In an attempt to give NBC's Law & Order: SVU
a run for its money on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET, ABC said last week it will air only original programming in that slot for the rest of the television season.
To do that, ABC is putting veteran NYPD Blue
on hiatus after November sweeps and airing Line of Fire
in its place. Line of Fire, written and executive-produced by Rod Lurie, will air in the slot through January, and then NYPD Blue
will return in originals for February sweeps. So that really is a hiatus.
The hiatus got another application last week when CBS said it will yank David E. Kelley's low-rated Brotherhood of Poland, NH
off its schedule in November , replacing it with 48 Hours
and two specials. The 37th Annual Country Music Awards
will air Wednesday, Nov. 5, and The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show
will run Wednesday, Nov. 19.
Unlike with NYPD Blue, there's no telling when Brotherhood
will come back. Kelley and 20th Century Fox Television still have four episodes of the quirky drama in the can. But no more are being produced. The drama has been averaging 6.94 million viewers, a 2.2 rating/6 share in adults 18-49 and a 2.8/7 in adults 25-54, giving it third place in the time period. It's also underperforming compared with last year's time-period resident, Presidio Med, which CBS canceled last December.
ABC's move was more strategic, like NBC's earlier decision to move Coupling
out of sweeps.
"We've seen six great episodes of Line of Fire," said ABC Entertainment President Susan Lyne. "This strategy will allow us to utilize our strong Monday NightFootball
promo base to premiere Line of Fire
and will also allow Blue's loyal fans to enjoy uninterrupted original episodes when the show returns."
Says Steve Sternberg, director of audience analysis at Interpublic Group's Magna Global USA, "They are putting Line of Fire
on at a time when NBC and CBS are going to run a lot of repeats. NYPD Blue
falls apart in repeats.
"If Line of Fire
becomes a hit on Tuesdays," he continues, "they can move it to Mondays. They've been looking for a series to work on Mondays for a long time. The original idea was that The Practice
was not going to last that long, so they were holding Line of Fire
for Sundays, but now that The Practice
is showing new life, it makes a lot of sense to do this."
It is true that NYPD Blue
performs much better in originals than it does in repeats. Last year, the show averaged a 4.7 rating/13 share in adults 18-49 in originals and 3.2/9 in repeats, a 32% drop. In viewers, originals drew an average audience of 12.1 million people, while repeats drew some 8.5 million.
It's growing more common on network prime time to pull underperforming serial dramas rather than repeat them or waste originals against big-event programming or strong competition from other networks. Two weeks ago, NBC replaced a scheduled original episode of The West Wing
with a repeat of Law & Order: Criminal Intent
in the face of strong competition from the baseball playoffs. It has become a television maxim that closed-end dramas—such as Law & Order, CSI
and their respective spin-offs—perform much better in repeats than serial dramas do.
When a network is airing originals, it tends to promote that fact strongly. Last week, NBC was airing promos trumpeting that The West Wing
would be in originals for the next five weeks; last year, ABC made a point of telling viewers that NYPD Blue
would be all-original through May sweeps.