HOLLYWOOD — Repeats are a necessity of the TV biz, but the fact that fewer of them are on the skeds of the nets this summer is helping the broadcasters show gains vs. last year.
At the halfway point of summer, the Big Six are up 2% in overall audience vs. last year (33.9 million vs. 33.3 million). The only other year-to-year improvement over the last five years came in 2000, powered by the hot new “Survivor” and continued strength of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”
Reality shows and expanded or additional editions of newsmags have helped shore up timeslots that would have been occupied by repeat dramas. NBC’s “The West Wing” and “Third Watch” and Fox’s “24” are among shows off the air, while ABC’s “Alias” and CBS’ “The Guardian” remain on, but probably shouldn’t be.
Here’s a look at how each net’s dramas and comedies are faring this summer (all percentages in adults 18-49 rating, according to Nielsen figures):
Net tried to sneak “Crossing Jordan” onto the Friday sked, but yanked it after two weak showings. “American Dreams” and “West Wing” return to the sked in the next couple of weeks, with “Third Watch” and “Boomtown” after that.
Of the shows that are airing, each of the three “Law & Order” series is up by double digits, while “ER” is down slightly. On the comedy side, “Friends” and “Will & Grace” are flat.
Most encouraging is the job “King of Queens” is doing in the post-“Everybody Loves Raymond” slot prior to its move to Wednesdays in the fall. “King” has built on its lead-in with three of its four tries, and while “Raymond” is flat year-to-year, “King” is outperforming last year’s “Becker” in the slot by 23%.
Also, “Without a Trace” not surprisingly is giving the net strong growth in the Thursday-at-10 slot, up 40% from what “The Agency” netted a year ago — even though lead-in “CSI” has cooled by 12% from its hot pace of a year ago.
Net was laffer-heavy the first half of summer, as “24” and “Boston Public” sat things out. When “Boston” returned two weeks ago in its new Friday slot, it was ineffective (0.9/3 in 18-49).
In a good sign for a net that will air the most comedies of any this fall (12), its key players are up vs. last summer, including “Bernie Mac” (up 21%) and resilient “The Simpsons” (up 11%).
Aside from having little unscripted inventory this summer, ABC’s biggest problem is that it doesn’t have any shows that can pop a number with a repeat.
Its top-rated comedy, “According to Jim,” is averaging a 3.4/10 in 18-49, and its top drama, “NYPD Blue,” is only bringing down a 2.6/7. Other dramas “The Practice” and “Alias” are down 20% or more, but laffer “My Wife and Kids” is up a bit.
Only “Everwood” is looking like a drag on the net’s numbers, so look for the Frog to preempt it a few more times in the summer’s second half.
In a bit of a surprise, the winning Tuesday combo of “Gilmore Girls” and “Smallville” is down more than 20% after showing in-season year-to-year gains, but Friday laffer “Reba” is holding up well at 8, suggesting its aud will follow it there to its new slot in the fall.
Its Monday comedy block and Thursday’s “WWE Smackdown” are on par with last year, but Wednesday’s “Enterprise” is off 18% and the Friday movie by 12%.