TV NETWORKS CONCERNED: DECLINING AUDIENCE, NO BREAKOUT SHOW
The first week of the 2007-08 TV season has left industry observers concerned about the absence of a breakout series.
Only two new shows, NBC's "Bionic Woman" and ABC's "Private Practice," have gotten out of the gate with enough ratings momentum to reach potential hit status.
Among returning series, such heavyweights as ABC's "Desperate Housewives" and "Grey's Anatomy" remained dominant yet down from last year's heights. A few shows struck record premiere lows, including CBS' "CSI: Miami" and NBC's "ER."
With five days of the new TV season in the books, CBS and NBC were down in viewers and adults 18-49, according to Nielsen Media Research, when compared with premiere-week 2006. ABC is ahead in viewers but down 5% in the demo. Fox was up single digits year-over-year for the first five days, but without a football overrun on Sunday this year, it likely will end up down across the seven-day average.
On Madison Avenue and Wall Street, estimates of the first week of the season varied from the harsh to the wait-and-see. Bank of America said in a research report that viewers "forgot to tune into the start of the new broadcast season," citing year-over-year aggregate 18-49 declines of 7% in live ratings.
But ad executives like Carat's Shari Anne Brill said that a full picture wouldn't emerge until the live-plus-7-day data -- taking into account DVR viewership -- is released by Nielsen. She noted a big difference in the percentage of DVR homes in the Nielsen sample: 20%, up from 9% last year.
"It seems irrefutable that there's not an overly strong societal buzz for the new season," said John Rash of Campbell Mithun. "The programs are not qualitatively as strong as previous seasons. What we need to watch the most is if the shelf life on existing dramas have shortened because so many have begun their decline earlier than the normal five-season (cycle)."
Added another ad executive of the broadcast networks: "They better be worried, very worried. The new season isn't starting well."
All the networks are projected to be down year-over-year when the week's ratings come out Tuesday. Sparks could fly as well given network projections issued Monday that showed ABC and NBC in a virtual tie for the win in adults 18-49. That would make NBC's controversial decision to rerun "Heroes" and be able to count the repeat as added viewership (and dumping the low-rated 8 p.m. Saturday hour) quite significant in the first week of the season.
Estimates varied on whether the additive value of "Heroes" would be more than a tenth of a ratings point in adults 18-49, making it difficult to determine the final outcome.
Few new series distinguished themselves last week. ABC's "Dirty Sexy Money" (3.6/10) and "Big Shots" (4.5/12) didn't meet high expectations considering their strong lead-ins. CBS' highly promoted "Cane" (2.9/8) was beaten handily by NBC's "Law & Order: SVU," while NBC's "Journeyman" (3.5/9) couldn't do much with its strong "Heroes" lead-in and dropped by a million viewers between half-hours.
Faring slightly better was NBC's "Life" (4.0/11), winning 10 p.m. Wednesday in the demo against "Dirty Sexy Money" and the established "CSI: NY" (3.7/10).
The two top hits so far -- "Bionic" and "Practice" -- battle each other at 9 p.m. Wednesday. "Bionic's" 5.7/14 is the highest new-series premiere so far this season; "Practice" (5.2/13) is right behind it.
Hopes are high among the broadcasters that a breakout hit could be found among the October premieres, including ABC's critical fave "Pushing Daisies."
Horizon Media's Brad Adgate said that a lot of the declines have to do with viewer fatigue and perhaps creative execution on some shows.
"It's going to be a couple of weeks before things settle down and you start to see trending and time-shifted viewing and how well these numbers sustain over the course of a few weeks," he said.
BOOTLEG ENTERTAINMENT BIG BUSINESS
More American consumers are buying bootleg recordings, but they also say they believe such purchases should be a crime, according to a Gallup poll released Tuesday.
American counterfeit purchases have been rising steadily since 2005, the organization found, and 22% of those surveyed said they had purchased bootlegs this year. The Northeast is the nation's hotbed for counterfeit buying and selling with 31% of those surveyed making a bootleg buy. Los Angeles residents made the fewest counterfeit purchases, but 25% of the population still bought pirated merchandise.
Despite the widespread black-market purchasing, nearly 75% of those surveyed said they would like to see stricter counterfeiting laws, and nine out of 10 believe it should be a criminal act to make those purchases, according to the study underwritten by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The chamber is conducting its annual intellectual property conference today and Wednesday.
Americans' desire to get tough on piracy and their simultaneous appetite for bootleg goods comes because "historically, people don't view counterfeiting as a crime that has victims," Gallup global brand manager Chris Stewart said.
While Stewart thinks that attitude has been changing, the spate of recalls for everything from toys to pet food is making consumers think about what's in the stuff they buy.
"This whole issue of product safety -- dog food, toothpaste, toys -- is generating a greater awareness in what you are buying," he said. "More and more folks are suspicious."
Gallup found that the most effective deterrents to counterfeiting are the likelihood of supporting terrorists, the potential for inflicting harm on a loved one, and the possibility of supporting organized crime, according to the survey of 4,311 randomly selected adults conducted in May and June. Gallup claims a 1.5% margin of error. It was the third year Gallup has taken America's pulse on the issue.
CANADA GETS ITS OWN SUPERCHANNEL
Canada's first national pay TV network, Super Channel, is prepping to bow this fall.
It will join pay channel network incumbents Astral Communications-owned TMN, which operates in Eastern Canada, and Corus Entertainment's Movie Central, operating in the West.
Edmonton-based parent company Allarco Entertainment was awarded a pay TV license by Canada's broadcast regulator the CRTC in May 2006, over the objections of Astral and Corus.
Super Channel will launch six channels, two of them HD, on a date yet to be confirmed.
It has inked output deals for Maple Pictures' theatrical releases in Canada (including "Saw III," "Death of a President," and "The U.S. vs. John Lennon"), the U.K.'s Channel 4 ("Teachers," "No Angels," "Wedding Belles") and NBC Universal Television (sudser "Passions").