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Femme auds feast on Showtime’s ‘Food’

Hit-pic adaptation a winner on TV, too

NEW YORK — Paramount TV’s “Soul Food” series adaptation of the hit movie has begun harvesting surprisingly gaudy Nielsen ratings for Showtime, averaging a 2.8 primetime rating in cable homes for its first six weeks in the Wednesday-at-10 timeslot.

Women in particular have discovered “Soul Food,” driving the rating up by 43% for the show’s first six weeks on the network (June 26 to July 6) compared with the same six weeks in 1999, when Showtime was running a mix of theatrical and original movies. Among women 18 to 34, the Nielsen ratings for the six weeks of “Soul Food” are up by 83%.

“Soul Food” is by far the most popular of the five original series Showtime starting running, in checkerboard fashion, every weeknight at 10, beginning the week of June 26.

However, all five series, including “Soul Food,” are down from the time period of a year ago, with “Soul Food” off the least, by 7%.

Other skeins

The poorest performer of the five, based on year-to-year comparisons, is Granada TV’s returning “Beggars and Choosers,” whose 1.7 average rating in cable homes on Tuesday is down by 48% from the same period in 1999, but the program’s satirical look at the TV business has made it a must-watch among showbiz insiders.

MGM TV’s “Stargate: SG-1,” now in its fourth year, is averaging a more-than-acceptable 2.8 rating in cable homes on Friday, although that number is 26% below that of the timeslot a year ago. The good news for “Stargate” is that it’s up by 25% among men 18 to 34.

Monday’s “Resurrection Blvd.,” from Viacom Prods., manages only a 2.0 rating average in cable homes, down 43% from a year ago. But Showtime is high on the show because it’s the first dramatic U.S. TV series ever produced featuring only Hispanic Americans in the cast, and it has drawn a number of favorable reviews from TV critics.

Columbia TriStar TV’s “Rude Awakening,” the only half-hour comedy among the five, averages a 1.9 rating in cable homes, which is 39% below year-ago ratings.

Mark Zakarin, executive VP of Showtime Networks, noted that Nielsen ratings are not the be-all-and-end-all for a pay TV network like Showtime because it doesn’t sell advertising.

The new Monday-through-Friday strategy is “the first time the network has placed the scheduling of regular series as a priority, as opposed to movies,” Zakarin said.

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