Returning Shows Offer Stability

NEW YORK Through Oct. 11, 16 of the broadcast networks’ returning shows had more viewers in week three than in week two, while another 14 had virtually the same number of viewers as the previous week. However, the nets’ new shows did not fare nearly as well in the ratings. Only two were up in viewers, five were flat and nine were down, some by a lot.

Among the big returning show audience gainers last week were CBS drama CSI: N.Y. (up 800,000 to 13.4 million), NBC’s Law & Order: SVU (up 700,000 to 12.3 million) and Fox’s House (up 600,000 to 18 million), according to Nielsen Media Research data.

Clearly, the most successful and stable new show three weeks into the new season—at least as far as live-plus-same-day ratings are concerned—is ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy spinoff, Private Practice, which drew 12.4 million viewers for the second consecutive week, keeping it the most-watched new show on television.

A few other series with lesser audiences also showed stability last week. CBS freshman 10 p.m. Tuesday drama Cane pulled in 9.1 million viewers, the same as the week before. Other new shows producing stable viewership from the previous week were Fox sitcom Back to You (up 100,000 to 6.6 million), Fox drama K-Ville (5.3 million for both weeks), The CW dramedy Reaper (2.8 million for both weeks), The CW drama Gossip Girl (up 100,000 to 2.8 million) and CBS sitcom Big Bang Theory (down 100,000 to 8.4 million).

A handful of other new ABC shows—Cavemen (-21 percent to 7 million viewers), Carpoolers (-21 percent to 7.2 million), Pushing Daisies (-21 percent to 10.2 million) and Dirty Sexy Money (-10 percent to 8.6 million)—all lost a sizable number of viewers week-to-week. One new ABC drama showing some rejuvenation was Grey’s Anatomy lead-out, Big Shots, which increased its viewership over the prior week by 300,000 to 8.5 million. Some of that new attention can be attributed to a stunt by ABC, which ran Grey’s a few minutes into the usual 10 p.m. start time of Big Shots.

NBC’s new drama Bionic Woman is down nearly 30 percent in viewers from its premiere three weeks ago to 10.2 million, and new dramas Chuck and Journeyman are both down about 20 percent to 7.2 million and 6.9 million viewers, respectively, from their premieres.

With a potential Writers Guild of America strike looming (no agreement has been reached between the union and producers, and the current contract expires Oct. 31), most networks may keep new shows on longer in order to assure having enough first-run inventory in case of a work stoppage. “We are determined to keep the business thriving despite a strike,” said one executive, who did not want to speak for attribution. “We have been ordering extra episodes and making early pickups.” Other broadcast execs agreed that new shows this season will get longer leases because of the possible strike.