In the Crosshairs
As audiences flee, Law & Order takes a hit
By Allison Romano -- Broadcasting & Cable, 10/10/2004 8:00:00 PM
NBC sharpshooter Law & Order is misfiring.
The revered crime drama is in a fall ratings slide, and spinoff Law & Order: Criminal Intent is wounded, too. The culprit: a mix of stiff competition and fickle viewers, who may have overdosed on Law & Order on NBC and cable reruns on TNT and USA.
Season-to-date, Law & Order's viewership is off 26%, while delivery to the three key adult demographics (18-34, 18-49 and 25-54) has tumbled about 25% compared with a year ago, per Nielsen. Law & Order: Criminal Intent is off 22% in viewers and some 20% in both 18-49s and 25-54s.
Other shows have clicked with viewers—at Law & Order's expense.
On Wednesday nights, CBS's sizzling freshman drama CSI: N.Y. is encroaching. "There is some curiosity with CSI: N.Y. It's a sexier show," says Starcom Entertainment Senior Vice President and Director Laura Caraccioli-Davis. Meanwhile, Law & Order: CI took a major hit Oct. 3, when ABC premiered new prime time soap Desperate Housewives—the night's most-watched TV show.
The only Dick Wolf creation still posting growth is Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. On Tuesday nights, it's up 11% in viewers and posting high single-digit gains in the key demos.
Of course, the jury is still out, as viewing patterns take time to settle down. "CSI is a hot franchise right now, but Law & Order remains one of the most dependable shows on TV," says a network rep, adding the ratings are "up to our internal expectations."
And just in case three Law & Orders isn't enough, one more is coming. The fourth incarnation, Law &Order: Trial by Jury, is slated for midseason.
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