Fall TV Season Starts Off With a Whimper

It seems television viewers are getting a little tired of their old favorite shows, and are not enthused about new ones.

Across the board, viewership for returning shows’ season openers, including Friends, Frasier and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, all fell way below expected numbers, The Associated Press reports.

The audience for NBC’s Friends season premiere last week was down by 28 percent from last year’s season opener, while CBS’ CSI: Miami was down 25 percent. NBC’s Frasier fell 31 percent from last year, with NYPD Blue trailing with a 22 percent decline. Even the nearly 27 million people who tuned into television’s most popular show, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, saw a drop of 12 percent from last year’s premiere, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Declaring a catastrophe at this time would be a bit premature, but if the trend for some of the most popular shows continues, it would be cause for concern with the major networks, Steve Sternberg, a television analyst for the ad firm Magna Global, told AP.

“These shows are aging,” Marc Berman, an analyst for Media Week Online, also told AP. “People are getting tired of them. And they’re not finding new shows that are intriguing them.”

Overall, viewership for ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox was down 3 percent from opening week last year, down 7 percent among the prized 18-to-49-year-old demographic. Much of the decline can be tied to Fox, which is holding off most of its premieres until after baseball season, AP reports.

Some of the new fall shows have shown some promise. ABC’s Hope & Faith, the new sitcom starring Kelly Ripa and Faith Ford, had a strong start, rallying numbers for ABC’s family-oriented Friday night lineup, as did CBS with its potential Friday night hit, the spiritual drama Joan of Arcadia. Also doing well for CBS was their own forensics drama offering Cold Case on Sunday.

NBC’s Whoopi has faded, however, after a strong preseason start, while the network’s new sitcom Coupling, as well as CBS’ The Brotherhood of Poland, N.H. and ABC’s Threat Matrix could already be in some serious trouble.

Sternberg told AP competition from cable networks is hurting the networks more than ever before. Over just the past two years, the number of channels available in an average home has jumped by more than two dozen to more than 100, he said.

“That is finally starting to have an impact where it hadn’t over the past few years,” Sternberg explained.
Somewhat surprisingly, FX’s critically praised series, Nip/Tuck, scored its best ratings ever last Tuesday when competing against the season premieres of three broadcast dramas, AP reports.