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October 06, 2008

Magna grades fall TV launches

Magna Global analyst Steve Sternberg issued a report assessing the performance of some key fall shows thus far. Highlights:

-- "Pushing Daisies" – "ABC was obviously hoping for better than a 4th place finish among adults 18-49 for this critical darling. We don’t see any reason to expect significant improvement."

-- “Fringe” – “Seems to have found its audience” … Also, Magna says Fox’s “remote-free TV” strategy, which involves only airing half the usual number of commercials, has been effective. Audience retention of “Fringe” during commercials is significantly greater than typical Fox dramas (also helped by the network announcing that "Fringe" will return in 60, 70, or 90 seconds before each commercial pod).

-- “Private Practice” – “Unlike its lead-in, ‘Private Practice’ was still the highest rated show of the night among women 18-34 and tied for the lead (with ‘CSI: NY’) among women 18-49.  ABC should be satisfied if not happy.”

-- “The Mentalist” – “Could be the first bona fide new hit of the season.”

-- “Dirty Sexy Money” – “Premiere was a distant second to CBS’s ‘CSI: NY,’ and just ahead of NBC’s ‘Lipstick Jungle.’ ABC should be able to do better here.”

-- “Worst Week” – “Not bad opposite such tough competition. Second episode declined further –- not a promising sign."

[More after the jump]

-- “Gary Unmarried” – “Premiere built slightly on its ‘Old Christine’ lead-in. It was competitive in a relatively weak time period. Its fate will likely rest on that of its lead-in.”

-- “Knight Rider” – “About what we expected, but must be a disappointment for NBC, which was hoping for more than the third place among adults 18-49 and fourth place among adults 25-54. It was the highest rated show of the night among men 18-34, but it remains to be seen whether that is enough to satisfy the network. Second episode gained among older viewers – not the folks NBC is going for here.”

-- “90210” – “Seems to have settled in to its audience level.”

-- "Terminator" -- "Returned against weaker than normal competition, and still declined 20% from last season.  Fox was hoping for more in its second season."   

-- “Privileged” -- “As expected, loses a share point or two from its ‘90210’ lead-in. No reason to expect that to change, and no reason to expect the show to last much longer.”

About that last show. Not to go out onto the very tip of a skinny limb and get all moony about one of the lowest-rated series on television, but I don’t see “Privileged” as entirely hopeless. On paper, yeah, there’s no reason to think this is going to be on CW's schedule another week. The “Privileged” ratings make “Do Not Disturb” look like “Grey’s Anatomy.” But I’m not predicting immediate doom, either, and the reason is admittedly unscientific: Everybody I talk to who watches this show (and I’m surprised how many of them there are) swears this guilty pleasure is better than you think and only getting better. CW execs are hearing the same thing from critics and fans. Whereas talk to viewers about “Fringe” or “90210” and you hear, “Well, the show’s okay, I suppose I’ll watch another week.” The CW has shown with “Gossip Girl” it can grow a soap. And since the cash-strapped network doesn’t have anything else exciting that's ready to pop in the slot, the network might be patient by default.


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