Friday night TV aims to shake off lame duck status

Thu Aug 19, 2010 4:58pm EDT
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Friday night television -- long regarded as a lame duck slot for dying shows -- is making a comeback this fall, with U.S. networks investing in new scripted dramas with big stars, and advertisers looking for stay-at-home audiences.

Be it the poor economy, the rebound in the ad spending, or the quest for even small audiences in a fragmented TV market, three of the five leading networks are launching new primetime series in September on Friday nights.

ABC has medical/crime drama "Body of Proof", Tom Selleck stars in the CBS police family drama "Blue Bloods", while NBC is putting on its new Jimmy Smits lawyer show "Outlaw".

Youth-oriented channel the CW has also moved returning popular shows "Smallville" and "Supernatural" to Fridays.

"Putting a show on Fridays had become the equivalent of opening a movie the week after Christmas. It was seen as the dumping ground," said Craig Tomashoff, executive editor of TV Guide Magazine.

"There are few bigger TV stars than Tom Selleck, so to put him on Friday nights -- and equally Jimmy Smits -- is an encouraging sign that networks for the first time in years are trying to get viewers back on Friday," he added.

Networks have traditionally put some of their best programs on Thursday nights, when advertisers seize the chance to catch the coveted 18-49 year-old audience before it embarks on weekends out at movie theaters, restaurants and shopping malls, said Brad Adgate, senior researcher at Horizon Media.

But with little competition from cable channels and Americans cutting back on spending in the economic downturn, the networks feel there is a Friday night TV audience to be had -- at least outside younger viewers.   Continued...