Auds cool to past staples of networks

Crime skein spin-offs losing ratings appeal

Spring is in the air, so in honor of seasonal cleaning rituals, it’s time to clear out the ratings notebook:

  • You can’t blame the network suits at NBC and CBS for ordering up more versions of their popular crime franchises, but they may want to hold off on any more. There figured to come a time when audiences began to tire of crimes and corpses, and we may have hit that point in 2005.

While “CSI: NY” is a solid performer for CBS (it’s likely to finish as the season’s No. 4 new program in adults 18-49), it has cooled from its hot start and is nowhere near as strong as the other two “CSI” series.

And now, “Trial by Jury” has opened modestly for NBC (averaging a 3.4 demo rating in its three Friday airings, according to Nielsen), suggesting a third spinoff of “Law & Order” may be one too many.

These relatively soft showings by well-branded procedural franchises come in a season that saw ABC hit it big with the uber-unique “Desperate Housewives” and “Lost.”

Maybe the tide is turning.

  • It’s been a disappointing season at the WB, but one of the bigger surprises has been the soft showing for “Summerland” since its return to the sked a month ago.

A hit last summer, the Lori Loughlin-led, beach-set drama has averaged a 1.2 rating in adults 18-49 and a 1.35 in adults 18-34 — retaining just 84% of its lead-in from repeats of “7th Heaven.” It has even fallen behind repeats of UPN’s comedies.

Maybe auds simply weren’t ready for summer in March.

  • CBS delivered solid numbers with its recent Sunday pic “Spring Break Shark Attack,” pulling in 10 shares in teens, adults 18-34 and adults 18-49.

An attempt by the Eye to bring new, younger viewers to its Sunday movie franchise, the pic received a big promotional push during coverage of the NCAA men’s basketball tourney and was heavily promoted on radio and sister cabler MTV.

Still, its best rating (6.0) and share (12) came from adults 50-plus — proving how hard CBS must work to recruit young viewers and how relatively easy it is for the Eye to reach viewers 50 and older.

  • Fox, meanwhile, is the youngest of the major networks, so its hit shows tend to start with an under-35 base and branch out from there.

Such is the case with “American Idol,” which has blossomed into the most demographically desirable program on television in its fourth season — and a thorn in the side of rival programmers fighting for the ratings crumbs it leaves behind.

This season, the Tuesday performance edition of “Idol” is amazingly up 3% vs. last year in adults 18-49 (to a 12.1 rating) and up 7% in total viewers (29.1 million), standing as TV’s top-rated series in both.

The smallest year-to-year growth (in part because the base was so high to begin with) is a 2% build among teens and a 3% rise among adults 18-34. And for a second straight year, women 50-plus is leading the growth — with viewership up 20% (in part because the base was so low).

Overall, “Idol” is drawing a huge 33 share in adults 18-34, a 30 in adults 18-49, a 29 share in 25-54 and a now-substantial 19 share in 50-plus.

  • There’s still roughly one-fourth of the season remaining, but the network standings are pretty much locked in.

Fox will win the season in adults 18-49 with a 4.1 rating, followed closely by CBS at 4.0. Ratings for the other two nets aren’t sure things, but ABC will finish third, probably with a 3.9, and NBC seems destined for fourth with a 3.7 or 3.8.

If you count only regular programming or non-sports programming, CBS will sweep the season in adults 18-49, adults 25-54 and total viewers.

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