Females flock to primetime TV

HOLLYWOOD — Fox and the WB are two of the season’s hottest nets, and a good part of their success can be chalked up to gender equity.

The traditionally testosterone-tilting Fox and femme-focused Frog are attracting a more balanced viewership thanks to their biggest hits — “American Idol” and “Smallville,” respectively.

A study of the audience composition for all broadcasters, meanwhile, shows that women, as usual, are watching more primetime television than men, especially when it comes to newsmags and comedies. Some dramas and reality shows, on the other hand, can draw a larger percentage of men.

According to Nielsen data through mid-March, the WB is attracting the largest percentage of its adults 18-49 aud from females this season (60%), but this is down from the nearly 63% slant it possessed the previous two seasons.

“Smallville,” which has become the net’s highest-rated show in most categories, is 51% female, joining the now-canceled “Birds of Prey” (also 51%) and the Thursday combo of “Surreal Life” and “Jamie Kennedy Experiment” (both 52%) as series helping balance out the Frog this season.

CBS, with midseason additions “Star Search” and “My Big Fat Greek Life,” is the No. 2 net when it comes to females (58.5% of its aud), up slightly from last season and now more female than NBC (57.5%). ABC (56.7% female), which airs the most football, remains the most male of the Big Three, although the addition of lady-leaning “The Bachelor” (68% female) has made it more femme than last year.

Fox, whose 18-49 aud was 46% female last season, has swung to a 54% female skew thanks to the twice-weekly “American Idol” (60% female) and limited-run megahit “Joe Millionaire” (58%). That leaves UPN (46% female) as the only net drawing more of its audience from men than women.

Overall, 56.7% of primetime viewing by adults under 50 is by women, but this number rises to 57.9% when football overruns and ABC’s “Monday Night Football” (31% female) and UPN’s “WWE Smackdown” (36%) are tossed out.

Some other gender tidbits:

  • Except for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” a woman’s name in a title guaranteed the show would play to an aud that’s at least 62% female. This list includes four of the most female-skewing of all shows: No. 1 “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” on the WB (71% female) and three shows that tied for No. 2 — CBS’ “Judging Amy,” the WB’s “Reba” and UPN’s “Abby” (all at 69%).

  • Both editions of CBS’ “60 Minutes” are relatively male-skewing, with Sunday’s flagship show, which follows football for half the season, at 49% female and Wednesday’s “60 Minutes II” at 55% female.

    The Eye’s other news hour, crimemag “48 Hours Investigates,” is 62% female — up there with the more emotional storytelling of “Dateline,” whose editions on both Friday (65%) and Tuesday (61%) also lean heavily femme.

  • Fox airs three of the only four dramas that derive less than half of their 18-49 aud from women, with “Fastlane,” “John Doe” and “24” all at around 48% female. But it’s UPN’s “Enterprise” (39% female), which airs opposite the heavily femme “Dawson’s Creek” and “My Wife and Kids,” that is the most male-skewed drama on the nets.

  • ABC’s “The Bachelor” is by far the most femme of the unscripted skeins (68%), with “Star Search” at 62%. Among the more male skewing are the WB’s “Jamie Kennedy Experiment” (52%), CBS’ “Amazing Race” and NBC’s “Fear Factor” (both at 53%) and CBS’ “Survivor” (55%).

  • Among comedies, the 10 most femme are on the weblets, including UPN Monday’s “Girlfriends” and “Half & Half” (both 69%). The most female on the Big Four are ABC’s “Less Than Perfect” (64%) and NBC’s “Will & Grace” (63%).
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