Hardwood headaches


Athletes were not the only ones sweating out the NCAA men's basketball tournament. Some syndicated shows felt the heat where it hurts: in the ratings.

A handful of shows in weekend and access time periods suffered from preemptions by and competition with the conclusion of March Madness, during the week ended March 26. Moving from first place the previous week to fifth in its genre, for example, the off-net run of ER hit its lowest rating of the two seasons it has run in syndication. The show, which airs on weekends, dropped 28% from the week before, to a 2.8, behind four other weekly hours.

Preemptions due to special events are part of the price paid for key time periods, says station rep Bill Carroll, vice president and director of programming for Katz Media. "The advantage is, you're in the most visible time periods. The disadvantage is, conflicting with special-event programming, you are the victim of preemption or competition."

One of the next big events is the 2000 Olympics, which will air on NBC. Because of the games, the fall TV season will begin slightly later than usual, on Oct. 2. "You have to premiere your shows either before or after the Olympics," Carroll says. "Many have decided to get the Olympics behind them first and then focus on shifting to new programming."