Miniseries, Small Ratings

Rash Report: NBC's 'Meteor' Competitive, but Genre's Generation Is Ending

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MINNEAPOLIS ( -- Spoiler alert! At the risk of giving away the ending, it's a pretty good bet the world won't end in "Meteor," NBC's two part mini-series running on successive Sundays. The mini-series, however, remains in peril.

'Meteor' Credit: NBC
Or at least NBC's version of it, as the 1.1/3 rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic is just the latest low rating for the once highly anticipated genre. January's "Last Templar," for instance, averaged a 2.2/6 over two nights. "XIII" followed in February, but had summer-like ratings of a 1.2/3 over two nights.

Of course, by those same summer standards, last night's ratings were respectable. Indeed, "Meteor" won the final hour of prime-time (although it was up against reruns of "Without a Trace," 1.1/3, on CBS and "Brother's and Sisters," .6/2, on ABC).

But overall, it was reruns of Fox's animation domination lineup that won the night, with "Family Guy" (2.1/6) and "The Simpsons" (1.9/5) doubling the 1.0/3 for "Meteor's" first hour. For the night, first place Fox averaged a 1.5/5, followed by CBS (1.3/4), ABC and NBC (.9/3 each) and the CW (.3/1). (All Sunday delivery based on Nielsen fast affiliate ratings, with final live plus same-day data released Tuesday.)

Part of the problem may have been caustic criticism, as it may have reminded some of the disastrous disaster film of the same name from 1979. The decade may have been appropriate for analysis, but maybe instead of recalling the era of "Earthquake," NBC also could have noted the seismic shifts in culture and media that have minimized the miniseries. Beyond the technological transformations that have made the 500-channel universe possible is the accompanying cleaving of culture that make big audiences for mini-series less likely. And more difficult to quantify, but evident in everyday lives is the shortened attention span in today's quick-cut culture, which makes a two-part, four hour miniseries a time commitment some viewers just won't make.

To be sure, NBC is to be credited for creating any original programming amid dreary reruns and reality. And, indeed, it's sticking with the scheduling strategy for the few several weeks, as part of its "Survival Sunday" series.

Rash chart July 12, 2009Click for PDF
See how all the shows did in the ratings.

While meant to invoke the subgenre of disaster dramas, "Survival Sunday" also serves as a media metaphor for what NBC and its broadcast brethren are trying to do during a cool summer for new shows, and what mini-series may not do as the story form is increasingly the anti-reality TV -- high cost and low ratings.

Monday: Of all the major leagues, baseball's all-star festivities are by far the best. It starts tonight, with ESPN carrying the 2009 Home Run Derby...
Tuesday: ...and then it's capped by the midsummer classic, with the winning league getting home-field advantage for the World Series.

Mauer power: Baseball's best hitter, Minnesota Twin catcher Joe Mauer, is known for hitting singles, but may surprise with the long ball tonight.

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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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