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‘Dog’ days of summer

Fox, NBC doing well but performing below last year's top draws

HOLLYWOOD — It’s time to clear out the summer ratings notebook, one week prior to the start of Variety‘s annual night-by-night fall analysis series:

  • Fox’s “American Idol” and NBC’s “Dog Eat Dog” may be the summer’s biggest new hits, but they’re not quite performing up to the levels of last year’s top draws.

    “Idol” and “Dog” were averaging roughly a 4.8 rating in adults 18-49, according to Nielsen, putting them 9% behind last summer’s NBC duo of “Fear Factor” and “Weakest Link” (5.3).

    “Fear” is still going strong for NBC, but “Link,” like ABC’s fellow quizzer “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” had a relatively short shelf-life and is absent from the primetime sked this fall.

  • “American Idol” has helped Fox accomplish some firsts in its 15-year history: Net recently finished on top among adults 18-49 for a record-setting third straight week, and it has won the last seven Tuesdays by that measure, also a record.

  • UPN is doing fine this summer with its scripted series, as Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are all up year-to-year in key demos. There’s trouble lurking on Thursday, though, where “WWE Smackdown” is off 16% in adults 18-34 and a whopping 38% in teens. And on Friday, net’s movie night has faded by more than 20% across the board.

  • By not changing a thing, Fox’s Saturday lineup (“Cops,” “America’s Most Wanted”) is looking better every season.

    Compared with last summer, the net is up 4% in adults 18-49 on Saturday while its competitors are down by alarming percentages: NBC’s movie is off by 38%, ABC’s movie by 26% and CBS’ motley assortment of series by 19%.

  • One of the oddest schedule twosomes in memory is CBS’ Wednesday mates “60 Minutes II” and “Big Brother 3.” Last week, the reality show doubled and tripled the ratings of its lead-in newsmag in key demos, but shed about half the newsmag’s large 50-plus aud.

    Bottom line: They’re drawing nearly the same number of viewers, despite strikingly different aud makeups.

  • CBS can claim the summer’s three most-watched series in “CSI,” “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “Becker” — all of which are up vs. the same weeks last year.

  • ABC is down by double-digit percentages on every night of the week this summer except Friday, where the addition of “America’s Funniest Home Videos” and “Whose Line Is It Anyway” has brought some fun — and solid ratings — back to a night whose programming options on the major nets have become much too serious.

  • The WB’s attempt to be lumped in as one of the “Big Five” networks may have drawn the chuckles of critics at the recent press tour in Pasadena, Calif., but the Frog is growing up.

    Compared with last summer, net is flat or up in all key breakdowns among adults but down nearly 20% among teens, its former forte.

  • “Meet My Folks,” NBC’s latest in a long line of new unscripted programs this summer, bowed to big numbers at 10 p.m. July 22.

Sure, airing after “Dog Eat Dog” helped a great deal, but the relationship skein also benefited by playing in the uncluttered 10 o’clock hour. Not having to face Fox, the WB or UPN is a big bonus for a show that aims for a young audience.

In the summer, especially, HUT levels are much lower at 8 p.m. but hold up comparatively well at 10.

It makes you wonder why ABC (“The Mole”) or CBS (“Big Brother”) haven’t moved their reality skeins to the later timeslot by now.

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