'High School Musical' Not Such a Smash in Prime Time

Rash Report: Reality Show Spin-Off Comes in Fourth for Sunday

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MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- ABC, like all networks competing against summertime diversions, was hoping the prime-time premiere of "High School Musical: Get in the Picture" would be a bright spot. Instead, it seems to have run into "The Dark Knight."
'High School Musical: Get in the Picture'
'High School Musical: Get in the Picture' Credit: ABC

Indeed, the big screen loomed large for all the networks this weekend, as the latest Batman tale took in a record $155.3 million over the weekend, netting even more than "Spider-Man 3" last May. It also seems to have taken away much of the audience for ABC's debut of its "High School Musical" reality-show spin-off, in which the winning contestant gets to be in an end-of-the-show music video.

Many distractions
The 1.1/3 rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic was fourth in its timeslot, according to the Nielsen fast-affiliate ratings (final live-plus-same-day data will be available Tuesday afternoon). The intended tween and teen viewers for "High School" apparently were either at the mall's Cineplex or couldn't get the remote away from their big brothers watching "The Simpsons" (1.6/6) and "King of the Hill" (1.6/5) or their parents watching "Big Brother" on CBS (1.9/6) or a rerun of "America's Got Talent" on NBC, which delivered a 1.4/4. But at least the broadcast's ratings didn't fall below those for the CW's "Everybody Hates Chris" and "Aliens in America" (.3/1 each).

Of course, if adults 18-49 get "Get in the Picture," it risks missing the mark with their kids. Final numbers will more clearly tell, but it's evident that there wasn't the same event-programming buzz around the ABC version that there was for the Disney Channel franchise that set ratings records last year.

Besides being overshadowed by "The Dark Knight," this shows how hard it is to transfer loyalties from tweens' Big Three of Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and The Disney Channel to the traditional Big Four of network TV. "Get in the Picture" indexed at 31% of the adult 18-49 rating for last year's Disney Channel premieres of "High School Musical 2," and at 73% of its pop-culture cousin, "Camp Rock." (It did, however, beat by 22% the ABC premiere of "Camp Rock," which ran one night after the big Disney Channel debut.)

Like "High School Musical: Get in the Picture" itself, ABC finished fourth overall with a 1.3/4. But it wasn't far from first, as NBC and Fox tied with a 1.5/5, just ahead of CBS's 1.4/4 (and well ahead of The CW's .3/1).

Small audiences
Indeed, it was a pretty dark night for every network, as only two shows broke a 2 rating -- Fox's "Family Guy" (2.2/6) and "American Dad" (2.0/6) -- which ran alongside "The Simpsons" and "King of the Hill" and two repeats of "Til Death" (.7/3 and .9/3).

NBC ran two versions of reality and one version of virtual reality (otherwise known as a newsmagazine), with "Dateline" (1.9/6) topping "America's Got Talent" and two reruns of "Most Outrageous Moments" (.7/3 and .9/3).

CBS had a similar two-track reality strategy with "60 Minutes" (1.2/4) and "Big Brother 10" (1.9/6), but also shored up the schedule with another summer staple -- reruns: "Cold Case" and "Flashpoint" delivered a 1.1/3 and a 1.4/4, respectively.

Also-ran the CW also ran "One Tree Hill" (.4/1) and reruns of "The Game" and "Girlfriends" (both .3/1).

As for ABC? Actually, it wasn't "High School Musical: Get in the Picture" that was the bright spot on the biggest box-office weekend ever, but, rather another video form: "America's Funniest Home Videos," which delivered a 1.6/6 for a 7 p.m. ET repeat, topping not only ABC's new reality show but reruns of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" (1.5/4) and "Desperate Housewives" (1.0/3).

Monday: To see how the reality genre has evolved (or devolved, depending on tastes), watch ABC's "Wanna Bet?" which combines contest with celebrity reality.
Tuesday: PBS's "Wide Angle" examines trading carbon credits to help reduce deforestation in Indonesia. (Of course, watching it in air conditioning on a big screen might make one feel guilty, but "Wide Angle" usually proves to be compelling programming.)

Now that the weekend's over, will tweens go back to their own bat caves (rec-room basements) and catch up on "High School Musical: Get in the Picture," which continues Monday night?

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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 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 rashreport.com.
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