Networks looking to reclaim Fridays

Mon Apr 5, 2010 7:30pm EDT
 
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By Marc Berman

NEW YORK (Mediaweek) - Friday, like Saturday, was once a haven for some of the best programing on television, featuring some of the most beloved shows of all time.

Baby boomers will recall ABC's classic early-1970s lineup anchored by "The Brady Bunch" and capped off with "Love, American Style." Soap lovers were glued to CBS' combination of "Dallas" and "Falcon Crest" in the 1980s, a tandem that topped the ratings for most of the decade. ABC branded the night "TGIF" and populated it with entries like "Full House" and "Family Matters" for years. NBC introduced ultra-cool "Miami Vice." And the masses were introduced to Fox's "The X-Files" and CBS' "CSI" on this evening.

All is certainly not as it used to be. The "X-Files" morphed into a Sunday staple, while "CSI," of course, still airs on Thursday -- two nights that are considerably more profitable from an ad revenue standpoint. "CSI," in fact, was the last big Friday hit on any broadcast network, and that was nine years ago.

"The audience is very aware that Friday and Saturday are no longer priorities for the networks," said Brad Adgate, senior vp research at Horizon Media. "There are several ways to explain the ongoing audience erosion on Friday and the poor results on Saturday, but the main reason is the programing. It always comes down to the types of shows being offered."

Once upon a time, the end of the work week offered viewers a bounty of options. But, mirroring once robust and now virtually extinct Saturday (which at one time housed such hits as "All in the Family," "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "The Love Boat" and "The Golden Girls"), the landscape on Friday has been deteriorating for years, leading many to worry about the future of that evening as a source of original entertainment. (Cable networks are starting to make their mark on the night, but more on that later.)

NBC has seen a spike in the ratings on Friday this season thanks to its coverage of the Winter Olympics, but ABC, CBS and Fox are all down year to year.

CBS' deteriorating combination of scripted dramas "Ghost Whisperer," "Medium" and "Numbers" have dipped by an average of 19% in total viewers (to 7.8 million from 9.7 million), according to Nielsen Media Research data through March 22.

ABC's erosion -- down 5% in total viewers to 5.4 million -- is less severe, but Friday remains the second-lowest-rated night of the week (behind Saturday) for both networks. Friday, meanwhile, is the weakest link for Fox, with a 21% drop in total viewers to 4.4 million.   Continued...