TV Getting Back To Biz And Blurbs
According to preliminary nationals from Nielsen Media, the weekend's most-watched programs were Sunday's "60 Minutes" on CBS (14 million viewers), a two-hour news special on NBC (11.3 million) and a one-hour ABC news special (10.6 million) -- all focusing exclusively on last week's attacks. Fox also did well Saturday with a related two-hour "America's Most Wanted" special (preliminary 9.4 million).
The NBC and ABC news specials and "America's Most Wanted" aired without commercials. Various estimates put the total loss of advertising revenues to the networks at upwards of $600 million over the six-day period since Sept. 11. And with the U.S. economy headed into a possible recession, it could be well into 2002 before the networks get their ad rates back to where they were before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
But commercial breaks were back across the board Monday. The nightly newscasts on the Big Three broadcast networks were taking commercial spots, as were "Dateline NBC" at 8 p.m. and a 10 p.m. news special on ABC. The ABC special was one of the programs substituting for the canceled "Monday Night Football" game between Minnesota and Baltimore.
Most of the networks' weekend attempts to offer diversions in the form of light, inoffensive entertainment programming ("Touched by an Angel," "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," made-for-TV movie repeat "Growing Up Brady") met with relatively meek ratings. The only entertainment program that really clicked was Fox's repeat of theatrical "Mrs. Doubtfire" (10 million), which gained viewers throughout the night.
Overall, Nielsen estimates that roughly 37.2 million viewers watched the broadcast networks on Sunday (up from the previous week's 35.6 million), with the spike primarily attributed to the extra news coverage. Saturday's estimated 28.8 million viewers on the major networks was down slightly vs. the previous week.
Nielsen has also issued estimates for cumulative primetime viewing of news coverage on Wednesday and Thursday. On Wednesday, 54.8 million people watched an average minute of primetime on the four broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox) and five news cable channels (CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, CNN Headline News and CNBC), while Thursday drew roughly 52.8 million.
Nearly 80 million people watched in primetime on Tuesday, the day of the attacks.