Country Music Awards Win Wednesday Night for ABC

Rash Report: In a Downturn, Country Crooners Tend to Rise Up

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MINNEAPOLIS ( -- Media mythology suggests that not only is country music recession-proof, but it often performs better when cowboys, be they country, urban or suburban, are about to have their pickups repossessed. This recession may test that theory, however, as it's hard enough to understand credit default swaps when they're explained in The Economist, let alone worked into a country ballad.
Carrie Underwood performing at the '42nd Annual CMA Awards.'
Carrie Underwood performing at the '42nd Annual CMA Awards.' Credit: ABC

But if last night's "42nd Annual CMA Awards" on ABC is any indication, so far, so good for the country's most popular format. While the CMAs showed a 7% slide from last year, the 5.0/13 rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic put ABC at the top of the Nielsen pop charts, as the country crooners drowned out CBS (3.0/8), Fox (2.9/8), NBC (1.9/5) and the CW (1.4/4).

CBS series downcast
Compared to the country music on ABC, CBS's series were singing the blues, as "The New Adventures of Old Christine" (2.0/6) and "Gary Unmarried" (2.1/5) were down 5% and 9%, respectively. At 8 p.m., "Criminal Minds" was also off 5%, down to a 3.8/10, while "CSI: NY" slipped a significant 21% to a season-low 3.0/8.

Things were similarly off-key for NBC, as "Knight Rider" hit a series-low 1.5/4, which was off 32% from its original-episode average. "Life" followed with its second spin in its new timeslot and fell 10% from last week to a 1.8/5. Lead-out "Law & Order" (2.2/6) stayed stable -- but low -- as it hit its season-debut rating from last week.

Fox had high and low notes: "Bones" had its best ratings since Sept. 10 with a 3.5/9. At 9 p.m., however, "House" offered a rerun and was significantly off its average with a 2.4/6.

As for the CW, country isn't exactly what comes to mind, unless it's a faux trucker hat worn by one of the top models slumming it in a downtown bar. Instead, it's younger, more hip-hop music most often heard in "America's Next Top Model," which hit its season average of a 1.9/5. "Stylista" also was in fashion with its season average of a .9/5.

'Worst Enemy' and 'Lipstick Jungle' canceled
Because the CMAs are not just a TV event, but a music-industry and radio one as well, it's not surprising that the other big news among broadcasters, the cancellation of two NBC series, seemed like background noise.

"My Own Worst Enemy" will end its run, as the high-concept show suffered from low ratings, despite following hit "Heroes" and getting an Olympic-sized promotional push during the summer games.

More notably -- and more tellingly, given these recessionary times -- was NBC dropping "Lipstick Jungle," which the network describes as a "sexy drama" that "follows three high-powered friends as they weather the ups and downs of lives lived at the top of their game."

It's too early to tell if as the economy goes down, listening to country music goes up. But it's not too early to render a verdict that viewers aren't in the mood to watch "Masters of the Universe" (or in this case, mistresses) living the luxe life in moneyed Manhattan.

Thursday: It may not be the best time to begin watching "Life on Mars," given that ABC has decided to move it behind "Lost" come midseason. But for fans of "Lost," it will be one of the more compatible programs ABC has tried, as both "Lost" and "Mars" have their own version of time travel.
Friday: It will never be known how many would have loved "Everybody Hates Chris" had it run on CBS instead of corporate cousin the CW -- let alone now on a Friday. But check back -- you may not only like "Chris," but, well, love the show.

Will the return of Anthony Edwards (Dr. Mark Greene) on NBC's "ER" give the medical melodrama a shot of adrenaline?

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NOTE: All ratings based on adults 18-49. A share is a percentage of adults 18-49 who have their TV sets on at a given time. A rating is a percentage of all adults 18-49, whether or not their sets are turned on. For example, a 1.0 rating is 1% of the total U.S. adults 18-49 population with TVs. Ratings quoted in this column are based on live-plus-same-day unless otherwise noted. (Many ad deals have been negotiated on the basis of commercial-minute, live-plus-three-days viewing.)

John Rash is senior VP-director of media analysis for Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis. For more, see
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