World Series, Football and Dancing

Rash Report: What We Watched This Week

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Here's this week's Rash Report, in which one brave media buyer, John Rash of Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis, dives into a week's worth of broadcast-TV ratings in order to illuminate those that delivered and those that didn't. Look for the Rash Report every Friday at Ad Age's MediaWorks.
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. Credit: AP

MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- Based on how the Red Sox have socked it to the Rockies, it's too soon to call the Fall Classic a classic. But the World Series is beating nearly every series, joining the NFL in a top 10 that features programming that looks more like a weekend afternoon than prime time.

Indeed, six sporting events (including games, pre-games, post-games or football audibles, as Nielsen counts a three minute Fox "Post-gun" as a program) made the top 10, with the "Post-gun" having the second most pop with a 6.9/22 rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic. The full post-game show, Fox's "The OT" was eighth with a 5.0/16 and an actual game, NBC's "Sunday Night Football," was seventh with a 5.4/13.

As for the summer sport that ends with the Fall Classic, Fox's coverage of game seven of the American League Championship Series between baseball's Boston and Cleveland came in fourth place with a 6.6/17, ahead of game one (sixth, 5.7/16) and game two (tied for 10th with a 4.8/12 from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. in last night's Nielsen "Fast Affiliate Ratings.") of the World Series.

One other athletic competition was featured in the top 10, ABC's Monday version of "Dancing with the Stars" (ninth, 5.0/13), which featured a sports owner, Mark Cuban, getting booted and Marie Osmond channeling Dodger World Series hero Kirk Gibson by playing hurt (or at least light-headed). Another reality show may not be athletic, but it is certainly skilled, as the carpenters of ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" built a 10th-place tie with a 4.8/12. The theatrics of those reality shows and sports programs left the scripted dramas seem, well, less dramatic. Or at least their inclusion doesn't hold as much suspense, as Fox's "House" (third with a 6.7/16) or ABC's "Desperate Housewives" (fifth with a 6.6/15) and first-place "Grey's Anatomy" (7.3/17) are a round up of the usual suspects, as each is a breakout broadcast hit in its own right.

Having last night's World Series game-two broadcast and "Grey's" in the top 10 is particularly notable, as last night's 9 p.m. tp 10 p.m. Eastern hour featured a Murderer's Row (literally, in the case of CBS's "CSI") that, while not quite as potent as the 1927 Yankees' lineup, featured four shows that evoked a bygone network era of counter-programming and counting big audiences. A combined 21.6/51 (Nielsen's "Fast Affiliate Ratings") watched either a drama ("CSI," 3.8/9), melodrama ("Grey's"), sitcom (NBC's "The Office," 4.7/11), sport (World Series) or sci-fi (CW's "Supernatural," 1.3/3). True, that figure only represents an average rating for a midsummer night of reruns during the network era, but it's not bad as the Big Three has yielded to the big 300 networks.

But this week's top 10 were all either established series or the World Series. Their demographic domination is the story of the season, as new series haven't come close to cutting through the cultural clutter. CBS's quickly canceled gambling musical "Viva Laughlin" (1.1/3) joins Fox's "Nashville" and CW's "Online Nation" as shows that swung and missed, but in truth, it's likely that fewer flops have been canceled as perhaps the nets, fearing next week's writer's strike, are willing to tolerate fresh episodes of poorly performing shows rather than calling up a reality replacement from the minors.

Several new series did have good opening days, but like cold, half-filled ballparks in April, few have returned when the banners and bunting come down, particularly for highly hyped shows such as "Bionic Woman" (3.1/8, dramatically down from its promising premiere delivery of 5.2/14) and "Cavemen" (2.1/6, off one third). It is as if viewers have limited space on their media menus for new shows or concepts, unless it's a spin-off (ABC's "Grey's" spinoff "Private Practice" hit 4.0/10, up 5% from last week but still down from its debut by 15%) or on the path of least resistance (ABC's amnesiac "Samantha Who," remembered by 4.2/10, mostly by being in the firm embrace of 90-minute dance partner "Dancing with the Stars").

Minor leaguers refer to the major leagues as "The Show." It seems what fall TV needs, ironically, is a few shows that have The Show's drama (and demo delivery) to break into the major leagues of prime time's top 10.

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NOTE: A share is a percentage of TV households that have their TV sets on at a given time. A rating is a percentage of all TV households, whether or not their sets are turned on. For example, a 1.0 rating is 1% of the total U.S. households with a TV. In order to report ratings on a timely basis, all the ratings listed here reflect a Nielsen Live number. (Many ad deals have been negotiated on the basis of a commercial minute, live-plus-3 viewing basis.)

John Rash is senior VP-director of broadcast negotiations for Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis. For daily rating updates, see rashreport.com.
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