Friday Night Fights: Little Competition for CBS
While others send shows there to die, CBS finds Friday audience for new scripted dramas
By Steve McClellan -- Broadcasting & Cable, 6/13/2011 5:04:45 PM
As a result, advertisers are pretty thrifty when it comes to network TV spending on date-night number one. They spent a little under $1.2 billion on primetime Friday shows last year, according to research firm Kantar Media, the second lowest nightly tally of the week, beating only Saturday night's annual intake of $835 million.
And the networks aren't investing much in real estate that lacks appeal to marketers. Only two new Friday programs were announced for the fall lineups during the upfront presentations: CBS's The Gifted Man, and NBC's Grimm. Both shows fall into the paranormal genre, which has a fairly decent track record on Friday nights (think Ghost Whisperer and Medium). The CBS entry follows the trials of a gifted surgeon who is able to communicate with his dead wife, while NBC's entry is a sort of modern retelling of Grimm's Fairy Tales.
"The problem on Friday is that the networks have historically targeted an audience [adults 18-49] that really isn't watching at that hour or that night," says Brad Adgate, SVP/director of research at Horizon Media.
The Friday night audience tends to skew older, which is why CBS has had success on the night, most recently with the hit police drama Blue Bloods, which is returning for a second season at 10 p.m. According to Adgate, that show's median age is 60, not all that surprising given that star Tom Selleck is in his mid-60s.
That said, buyers and sellers attending this year's upfront noted there is an underserved audience on Friday nights-families with young children. It wasn't so long ago, buyers recall, that ABC programmed to that audience with its "TGIF" lineup of sitcoms (Full House, Family Matters, among others). And there was some speculation and a little disappointment when ABC didn't revive the formula for the 2011-12 season.
"Some people were hoping that ABC would bring back TGIF," said one agency executive who attended the network's presentation. The source noted that those hopes were likely based on the background of Paul Lee, now head of ABC Entertainment, who previously oversaw the ABC Family cable channel. "But let's face it, reality is cheaper to produce," the source said.
And that's the direction ABC has taken this year, leading off the night with the aging Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, which is moving from its Sunday time period. The returning Shark Tank follows at 9, followed by 20/20.
Extreme Makeover will go head to head with Fox's returning reality show Kitchen Nightmares with Gordon Ramsay. Up to now, Makeover has had a far bigger audience: 8.3 million viewers in the 2010-11 season, per Nielsen, versus 3.7 million for Nightmares. And Makeover should easily beat the cooking show, although buyers note that its audience will likely shrink given the smaller overall tune-in Fridays versus Sundays, where the series had been scheduled for the last eight seasons.
ABC isn't the only network using Friday as a dumping ground for old shows next season. Friday at 8 will serve as a hospice for NBC's Chuck, entering its fifth and final season. The Peacock network will follow with the new Grimm at 9 and round out the night as usual with Dateline.
Meanwhile, CBS has dominated the Friday 9 to 11 block with CSI: New York followed by Blue Bloods. CSI: NY pulled an audience of 9.5 million viewers during the regular season, while Blue Bloods drew 10.7 million. While the shows skew older, their large overall audiences have enabled them to win (more narrowly) among adults 18-49 as well. The weakest link of the night last fall for CBS was the critically acclaimed Medium, which is being replaced with The Gifted Man.
Bottom line, per buyers: CBS makes the best effort among the broadcast networks to draw Friday night audiences with quality scripted fare, and the network should once again win the night next season.
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