East Coast biz floored by Floyd

Weather Channel Web site, web flooded

The good news is, viewership of the Weather Channel is at an all-time high.

The bad news is that Hurricane Floyd on Wednesday shut down film and TV productions, put the networks’ weekend sports sked in limbo, forced the postponement of the Backstreet Boys’ U.S. tour opener and put a major damper on the East Coast showbiz industry in general.

And while the storm appears to be weakening, there’s no letup in sight. The front is expected to hit New York and the New England area today, bringing torrential rains, gale-force winds and flooding.

Filming was halted on Columbia TriStar’s “Dawson’s Creek,” which was shooting at ground-zero in Wilmington N.C., directly in Floyd’s path. Reps there said that they won’t be able to resume shooting until they are able to assess the damage.

The Warner Bros. feature “The In Crowd,” which was on location in Charleston, S.C., also was closed down. It was the second time this summer that filming on the pic has been halted by a hurricane.

The top-rated program on cabler TBS, the wrestling show “WCW Thunder,” canceled a nationally televised event in Florence, S.C. A second attempt to film in Norfolk, Va., ended up washed out as well.

Meanwhile, crews on WB’s new drama “Safe Harbor” will be able to report back to work after they were ordered off their Jacksonville set Tuesday by the National Guard and moved to Tallahassee to wait out the downpour.

Because the impact of the powerful storm is expected to cut a 300-mile swath as it heads up the Atlantic Coast, networks officials are monitoring a number of sports events with hopes that the tempest will slow down by the time it hits the Northeast.

Fox’s Major League Baseball broadcasts Saturday were to feature pennant race showdowns — the New York Yankees at the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati at Pittsburgh — but both appear uncertain as they’re smack in the storm’s path.

The outlook looks better for two of Sunday’s NFL matchups on Fox: Tampa Bay at Philadelphia and Washington at the New York Giants.

A Fox Sports spokesman said he was optimistic that the games would go on, but Floyd “could make it very difficult to set up if there’s any flooding. … At least people love to watch good, muddy football,” he said.

CBS officials were breathing a sigh of cautious relief. Saturday’s showcase college grid matchup, Penn State at the U. of Miami, looks safe. The storm has passed through southern Florida, and the forecast calls for sun and 80-degree temperatures.

With the National Guard ordering a mass exodus from the East Coast from Florida through Virginia, millions have been tuning into the Weather Channel.

The net’s ratings began to build over the weekend and hit a high mark on Tuesday with a 3.4 rating in the 8-8:15 p.m. quarter-hour with more than 2.5 million households tuned in, according to Nielsen research. Audience surges were expected to continue on Wednesday as the hurricane headed into the Carolinas.

The Weather Channel’s Web site also broke a record Tuesday with 23.5 million pageviews reported.

There were big ratings winners in Miami, where millions of residents were evacuated. The Fox affiliate pulled a 20 share and 11 rating for the morning show “Today-Florida.”

Other shows in Miami were also apparently breaking record ratings as programs such as “Martha Stewart Living” which last week received a 1.3 rating and 6 share suddenly was reported to have skyrocketed to a 10.1 rating and 18 share in a single week. The seemingly huge numbers were misleading, though, as Nielsen was unable to single out news preemptions covering the storm that ran throughout the afternoon.

Some overly eager publicists jumped on the numbers, though, pitching first-run product bowing this week as an “unbelievable” hit in the Florida city with 20 share points. No word yet on how they’ll explain a 90% dropoff next week.

The threat of the hurricane forced cancellations of the Backstreet Boys’ concerts Tuesday and Thursday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the first scheduled dates on the band’s sold-out U.S. tour. The shows have been reskedded for December 5-6.

Floyd blew PBS’ “Nightly Business Report” from its Florida home Tuesday as well, with the financial news show broadcasting from New York rather than Miami.