Ready for Prime Time

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The six TV networks will collectively debut 31 new prime-time shows this fall. We asked media buyers and researchers to choose five that hold the greatest promise to return next year. Here are their picks - as well as who'll be watching.

BETTE Network: CBS

Time: Wednesday, 8:00 p.m.

Primary audience: Females, 35+

Estimated household share: 11

Typical advertisers: Pharmaceuticals, Packaged Foods, Hair Care Products

Est. cost of a 30-second spot: $200,000

Does the Divine Miss M have the power to carry a new comedy into its sophomore season? Media buyers say, you "bette." In fact, some have already pegged Bette as the next Murphy Brown. With a sizeable following of fans and a charismatic presence, Bette Midler should have little trouble rounding up an audience, despite her Wednesday night competition: Who Wants to be a Millionaire (ABC) and Malcolm in the Middle (Fox).

Midler plays herself - or a character that bears an uncanny resemblance to the real life diva, a la The Danny Thomas Show - in this half-hour sitcom centered around the off-camera life of a superstar. But, of course, there is more to Bette's life than her celebrity image and her adoring fans. Like most women her age (54), she is confronted by everyday issues such as dieting, keeping romance in her marriage, and being the coolest mom on the block.

Don't tell this Bathhouse Betty, but like most shows on the Tiffany network, Bette will appeal to a more mature crowd, specifically women aged 35 and older. Advertisers looking to reach the "mom set" could score big. Expect companies such as Kraft and Campbell's to push their packaged goods during station breaks, says Laura Caraccioli, vice president and director of Starcom Worldwide. Dot-coms are likely to shy away from this crowd because viewers are unlikely to be of the "upscale" variety of college-educated householders with earnings over $75,000.


Time: Friday, 8:00 p.m.

Primary audience: Males, 25 to 54

Estimated household share: 13

Typical advertisers: Fast Food, Automotive Companies, Mass Retailers

Est. cost of a 30-second spot: $165,000

Everybody knows that the one-armed man killed Dr. Kimball's wife: But viewers are still expected to tune in to The Fugitive, CBS' new hour-long drama, because of the story's timeless appeal. The expensive action sequences featured in the pilot with theatrical qulaiity production probably won't hurt the ratings either.

Some in the industry have named The Fugitive as one of CBS' strongest new shows. Good news for the Eye network, since The Fugitive - aimed at men aged 25 to 54 - is part of a three-pronged attempt to draw more male viewers to the network during prime time. C.S.I., about a crime-solving unit in Las Vegas, and The District, starring Craig T. Nelson as a hard-nosed police commissioner in Washington, D.C., are two other dramas premiering on CBS this fall that are expected to appeal to men.

The relatively blue-collar audience of The Fugitive might be a perfect fit for mass retailers such as Target and Sears, and fast food chains like Burger King. The series may also present companies with a chance to reach local markets since Dr. Kimball (played by Tim Daley) will travel from city to city each week in search of the one-armed man (see "Location, Location, Location," American Demographics June 2000). Industry leaders warn that even though the series has found a home on CBS, this show's viewers may be a little young forthe pharmaceutical companies that are a mainstay on the network.

GEENA Network: ABC

Time: Tuesday, 9:30 p.m.

Primary audience: Females, 18 to 49

Estimated household share: 14

Typical advertisers: Feminine Hygiene Products, Hair Care Products

Est. cost of a 30-second spot: $285,000

Geena Davis may not be competing on behalf of the United States at the summer Olympics this month as once hoped, but that doesn't mean she won't get plenty of time on the tube. In her new self-titled series, the movie star, turned archer, is on the receiving end of cupid's arrow when her character Teddie Cochran, a successful, single New York City party planner, falls madly in love with Max, played by Peter Horton of thirtysomething fame.

Identified by industry observers as ABC's best hope for a hit, expect the network to take a no-holds-barred approach to making sure the Touchstone Television-produced series succeeds (a whopping 22 episodes have already been ordered). With Dharma & Greg - expected to garner a 15 share - serving as the lead-in, its female skewing, 18 to 49 viewership, should create an instant audience for Geena.

Companies looking to attract the eyeballs of an affluent, educated female audience will likely find success with Geena, but for advertisers taking aim at the mom set, this show might not be the ideal vehicle (it's expected to skew a bit younger than most mommy-marketers are comfortable with). Expect companies like Tampax and Clairol to devote plenty of ad dollars to Geena's war chest.


Time: Thursday, 8:00 p.m.

Primary audience: Females, 12 to 34

Estimated household share: 5

Typical advertisers: Credit Cards, Automotive Companies, Hair Styling Products

Est cost of a 30-second spot: $50,000

With young men tuning into Smackdown on UPN, and the thirtysomethings glued to "Must-See TV," younger females should find a comfortable spot in front of a set tuned to Gilmore Girls on the WB. Even with only a 5 percent share of households, media buyers say this show could easily coast into next season, because the share for its target audience (females, aged 12 to 34) is expected to be quite high.

Ad reps for this program about a 32-year-old mother and her 16-year-old daughter might just have the easiest job in the industry. That's because development for Gilmore Girls was funded by the Family Friendly Programming Forum, a group of some of the largest national advertisers, who were in search of a wholesome environment in which to hawk their wares (see "Wholesome Goodness," American Demographics August 2000).

In terms of income (or in this case, perhaps, allowance) the teen girls tuning into Gilmore Girls may not be the trust-fund babies advertisers lust for, but Roy Rothstein of Zenith Media says they won't be poverty-stricken either. "They'll be pretty much middle-of-the-road in terms of income." Laura Caraccioli of Starcom says packaged goods companies with hipper merchandise will flock to this audience. She also says we can expect the Thursday night time slot and young crowd to attract plenty of investment from Hollywood film studios promoting the typical romantic theme date movies. What did you expect, Jean Claude Van Damme?

THE STREET Network: Fox

Time: Wednesday, 9:00 p.m.

Primary audience: Females, 18 to 49

Estimated household share: 8

Typical advertisers: Dot-coms, Movies, Soft Drinks, Snack Foods

Est. cost of a 30-second spot: $260,000

It won't create the controversy that Fox's Action produced last season, but word on the street is that The Street is one of the edgiest new shows on TV (sex toys play a role in the pilot episode). But the success of this show won't be based purely on it's stylish content. Kathryn Thomas, associate director at Starcom Worldwide says, "Fox is going to be very patient with its new shows." Why? According to Optimum Media Direction ( OMD), three of the network's six new shows have a 50 percent chance, or less, of being renewed. The Street is its best hope for a hit.

Viewers of the new, fast-paced, hour-long drama that revolves around the lives of overworked, overpaid, young, hotshot Wall Street stock traders, will skew young (on the younger side of 18 to 49) and female. But just like the characters on the show, the audience will also be upscale. Industry observers believe there will be no shortage of households in the $75,000 plus range tuning in to The Street.

But even with such a sexy audience, the almost too-hot-for-TV content could turn some advertisers off. Who will brave the controversy that's sure to come? Insiders think the dot-coms will, as will movie studios. Snack food brands like Doritos will most certainly flock to this "gotta have it now" crowd. And, of course, they'll need something to wash it down, right? Expect Coke and Mountain Dew to make their fair share of cameos during station breaks as well.

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