- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 12, 2009

CBS, Fox duke it out

With a little less than two weeks to go before the end of another traditional television season (concluding May 20), CBS and Fox both are poised to take the ratings crowns — with CBS on top for total viewers and Fox winning in the key adults-18-to-49 demographic, MediaWeek.com reports.

Based on national Nielsen Media Research data through Sunday, the two networks also are tied among adults 25 to 54.

CBS is the only broadcast network to end the 2008-09 season on the plus side, with a growth of 12 percent in total viewers (11.7 million), 7 percent in adults 18 to 49 and 8 percent among adults 25 to 54, MediaWeek notes. A lineup of successful scripted comedies and dramas; durable reality; the newsmagazine granddaddy “60 Minutes”; and the biggest new hit of the season, “The Mentalist,” secured CBS’ gains.

Still, before CBS pops any champagne, it’s important to keep in mind that last season’s ratings for all the broadcast networks were down considerably because of the 14-week writers strike. With that in mind, they all should have looked better this season compared to last, MediaWeek says.

Erosion for Fox this season — 14 percent in total viewers, 14 percent in adults 18 to 49 and 11 percent among adults 25 to 54 — should have its executives worried. The Fox freshman class this year (“Fringe,” “Do Not Disturb,” “Hole in the Wall,” “Secret Millionaire,” “Lie to Me,” “Dollhouse” and “Sit Down, Shut Up”) netted less-than-stellar results. Even stalwart “American Idol,” which continues to stand head and shoulders above the competition among adults 18 to 49 for the Tuesday telecast, cannot stop the bleeding.

Meanwhile, third-place ABC has a wide advantage over the No. 4 network, NBC, in total viewers (8.9 million vs. 7.9 million), with a decline of 3 percent for ABC and 4 percent for NBC from one year earlier. But ABC’s margin of victory over NBC among adults 18 to 49 and adults 25 to 54 is razor-thin — and both networks are close to year-ago levels. Suddenly consistent NBC did, however, have the advantage of airing Super Bowl XLIII (which was a close game, translating to higher ratings) this season.

Though NBC is hopeful for already-renewed recent entries “Parks and Recreation” and “Southland,” both have lost steam in the final stretch. Moreover, neither ABC nor NBC was able to produce a new breakout this season. Most disappointing for ABC was its now-defunct drama “Life on Mars,” which lost a large chunk of the audience from high profile (but declining) lead-ins “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Lost.”

In last place, the CW has a separate focus: women 18 to 34. But despite the ongoing buzz for its Monday serial “Gossip Girl,” the network overall is down in that demographic by 7 percent from last season. What will work to the CW’s advantage next season, however, is the absence of its struggling Sunday — which the network is handing back to its affiliates. Without that ratings drag, its numbers should pick up next season.

Joan lands new gig

Fresh off her win on NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice,” Joan Rivers will interview millionaires for cable’s TV Land, Multichannel.com reports.

However, they won’t be named Donald Trump.

TV Land has ordered six 30-minute episodes of “How’d You Get So Rich” from Mark Burnett Productions (“Celebrity Apprentice,” “History’s Expedition Africa”) and Zoo Productions. “Rich,” which features Miss Rivers asking the wealthy how they attained their financial status, is scheduled to bow Aug. 12 at 10 p.m. as part of TV Land’s prime block.

The comic, 75, will take viewers on a journey to meet the millionaires who struck gold as she tours the most lavish and extravagant homes and introduces the audience to folks who made a lot of money through odd endeavors. Among them: the inventor of BillyBob Teeth, the pioneer of the infomercial who peddles goodies such as coins featuring President Obama’s likeness, and parade float-maker Blaine Kern, aka Mr. Mardi Gras — who still lives in the same house as when he came into his riches.

Oz gets O’s blessing

Oprah Winfrey’s in-house medical and health expert is leaving his spot as a regular on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” for his own syndicated program, Associated Press reports.

Miss Winfrey will bid Dr. Mehmet Oz farewell on today’s episode of her talk show (4 p.m., WJLA-ABC7). His program, “The Dr. Oz Show,” is slated to debut Sept. 14.

Dr. Oz has been featured on Miss Winfrey’s show for five years and 55 episodes. He often offered diet tips or discussed life-threatening diseases.

Today’s show ends with the physician and Miss Winfrey raising a champagne toast.

According to Dr. Oz’s biography on Oprah.com, the best-selling author and heart surgeon is a surgery professor at Columbia University and also directs the Cardiovascular Institute and Complementary Medicine Program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

‘Soup’ goes to Web

E! Entertainment’s “The Soup” franchise continues to stir up spinoffs, launching an edition for sister cabler G4 beginning next month.

According to Variety, “Web Soup,” hosted by Chris Hardwick (“Attack of the Show”), will air Sundays at 9 p.m. starting June 7. The creative team behind “The Soup” is also behind “Web Soup,” Variety says.

The new show represents the second extension of the “Soup” line. Another Comcast sibling cabler, Versus, began airing “Sports Soup” in the fall.

G4’s “Web Soup” will focus on skewering digital culture and Internet content through segments such as “The Daily Upload,” “This Week in FAIL” and “Things You Can’t Un-See.”

Besides serving as “Attack of the Show’s” tech correspondent, Mr. Hardwick regularly appears at comedy festivals as part of the duo Hard ‘n Phirm. He also appeared in a Comedy Central comedy special and has performed stand-up alongside “The Soup” star Joel McHale.

CNN, Essence team

CNN has partnered with Essence Communications Inc. to create a series of weekly news segments focused on issues affecting the black community, Multichannel.com reports.

CNN’s “What Matters” segments, which began airing May 8, are hosted by its personalities Tony Harris and Don Lemon, with contributions from Roland Martin, Fredricka Whitfield and T.J. Holmes.

A different set of segments will air on Headline News hosted by anchor Richelle Carey, the company tells Multichannel.com.

Topics covered by the three- to five-minute segments, which derive in part from regular news items and features in Essence magazine — as well as the ongoing multicultural programming on CNN — will range from 401(k) strategies to elder care issues to pop culture.

CNN will air the segments Fridays at noon, while HLN will run the vignettes during the 6 p.m. editions of its “Prime News” show on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Beginning Friday, online users also can view the segments on demand at CNN.com and on Mondays via CNN.com Live. Essence.com also will offer users related articles, additional commentary, blog discussions and the opportunity to view the segments.

The “What Matters” segments will be sponsored by McDonald’s, which also is the presenting sponsor of CNN’s “Black in America 2,” the sequel series to 2008’s groundbreaking program.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from Web and wire reports

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