and men 25-54, as its lineup (“Survivor,” “CSI” and “The Agency”) plays to a more balanced gender mix than NBC’s heavily femme fare. A victory in viewers on the night would be the first on record for CBS, which hadn’t beaten NBC on a single Thursday night prior to last season since the days of “Knots Landing” in the late ’80s.

Last season, with CBS airing one edition of “Survivor,” NBC’s seasonlong advantage was 10 shares in 25-54; the Eye would need strong numbers from “The Agency” to close that gap entirely. NBC won last season by 12 shares in adults 18-49 and by 16 shares in adults 18-34, with these margins also likely to tighten.

As for Fox, “Temptation” will greatly improve upon the net’s feeble Thursday scores of last season, when it was fifth in demos — behind UPN and not too far ahead of the WB.

Net can’t expect the “Temptation” numbers of last winter, when its seven-episode run dominated Wednesday’s 9 o’clock hour in adults 18-34. But improvement here is key if Fox is to continue to hound NBC for the season in 18-49.

Alphabet’s status quo

Over at ABC, they’re sticking with a pat hand, and that’s not a bad idea — despite steep declines a year ago. “Whose Line Is it Anyway” is a decent comedy alternative to NBC at 8, “Millionaire” will grab those not drawn elsewhere at 9 and “Primetime Thursday” is now the sole newsmag option at 10.

Remote controls could get a workout, especially at 9 — when NBC’s comedies and “Survivor” will funnel lots of young viewers into the hour — and at 10, when all six networks — and that includes the WB and its unsung “Charmed” — end their high-profile 9 o’clock offerings.

Potential losers could be “Inside Schwartz” at 8:30, which should get gobbled up by “Survivor,” and 9:30′s “Just Shoot Me,” which could lose more viewers than usual from lead-out “Will & Grace,” especially to “Temptation.” On the other hand, “ER” could benefit from the avalanche of women 18-34 watching TV just before its credits roll at 10.

As for the key matchups, look for “Survivor” to continue to best “Friends” this fall, although it’s anybody’s guess if the reality juggernaut can keep it going with a second edition later in the season. Fox, with comedies “Family Guy” and “The Tick,” and the WB, with femme reality series, will at least grab a decent-sized chunk of their nets’ core auds.

At 9, “CSI” should win in viewers and adults 25-54, with “Will & Grace” taking younger demos; “Temptation” could make it close at 9:30, though.

And to finish off the night, “The Agency” won’t topple “ER” but it does stand a good chance to compete with the longtime Thursday winner in men 25-54 as well as boost the Eye’s overall nightly scores.

Official 2001-2002 Primetime Schedule

for Thursday

 

ABC

CBS

NBC

FOX

WB

UPN

8:00

Whose Line Is It Anyway?

Survivor III

Friends

Family Guy

Popstars 2

WWF Smackdown

8:30

Whose Line Is It Anyway?

Inside Schwartz

The Tick

Elimidate Deluxe

9:00

Who Wants to be a Millionaire Special Edition

C.S.I.

Will & Grace

Temptation Island 2

Charmed

9:30

Just Shoot Me

10:00

Primetime Thursday

The Agency

ER

  

 

10:30

2001-2002 Projections

Overall Viewers:

photos/logos/22_cbs.gif>

Adults 18-49:

Adults 25-54:

Adults 18-34:

Teens:

 

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