- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Sweeps losing ground

It’s a shocking notion, but the TV networks actually may be listening to advertisers.

After years of grumbling that sweeps ratings are falsely inflated through stunts, those once-important measurement periods — traditionally held in November, February and May — are losing their oomph, notes MediaWeek.com.

In fact, the upcoming November sweeps, scheduled for Nov. 2 through Nov. 29, may be the most lackluster to date.

Among the only events scheduled for next month are ABC’s broadcast of the 40th annual Country Music Association Awards, airing Nov. 6; and the American Music Awards, airing Nov. 21. The network also will broadcast the cliffhanger final fall episode of “Lost” — until the show returns next spring — on Nov. 8.

As for CBS, its most notable event appears to be a “CSI” episode, airing Nov. 23, in which the Who’s Roger Daltrey guest stars. Meanwhile, NBC will broadcast a Tony Bennett special Nov. 21 and a Madonna special Nov. 22, while Fox airs its dramatic final fall episode of “Prison Break” — before its return next spring — on Nov. 27.

Although advertiser complaints may have contributed to the diminished luster of sweeps, so have changing viewer measurements. “More than anything, local people meters (LPMs) have really eliminated the need for sweeps,” said Brad Adgate, senior vice president and director of research, at Horizon Media. He added that broadcasters traditionally have programmed sweeps because stations sell off those ratings books.

“But as more stations get continuous measurements, the need for sweeps diminishes,” Mr. Adgate told MediaWeek.com, noting that the nation’s 10 largest local markets already employ LPMs (a service that provides continuous demographic information overnight), with three more cities slated to use them next year and another five added in 2008.

Whether through advance scheduling or last-minute cancellations of failed freshman series, most networks also will introduce new series during sweeps month — a rare, though not unprecedented, occurrence. Following “Lost’s” mid-season departure, ABC will premiere the action drama “Day Break,” on Nov. 15 and its new sitcom, “Big Day,” Nov. 28.

Elsewhere, CBS will roll out “3 lbs,” its new medical drama, on Nov. 14 (replacing the canceled crime drama “Smith”), and NBC returns “Medium” to its schedule, Nov. 15 to replace “Kidnapped.” “The Rich List,” Fox’s new trivia game show, debuts Nov. 1 — a day before sweeps officially begins.

Cool ‘School’ on tour

“High School Musical” is hitting the road with a nationwide concert tour featuring stars of the hit TV movie that has grown into a pop-culture phenomenon.

Cast members including Monique Coleman and Lucas Grabeel will take part in the 40-city tour that is scheduled to begin Nov. 30 in San Diego, Associated Press reports. The show is slated to stop in the District on Dec. 28.

“High School Musical: The Concert” expands the Disney Channel franchise that has already produced a triple-platinum selling soundtrack and a planned movie sequel. The concert will feature songs from the film and will also include cast members Corbin Bleu, Ashley Tisdale and Vanessa Hudgens. Joining them will be Drew Seeley, who co-wrote “Get’cha Head in the Game” and sang on the “High School Musical” soundtrack. Miss Coleman is currently on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” which ends Nov. 15.

Disney is already scoring a success with another concert based on a TV musical, “The Cheetah Girls,” which is on a sold-out tour of at least 60 cities, AP said.

Series slump on Fox

Every fall when Fox puts its prime-time schedule essentially on hold for the baseball postseason, it hopes the reward is greater than the risk. So far this year, it hasn’t worked out that way.

Game 1 of the World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers reached 12.8 million viewers on Saturday, below last year’s opening game (15 million) and dramatically down from the 2004 fall classic won by the Boston Red Sox (23.2 million), AP reports, citing data released yesterday by Nielsen Media Research.

Ratings improved for the second game, which had 18.2 million viewers on Sunday. That was a million more than last year, and more than 7 million less than 2004, Nielsen said.

The rating doldrums, however, were worse for NBC. “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” the network’s expensive gamble with show creator Aaron Sorkin, continues to slump. It reached 7.7 million viewers last week, trounced by CBS’ “CSI: Miami” (18.2 million) in the same time slot.

In overall weekly ratings, CBS averaged 12.6 million viewers, Fox had 11.9 million and ABC had 11.2 million. Following were NBC with 8.9 million, the CW with 3.6 million and the I network with 610,000.

For the week of Oct. 16 through Oct. 22, the top five shows, their networks and viewerships were: “Grey’s Anatomy,” ABC, 22 million; “Dancing with the Stars,” ABC, 21.2 million; “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” CBS, 20.4 million; “Desperate Housewives,” ABC, 19.7 million; and “Dancing with the Stars Results,” ABC, 19.2 million

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from Web and wire reports.

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