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Summer Scorecard

Ad-supported cable grows, broadcast loses

No matter the buzz for YouTube and other Internet video sites this summer, Americans still love the boob tube. Summer primetime viewing was right on par with last year, according to Nielsen Media Research. For the sixth straight summer, ad-supported cable scored with original programming, growing its audience a full percentage point and commanding a 62.1% share of the primetime household viewing audience.

Broadcast, on the other hand, relied on reruns and reality shows, losing both households and viewers 18-49 and eking out its lowest summer share ever with 31.1%. Here is a scorecard of a few of this summer's high and low performers.

Winners

Fox: Strong numbers for So You Think You Can Dance, Hell's Kitchen and reruns of House helped make Fox the only broadcast network with summer-to-summer gains. It jumped 12% in households.

NBC: The network was flat in household ratings, but America's Got Talent and Last Comic Standing helped it to a 16% gain over last year in the 18-49 demo.

USA: Wrestling, solid performances by originals, including Monk, and a huge 7.4 million viewers for a July showing of Pirates of the Caribbean helped the network easily top the basic-cable charts with an average 2.9 million total viewers, up 25% from last summer.

AMC: With about 10 million viewers, the network's first original movie, Broken Trail, was the most viewed cable program of the summer and boosted the network 13% over last year.

Losers

ABC: The network had a dismal summer in the ratings, down 10% in households and 10% in 18-49s after moving last year's hit Dancing With the Stars to fall. New reality shows The One: Making of a Music Star and One Ocean View were yanked before they finished, as were low-performing Lost reruns.

CBS: Although the network claimed the biggest share of households for the summer, it was down 5% in 18-49s. CSI struggled, and Big Brother disappointed on Sunday nights.

Spike: The network's first scripted original, Blade, couldn't hold an audience, and Spike dropped 15% year-to-year in 18-49, to 702,000.

Fox News: Although still the most-viewed news network by far, it was down 22% from last summer to 1.5 million viewers, continuing the audience declines that the network has seen all year.

NBC Sports Kicks Off New Site

NBC Sports is re-launching its Website Sept. 5, using original programming and the acquisition of a fantasy-sports company to build its online business. NBCSports.com will debut a live pre- and post-game show around its coverage of Notre Dame football. The network has signed on Vonage, Sprint and Toyota as sponsors, with Vonage buying a title sponsorship for the Notre Dame shows.

NBC Sports has also acquired Allstar Stats Inc., a fantasy-sports–games provider, and its Rotoworld.com site. NBC Sports had previously announced a deal with Rotoworld to produce an online show pegged to its Sunday Night Football telecasts.

“Fantasy represents a large portion of traffic and revenue in the sports-online business,” says Gary Zenkel, president of NBC Olympics and executive VP of strategic partnerships for NBC Sports. “Being a little late to the party, we wanted to launch with a robust business.”

NBC Sports says that 150 affiliates have signed on for a shared-content arrangement with the new site.—Ben Grossman

Bozell To Bow Out

Brent Bozell, president/founder of the Parents Television Council (PTC), said Friday he will step down Jan. 1. He will be replaced by Executive Director Tim Winter.

PTC, and the power of Bozell's personality, has been one of the principle forces behind the push for stronger FCC enforcement of indecency regulations. He will continue as an advisor.

Bozell also runs conservative public-policy organization Media Research Center and serves on boards of other groups. “It has simply become too much for me,” he says, “and with a large family, it's just not healthy for me. More importantly, however, it is not healthy for the PTC.”—John Eggerton

Time Warner Still Blocks NFL Network

The showdown between Time Warner Cable and NFL Network looms next week, with the network expected to go dark on the operator's newly acquired systems Sept. 15.

The dispute centers on NFL Network's demand for high license fees for live Thursday-night games during the new season. That clashes with Time Warner Cable's campaign to control the surging costs of sports networks.

Meanwhile, Fred Dressler, Time Warner Cable VP of programming, wants to cool his rhetoric, quoted in an Aug. 28 B&C story (p. 19), about the cost of cable sports channels. “In my exuberance to defend the use of sports tiers as a way of controlling costs,” he says, “ I went too far in singling out The Tennis Channel in a way I did not intend to.

“It was not my intent to say that Time Warner Cable had no use or desire for a tennis network,” he continues, “only that I did not believe that we needed a tennis network, Big Ten Network or even an NFL Network on the expanded level of service. As anyone who knows me well knows, I am a huge tennis fan and am proud to have been the first in the industry to make a deal with The Tennis Channel for carriage on cable.”—John M. Higgins

Notes From All Around

Sinclair Broadcasting will delay the Sept. 10 replay of the CBS documentary 9/11 until after 10 p.m. on its two CBS affiliates: KGAN Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and WGME Portland, Maine. (It is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET nationwide.) The broadcaster fears the possibility of FCC action over indecent language; CBS says Sinclair's decision is “regrettable but understandable.” ...

Daytime-TV veteran Hilary Estey McLoughlin has replaced Jim Paratore as president of Warner Bros. unit, Telepictures Productions. Paratore earlier announced that he is leaving to form a TV production company with Warner Bros. ...

The Parents Television Council last week filed an FCC complaint over NBC's Emmy broadcast, in which actress Helen Mirren used descriptive Britishism “tits over ass.” NBC, separately, apologized for Emmy host Conan O'Brien's opening sketch, which included footage of a phony plane crash he survived. A real plane did crash that day in Lexington, Ky., killing 49 on board. ...

The CW, owned jointly by CBS and Warner Bros. is hoping to tap the popularity of young-skewing site MySpace.com, owned by Fox's News Corp., by taking over the online portal's home page for a day (Sept. 20) and creating its own network-branded MySpace mini-site. ...

Twentieth TV and Elisabeth Murdoch's Shine Ltd. will produce a U.S. version of Britain's live My Games Fever to air on all Fox-owned MyNetworkTV stations. The interactive two-hour daytime strip will air during a test starting in December, then will be rolled out wide early in 2007.

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