HOLLYWOOD — Saturday night has long been known for its depressed levels of television viewing, but this fall the broadcast nets’ downer Friday lineups could use some Prozac too.
A shot of testosterone wouldn’t hurt either.
Friday’s weak and decidedly femme fare on the networks has sent auds — especially men — racing to cable in the early going this season. No single cable entry is pulling them in; rather, a collection of 1 and 2-share shows are benefiting as dissatisfied viewers give their remotes a workout.
According to Nielsen, the four major nets have combined on Fridays this season for a 38 share in adults 18-49 — an alarming 11-share dropoff from this point last year. Weblets UPN and the WB are faring better, combining for 1 more share in the demo (8, up from 7), but that still leaves the six broadcasters down 10 shares in just a single year (46 from 56).
Among men, the dropoff is an even steeper 13 shares.
Shows with male appeal that aired on the night — CBS’ trio of “The Fugitive,” “CSI” and “Nash Bridges” and Fox’s “Police Videos” — have been replaced by the likes of female-led “The Ellen Show” and “That’s Life” on CBS, soap “Pasadena” on Fox and romantic meller “Once and Again” on ABC.
And the only sked not to change since last season — NBC’s winning “Providence,” “Dateline” and “Law & Order: SVU” — ranked as the most female-skewed lineup on any net a year ago.
Fox, the most male-skewing of the nets overall, offers up the program with the most male appeal on Fridays (second-year drama “Dark Angel”). It’s off to a strong start in the first two weeks — dominating among men — but the net’s fumbling away half of that aud by 9, with “Pasadena.”
As for the other nets, perhaps they wouldn’t be in such bad shape if their female-appeal Friday programs were strong in general. But in the case of shows like CBS’ “That’s Life” (formerly on Saturday) and ABC’s “Once and Again” (formerly on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday), it appears programmers have dumped these ratings-challenged shows on the night as a last-ditch effort to let them live.
Even NBC’s “Providence,” a dominant Friday leadoff performer a couple of years ago, is a shadow of its former self. That leaves only the Peacock’s “Law & Order: SVU” as a strong, on-the-rise show that is really thriving on Fridays.
UPN is one net that figures to profit from the Friday free-fall, as its male-appeal theatrical titles (“Booty Call,” “The Net”) should benefit from both the soft competish and the net’s stronger midweek promotional base thanks to new hits like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Enterprise.”
Through two weeks, the testosterone web is up on Friday vs. a year ago by 44% in adults 18-49 and 71% in adults 18-34 with its movies.
The WB is going for a decidedly female aud with its much-revamped comedy lineup, but at least its target age-range (12-34) is much younger than the other nets. And first-week results were very encouraging, with vet “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” joining new Reba McEntire laffer “Reba” and two other rookies to boost the net by more than 50% in key demos.
ABC’s all-new Friday lineup is off by 20% from last season, as reality series “The Mole II” has failed to get the night started. New 9 o’clock drama “Thieves” showed promise in week 1, but then plummeted to mediocrity a week later.
CBS is faring even worse with its all-new lineup, opening the season with about half its year-ago Friday numbers. “The Ellen Show” is struggling as it leads off the night, rookie “Danny” has been axed after just two airings, and “That’s Life” — never a big draw a year ago — is struggling even more with a weak lead-in.
Where are Don and Cheech on a Friday when you need them?