The Biz

The Post-Super Bowl Game Why networks want hits like Criminal Minds to air on their big night

Mandy Patinkin, Criminal Minds

Back in the early '80s, when the Super Bowl moved into prime time, the networks began scheduling a new entertainment show to premiere after the big game, to take advantage of the humongous audience lead-in it provided. NBC started the tradition with The A-Team, which went on to become a big hit and helped the network begin its run of prime-time ratings dominance that lasted the rest of the decade. The next year, CBS used the platform to launch Airwolf, which hung around for a few seasons. ABC previewed The Wonder Years after the game in 1988. That show then had a nice six-year run that included a season in the top 10.

But the tactic of using the supersize audience to launch a show has become a TV-business relic. When it comes to Super Bowl Sunday, networks now go with what they think is their already hot show, instead of something new. For 2007, CBS has given the nod to Criminal Minds to follow Super Bowl XLI. CBS Corp. chairman Leslie Moonves read more

To Catch a Time Slot Dateline producer David Corvo on the return of the newsmagazine

Chris Hansen, Dateline NBC

When the 2006-07 TV season started, there were only three hours of newsmagazines in prime time, the fewest since 1987. Well, the high casualty rate of scripted entertainment shows has changed that. Dateline NBC will be back up to three hours a week in January. ABC's Primetime is plugging the ratings crater left by The Nine on Wednesdays, until Lost returns. Look for a few episodes of 48 Hours to show up on Tuesdays at 10, now that 3 LBS has flatlined on CBS. Add 'em up, and in some weeks in January you'll have eight hours of newsmags to choose from. But producers say the shows can't give viewers the same old, same old anymore. A catchy hook is a must. Primetime has just kicked off a series of hidden-camera reports showing how people react in uncomfortable situations or when faced with ethical dilemmas. It's a read more

Sweeps Stakes
This November's winners and losers

Jorja Fox and William Petersen, CSI

It's time to put a fork in another ratings sweeps month. When the final numbers come in, CBS will be the winner in total viewers while ABC takes the crown among the 18- to 49-year-olds that advertisers care about. Here's a look at what was hot and what was not.

Desperate Housewives: It was nicked in the ratings due to tougher competition from NBC's Sunday Night Football but still finished as the No. 2 among all shows in viewers aged 18 to 49. (In November 2005 it was No. 1.) Not bad considering TV critics were throwing dirt on this show a year ago. It's funnier than ever, but ladies, please, go easy on the Botox.

Criminal Minds: It's the grisly gift that keeps on giving to CBS' Wednesday lineup. Up 14 percent from last November among viewers 18 to 49, Minds became a dominant time-period winner once read more

Year of the Mother Elizabeth Vargas sees 20/20 when it comes to career and family

Elizabeth Vargas, 20/20

After leaving a tumultuous stint as coanchor of ABC World News Tonight for maternity leave, Elizabeth Vargas is back in her coanchor chair on ABC's 20/20. Her departure from the evening-news job has made her a walking example of the tough choices faced by working mothers. (Next month's Marie Claire features an interview with her next to a photo of a woman breastfeeding at the anchor's desk.) But Vargas is aware that her decision has become a flashpoint. She has readily taken it on — working mothers were the subject of her first piece for 20/20. The Biz recently caught up with Vargas, and she talked about her year. This couldn't have been an read more

CNN's Dotcom Dazzle How the news channel used web techniques to make election coverage a success

Rep. Nancy Pelosi on CNN's midterm election coverage

Before he became president of CNN/U.S. in November 2004, Jon Klein founded a company called The FeedRoom, which was at the forefront of delivering video news stories over the Internet. Klein brought some of the lessons he learned from the world of new media to his first election night for CNN on Tuesday. The news channel's dazzling set had the look of a feature-rich website. (And his tweaks paid off: CNN's prime-time election coverage averaged 2.97 million viewers, up 21 percent from the 2002 midterm elections and right on the tail of Fox News Channel, which had 3.06 million.) Klein keeps his eye on web users, who might become CNN watchers as they get older. He discussed this strategy — and whether he's pursuing a certain big-name talent from ABC News — with the Biz as the elections returns were still coming in. This was your first election night at CNN. What do you think you did right?
Jon Klein:
I think we chose the right people to anchor the cov read more

The Race Is On! NBC's Brian Williams on his first big prime-time election showdown

Brian Williams, NBC Nightly News

On Nov. 7, the three broadcast-network news anchors will be having their first prime-time showdown covering the midterm elections. NBC's Brian Williams, ABC's Charles Gibson and CBS' Katie Couric will all be in their respective chairs for live, hourlong specials at 10 pm/ET and PT. It will only heighten the attention that's been focused on evening news since the ballyhooed arrival of Couric. After sustaining an early hit from Couric's debut, Williams has made a ratings comeback, and NBC Nightly News is back at No. 1, recently earning its strongest ratings among viewers aged 25-to-54 since March. The Biz checked in with Williams as he prepared for one of his favorite nights of the year. Midterm elections usually aren't too sexy. Yet it seems like there is a lot more attention on it this year, not just because of the nature of the races, but also because it feels like an opening read more

Dawn of a Network
The CW's prez Dawn Ostroff discusses her season so far

America's Next Top Model

The CW, the green offspring of the merged WB and UPN networks, is now five weeks old. That's a lifetime to the 18- to 34-year-olds it's targeting, so the Biz thought it was a good time to ask the CW's entertainment president Dawn Ostroff how it's going. How do you assess the year so far?
Dawn Ostroff:
I think we're pretty happy with where we are. We got off to a solid start. What we said all along is that what we really want to see by the end of the season is to have a little bit of growth over what UPN or WB would have had. Right now we have a little bit of growth over them in 18- to 34-year-olds. We knew the migration was going to be a huge undertaking. The best way to describe it is that it would be as if you woke up one day and 67 percent of the country was told, "Oh, you're going to see CSI on a different channel." It's a big ordeal to move all of these viewers, tell them there is a new network, and tell them you need to find a new show on a new s read more

The Midas Touchstone
ABC's production company is on a hot streak

Becki Newton, Michael Urie, America Ferrera, Ugly Betty

It's been a rocky TV season for new shows, but one studio isn't complaining. Touchstone Television, the TV production arm of ABC parent Walt Disney, has just seen two of its new entries, Ugly Betty and Brothers & Sisters get full-season pickups. Its returning shows aren't doing too shabby either. Grey's Anatomy was asked to do battle against CSI on Thursday and has more than met the challenge, becoming the No. 1-rated show in prime time (making it one of four Touchstone shows in the top 10, with Desperate Housewives, Lost and CBS' Criminal Minds). Even last season's mid-season sleeper What About Brian is picking up f read more

Chris Wallace: YouTube Star The Fox News host on how online video spread his Clinton interview

Chris Wallace and Bill Clinton, Fox News Sunday

When Fox News Sunday's Chris Wallace set off Bill Clinton by asking why the former president failed to catch Osama bin Laden, the reverberations were felt on the Internet like no other political interview. YouTube rang up 800,000 views of the fiery chat the day after its Sept. 24 airing — keeping the exchange in the public consciousness for days. The Biz recently talked to Wallace, who will be providing election-night analysis for Fox News Channel, about the Web's growing role as a political tool. How does it feel to be an Internet star?
Chris Wallace:
Even I'm getting sick of me at this point. It shouldn't be a surprise to you that Google made a deal to buy YouTube for $1.65 billion, now that you have a first-hand experience of what it can do.
It's fascinating. We had a problem. We did the interview with President Clinton late on a Friday afternoon. Our show appears on the Fox broadcast networ read more

Winners and Losers
Early results for the season's new shows

Zach Gilford, Friday Night Lights

Fumble! You can bet that was one of the many football clichés that rang through the halls of NBC's competitors when the ratings for the premiere of Friday Night Lights came in. Despite rave reviews and a promotional blitz (couldn't resist), the new series about Texas high-school football drew 7.2 million viewers and finished behind ABC's Dancing with the Stars and CBS' NCIS in the 18-to-49 demographic that advertisers care about most.

But every network has got some issues to deal with as new shows continue to roll out this fall. Here's an early run through the ratings winners and losers so far.

Heroes: Sci-fi fans have turned this into what looks like a breakout hit. Even though the show dropped more than two million viewers from its premiere, it was still very read more

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