MediaVest Evaluates the TV Networks

In Front of the Upfront, Media Agency Reviews the Broadcasters Performance

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- It's report card time! In anticipation of May's upfront, media agency MediaVest last week released a mid-season TV review, tallying the ratings numbers through the first quarter of 2006 and showing which major networks made the grade. Here's Advertising Age's quick take on the report.

ABC: Fair
ABC's 'According to Jim' has fallen 37% in ratings this season.
ABC's 'According to Jim' has fallen 37% in ratings this season.
ABC has four of the top 10 most popular broadcast network programs with "Desperate Housewives" (ranked 4th with 15.3 homes rating), "Grey's Anatomy" (6th most watched, 12.7 rating), "Dancing with the Stars" (8th, 12.1) and "Lost" (9th, 11.7). However, overall the ABC schedule lacks depth. ABC could be in trouble if the bloom is truly off the "Desperate Housewives" rose. The suburban soap has declined in popularity since its ratings peak in fall, although current ratings are slightly better (plus 2%) than at the same time last year. In addition, this year ABC has struggled with its comedies. Ratings of "According to Jim" fell 37% this season.

CBS: Kept up the good work

CBS kept its momentum, hanging on to their gains from a year ago. While reality programs "Amazing Race" and "Survivor" declined in the ratings (23% and 28%, respectively), CBS' overall average household rating was virtually unchanged from a year ago with a value of 8.4. Declines were countered by the success of new series. "Criminal Minds," "Ghost Whisperer" and "Close to Home" are all doing well for CBS. Midseason series "The Unit" and "The New Adventures of Old Christine" are the fourth and fifth highest rated new broadcast programs among adults 18 to 49.

Fox: Improved

Led by "American Idol," Fox earned an average weekly household rating of 5.3, an improvement of 7% over a year ago. It seems nothing can stop the "American Idol" juggernaut. Ratings are up for both Tuesday and Wednesday night episodes (12% and 10%, respectively). New viewers of "Idol" are mostly adults age 35 and older. However, Fox's programming strategy -- in which "Idol" dominates its short-run season (January to May) -- can skew ratings analysis. MediaVest reports that much of the year-on-year gain is the result of early-season premiers that helped the network in the fourth quarter of 2005. Consequently, fourth quarter 2006 might be a relative disappointment unless there is a break-out new show or two on the development slate.

NBC: Needs work
My Name Is Earl is one of NBC's bright spots.
My Name Is Earl is one of NBC's bright spots.
NBC was saved from a failing grade by the mid-season hit game show "Deal or No Deal" and white-trash sitcom "My Name is Earl." Those shows are the season's top two new broadcast network programs. Returning reality show "Fear Factor" declined 44% in the ratings, blown out of the water by "American Idol." "Friends" spinoff "Joey" has also underperformed, demonstrating a ratings decline of 42% from last year. NBC desperately needs a solid development slate for fall. The buzz suggests NBC has at least one solid new show: "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," an ensemble drama starring Matthew Perry.

UPN/WB: Incomplete

UPN and WB will fold into the CW in the fall. UPN's most popular series, "America's Next Top Model," is slightly up in the ratings for its two editions this season, earning a 4.5 rating among women 18-34. "ANTM," "Everybody Hates Chris," "WWE Smackdown" and "Veronica Mars" will probably make the cut and earn a spot on the CW roster. WB's "Gilmore Girls" is still delivering strong ratings, especially among young women. "Gilmore Girls," "Smallville" and "Beauty and the Geek" will likely migrate to the new network. WB's "Charmed" has been canceled while "Everwood," "Supernatural" and "Reba" are on the bubble. If "Everwood" and "Supernatural" don't make the fall schedule, they could be solid mid-season replacements. "Reba," on the other hand, has no likely companion in the CW schedule so the network may have trouble finding it a timeslot.
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