Reality vs. Drama
Scripted fare is hot, unscripted shows have cooled
By Jim Finkle -- Broadcasting & Cable, 2/13/2005 7:00:00 PM
Beware Idol worship. While it keeps Fox on top, and remains the most popular show on television, the numbers tell only part of the story. American Idol may give Fox an edge in winning February sweeps, but the bigger story this season: Reality has taken a backseat to drama. Desperate Housewives, Lost, Medium, House, Numb3rs and CSI all have water-cooler buzz.
In the first week of the sweep, which ran through Feb. 9, Fox claimed an overall 11.2/28 rating in the 18-49s demo—more than the combined ratings of CBS (3.5/9), ABC (3.5/9) and NBC (3.4/9).
Fox's huge lead was widened by its Feb. 6 broadcast of the Super Bowl. The showdown between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots pulled in a whopping 33.2 rating/68 share among 18-49s. (This special bump is thanks to timing. The game is generally broadcast in January; in 2004, it wasn't a factor in February sweeps.)
Still, most of the credit for Fox's lead goes to Idol, which has handily beaten the competition in every episode this season. While the show's ratings are stellar by most standards, they are not quite as strong as they were last year. In five of the last eight Idol episodes aired through Feb 9, the show posted a lower rating in the key 18-49s than in the same period a year ago, down by roughly 2%.
Expecting an Idol dip, Fox warned last month that the program's ratings might slide, noting it is common for audiences to shrink in a show's fourth season. The decline, however, reflects a broader trend among popular reality shows that dominated ratings charts over the past few years. (ABC's Bachelor, CBS' Survivor and NBC's Apprentice have all seen their ratings drop a bit.)
Of all the new shows introduced this season, audiences have given their warmest reception to dramas.
Freshman dramas are the clear favorites with 18-49s. The top 10 list includes six dramas led by ABC's Desperate Housewives and NBC's midseason hit, The Medium), just one sitcom, Joey, and four reality shows: Biggest Loser, Wife Swap, Supernanny and a spinoff of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition called EMHE: How'd They Do That?
Many unscripted shows continue to enjoy strong ratings. While all the networks are developing shows in the genre, they are placing bigger bets on traditional scripted fare, staking out Lost and Desperate Housewives territory.
NBC, for example, is investing in a pilot for Fathom, a sci-fi drama about squid-like aliens that launch an attack on Earth. NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly says the show would be expensive to produce but, given viewers' current tastes, it is worth taking the extra risk.
While Desperate Housewives and Lost are clear winners, it is still too early to predict what the future holds for other new dramas, especially NBC's The Medium and CBS' Numb3rs, both midseason entries.
The charts below contain a breakdown of top shows by genre, and the top 25 shows through Jan. 30.
No related content found.
No Top Articles
Digital Rapids provides market-leading software and hardware solutions, technology and expertise for transforming live and on-demand video to reach wider audiences on the latest viewing platforms more efficiently, more effectively and more profitably. Empowering applications from..more