‘Shield’ has arresting numbers in FX debut

Show nabs best premiere episode of original series on cable

NEW YORK — FX made cable-network history with its March 12 debut of its weekly series “The Shield,” the hard-edged cop show that harvested 3.1 million homes, a better audience delivery than any other premiere episode of an original series on basic cable.

The 4.1 average rating in cable homes stunned even the executives at FX, who would’ve celebrated if the episode wound up in the mid-2s. Advertisers who bought time chalked up a bargain-basement coup because the salespeople at FX priced the first three episodes very conservatively, at less than a 2 rating.

Many advertisers are leery of placing their spots on “The Shield,” despite raves from most of the TV critics, because it pushes the boundaries of content with language, nudity and violence.

FX: Ad prices should go up

But FX officials are convinced that if the show continues to score in the ratings, advertiser demand will drive up the price of a 30-second spot and help FX cover the $1.3-million-an-episode production cost and the millions the network is spending to promote it.

The series, produced by Fox TV Studios and Columbia TriStar TV, did particularly well among adults 18 to 49 and adults 25 to 54, the demo groups FX targets with its programming.

FX was not the only cable network crowing over March 12 numbers. MTV pulled an impressive 3.2 rating for the second week of “The Osbournes,” a satire of family sitcoms. The 3.2 rating was four-tenths of a point higher than the 2.8 the series scored in its premiere week. It’s extremely rare for a new series to do better in its second week than in its first.

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