It’s only one week into the new season, but some things haven’t changed: NBC remains the net to beat in key demos, crime dramas are hot and new comedies are not.
The Peacock network contributed to these trends last week in winning the opening frame of the 2001-02 season by a comfortable 19% in adults 18-49 and by 8% in overall audience, according to Nielsen. Its three new dramas — the crime-related “Crossing Jordan,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” and “UC: Undercover” — got off to impressive starts, even as two of its new comedies, “Emeril” and “Inside Schwartz,” failed to click.
On the strength of its strong drama bows and the usual premiere-week boffo turnouts for “Frasier,” “Friends” and “ER,” NBC also won the frame in every key adult breakdown. Net claimed seven of the week’s top 10 programs in adults 18-49 and delivered the top show of the night Tuesday (“Frasier”), Wednesday (“Law & Order”), Thursday (“Friends”) and Friday (“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”).
Overall, viewers didn’t particularly take to too many new programs, instead returning like iron to magnets to some of their faves.
Among comedies, CBS laffer “Everybody Loves Raymond” drew its largest aud ever and NBC’s “Friends” its biggest in more than five years. And among dramas, both returning “Law & Order” series on NBC attracted their largest premiere auds ever, ABC’s “The Practice” its biggest in four seasonal bows, CBS’ “JAG” delivered its second-biggest crowd in six seasons, and the Eye’s “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” appeared to be on the verge of even bigger hitdom this season after its monster premiere.
The new programs to make the biggest impact in the opening week — relative to their network and time period — were UPN’s “Enterprise,” NBC’s “Crossing Jordan,” CBS’ “The Guardian” and ABC’s “Alias.” Also getting decent-to-good sampling were ABC’s “Philly” and “Thieves,” CBS’ “The Agency,” Fox’s “Undeclared,” and NBC’s Sunday pair of “Law & Order: CI” and “UC.”
Shows needing to rebound in upcoming weeks are CBS’ “The Ellen Show,” “Danny” and “Citizen Baines,” NBC’s “Emeril” and “Inside Schwartz,” and Fox’s “Pasadena.”
In the middle, perhaps, are a pair of CBS dramas — “The Education of Max Bickford” and “Wolf Lake” — that have each aired twice and are providing minor time-period boosts at this point.
Opening week of the season was also not very kind to reality series, as ABC’s “The Mole II” and Fox’s “Love Cruise” got off to slow starts and two others — CBS’ “The Amazing Race” and NBC’s “Lost” — dropped off sharply in their third and second outings, respectively.
And extending the definition of “reality” a bit further, it was also a quiet week for ABC’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” which lagged well behind the leaders in its hour on its two nights, and Fox’s Saturday staples “Cops” and “America’s Most Wanted,” down noticeably from last season.
Comparisons vs. a year ago are going to be tricky for the first few weeks of the season, as baseball and political debates dotted the start of last season. Also, a number of new and returning shows won’t premiere until this week or later. NBC’s returning “Ed” and “The West Wing” have yet to bow, for example, as has most of Fox’s lineup — thanks to its exclusive coverage of postseason baseball beginning next week.
The four major nets were down a combined 2% in adults 18-49 vs. premiere week last season and off by 10% from two years ago.
CBS, the net that aired the most of its regular sked in premiere week, was showing steep declines vs. its opening week last season — despite nice gains Tuesday and massive increases Thursday. Some of the drop-off can be attributed to not airing the Country Music Awards on premiere week (it has been pushed back to November) and to a much bigger Sunday National Football League overrun last season, but the net was also slow out of the gates Friday and Saturday.
ABC accomplished its goal of returning to a younger audience base. While the net was off vs. last year’s premiere week in total viewers (down 9%) it was up in the more important demos, including 2% in 18-49 and 5% in 18-34.
Key in this audience shift was the reduction of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” with the quizzer now just on its sked two hours instead of last season’s four.
UPN made a big splash last week with the two-hour premiere of “Enterprise,” the latest “Star Trek” series. It won Wednesday in adults 18-49 (6.3/16), ranking as the No. 1 new drama of the season by this measure, edging “Alias” (6.2/14) and “Crossing Jordan” (6.1/15).
Year-to-year declines for Fox and the WB, meanwhile, come as no surprise. Fox, because of baseball, has premiered only 40% of its sked thus far, and the WB, to avoid getting its shows lost amid premiere week clutter, has bowed only one of its six nights.
The No. 1 program of premiere week in adults 18-49 was NBC’s “Friends” (15.8/43). Net’s Thursday lineup claimed the week’s top 5 shows in adults 18-49 and 18-34.
In total viewers, “Friends” (31.70m) was followed by “ER” (28.20m), “Everybody Loves Raymond” (22.80m), “Inside Schwartz” (22.51m) and “CSI” (22.27m).
Week’s top cable programs, “Sunday Night NFL” on ESPN (8.32m) and “Band of Brothers” on HBO (6.13m) ranked 60th and 78th, respectively, among all shows. It’s the fourth straight time “Brothers” has dropped in audience since its strong premiere (10.06m).
CBS won the night Oct. 1 and improved upon its premiere week numbers, with “Everybody Loves Raymond” (22.46m, 8.3/20 in A18-49) virtually matching its best-ever scores of the previous week’s premiere. And at 10, drama “Family Law” (11.36m, 4.0/10 in A18-49) was up 21% week to week in the demo and closed the gap with NBC’s “Crossing Jordan” (14.17m, 5.3/13).
At 9:30, the return of “Becker” held 72% of its “Raymond” 18-49 lead-in, up slightly from the 69% that “The Ellen Show” did in the slot a week earlier. “Becker” did hold onto considerably more of the 50-plus aud than “Ellen,” grabbing its second-largest aud ever (18.21m) and providing a better lead-in for “Family Law.”
“Crossing Jordan’s” week-to-week decline was a tame 13% in adults 18-49 — impressive since its “Dateline” lead-in was down 31% in the demo week to week.
ABC’s “Monday Night Football” (San Francisco 49ers-New York Jets) slipped to its smallest scores in three tries this season (16.14m, 6.7/18 in A18-49), pushing the net back to second after it won premiere week.
The WB’s “Seventh Heaven” moved up to third in adults 18-49 (3.1/8), topping both NBC’s “Weakest Link” (3.4/9) and ABC’s “Millionaire” (2.7/8). “Heaven” matched its strong premiere score and built slightly week to week in total viewers (to 8.52m).