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Auds fall for new telepics

Viewers seeks out movies across the dial

HOLLYWOOD — “Desperate Housewives” and “Lost” have scored a resounding victory for fresh, high-concept dramas this fall, but another drama form is also thriving — telepics.

While CBS is now alone among the Big Three in airing a regular Sunday night movie franchise, auds are seeking out original movies on television across the dial, lured by intriguing loglines and casting or pre-sold subjects.

Among the major broadcasters and cablers, ABC, CBS and TNT have enjoyed success but so too have outlets relatively new to the pic game, such as ESPN and the WB.

And in the case of niche nets such as the latter two, a successful movie serves an important role in helping to broaden their viewer bases.

For example, ESPN’s fourth original movie, the Dale Earnhardt biopic “3,” averaged a big 7.2 million viewers in its Dec. 11 premiere. It’s no surprise that the tale of the late NASCAR legend would bring in males, but 40% of its adult aud was female — a much more balanced aud than usual for the testosterone-tilting sports net.

And at the WB, the net’s first telepic, “Samantha: An American Girl Holiday,” drew a spiffy 6 million viewers for its Nov. 23 preem. The period piece based on the bestselling books gave the net its largest Tuesday audience in 18 months, in large part by drawing femmes both younger and older than the Frog’s core 12-34 aud.

Also performing well over the past month or so have been CBS’ two-part disaster pic “Category 6: Day of Destruction,” TNT’s action-adventure pic “The Librarian: Quest for the Spear” starring Noah Wyle and ABC’s heart-tugger “The Five People You Meet in Heaven,” based on the Mitch Albom book.

There have, of course, been a few clunkers this fall, including NBC’s been-there-done-that musical “A Christmas Carol.”

Looking ahead at some pre-sold concepts, ABC could do some solid business with its behind-the-scenes look at “Dynasty” in January, and CBS hopes to get auds all shook up for its two-night “Elvis” biopic in May.

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