‘Walker’ draws strong demos for USA

NEW YORK — Columbia TriStar TV Distribution’s “Walker, Texas Ranger,” coming off its first rerun week on the USA Network, ended up with a 117% leap in men 18-49 — and a 45% increase in women 18-49 —over the Nielsen numbers of the series that occupied the time period last summer, “Murder, She Wrote.”

USA is counting on “Walker” to serve as the nightly 8 p.m. linchpin to the network’s primetime schedule, a function performed since 1988 by “Murder, She Wrote” reruns until they began to fade in the mid-’90s.

11% improvement

Overall, “Walker” averaged a 2.1 rating in cable homes in its premiere week (Aug. 4-8). “In today’s cable environment, that’s pretty good,” said Tim Brooks, senior VP of research for USA, referring to the growth in the number of cable networks vying for the attention of subscribers. The 2.1 rating is an 11% improvement over the 1.9 rating that “Murder, She Wrote” averaged in the 8 p.m. slot for the third quarter of 1996.

But the key, Brooks said, is the younger demos that “Walker” harvested last week. An average of 362,000 women 18-49 tuned in to “Walker,” compared with the 250,000, on average, that checked out “Murder” in the summer of ’96.

More men watching

The men 18-49 differential was even more pronounced: 310,000 for “Walker” against only 143,000 for “Murder” last summer.

“Walker” still draws almost twice as many older folks than younger people: an average of 654,000 women 50-plus and 583,000 men 50-plus last week. But Brooks said the older skew could be positive because seniors tend to be loyal viewers and not quick to sample the 8 p.m. programming that the broadcast networks will be touting when their fall season kicks off next month.

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