FoxNews.com Columnist Gets It Wrong, NBC Says 'Studio 60' Stays Onboard

A Fox News report that NBC's heavily promoted "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" would be dropped from the schedule created a frisson Monday, but appears to be premature.

An NBC representative said in an email the show hasn't been cancelled. The rep wrote: "It is profitable at this point." In fact, the network has ordered three more episodes of the show.

"Studio 60" is scheduled to air next Monday in its usual 10 p.m. slot, although a boffo performance by "Friday Night Lights" in the slot last night--where it was placed for a trial run--could potentially change things. But a more likely scenario would be a time-period change for "Studio 60"--not a retirement--a source said.

"Lights," a poor performer on Tuesdays, could then be viewed as more compatible with NBC's freshman hit "Heroes" on Mondays. "Studio 60" has failed to capitalize on the strong lead-in from the top-10 hit at 9 p.m.

Barring a major meltdown--and last week, ratings were up over the previous week--next week's performance by "Studio 60" is not considered a make or break. But NBC executives are watching its ratings closely, and are frustrated by their decline.

Still, the show is averaging a 3.8 for the season in "live plus same day" ratings for the 18-to-49 demo. (Note: advertisers are only paying for the lower "live" ratings.) NBC executives believe that as long as the show stays above a 3.0, it will function, at the very worst, as a loss leader. That barometer gives it a shot of staying on the air.

One of the reasons NBC might stick with it is the show's upscale profile, which can make it attractive to advertisers: Through Oct. 8, it ranked fourth among all network shows in median income for the 18-to-49 demo at $66,000. Another is the show's perceived status as high-brow "West Wing-style" entertainment, a brand image that NBC continues to pursue.

Barring an unexpected breakout performance from "Lights" last night, executives also believe that even if "Studio 60" were replaced, it would be hard to put a show in the time slot that would outperform CBS' "CSI" Miami," which dominates.

NBC could call on "Crossing Jordan," which is expected to return on Fridays this fall, if either "Studio" 60" or "Lights" gets the axe. But "Jordan" finished last year with a 3.3 in the 18-to-49 demo, behind cancelled show "Commander in Chief." In short, it could be hard-pressed to significantly outperform "Studio 60."

Much of "Studio 60's" fate involves economic decisions by the network as far as the cost benefit of yanking a show when episodes are already shot. Thirteen episodes have been ordered, although the NBC rep wrote that it is unclear how far along production is on the allotment--so there could be a shutdown. As of next Monday, seven episodes will have aired.

The Fox report received heightened attention via a prominent link on the "Drudge Report" that was later removed.

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