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It's hard to digest these serials

Published October 12, 2006

NEW YORK - The networks have asked for a serious commitment this fall, and viewers are balking.

The five top broadcasters introduced 12 new hour-long dramas that are serials, mysteries or otherwise advance a larger story each week. They join several hits that fall into that category, including Lost, Prison Break and Desperate Housewives.

So far only two such shows, NBC's Heroes and CBS's Jericho, can be said to have exceeded expectations. CBS's Smith has already been canceled, and NBC's Kidnapped has been told the end is near.

"They threw up too much at once, and there's only a certain amount of commitment that viewers are willing to make," said Steve Sternberg, analyst for Magna Global.

Jericho and Heroes have done well because of canny scheduling. They're on at a time fans of their genres have few other options, Sternberg said.

The flip side is NBC's highly acclaimed Friday Night Lights. Its 7.2-million viewers last week represented the smallest premiere audience of any new show on ABC, CBS and NBC, according to Nielsen Media Research. It airs at 8 p.m. Tuesday against ABC's hugely popular Dancing with the Stars competition show.

CBS won the season's third week, averaging 12.5-million viewers. ABC was second with 11.3-million and won among the 18- to 49-year-old audience advertisers seek. NBC averaged 9.9-million, Fox 7.8-million, the CW 3.5-million and the i network 580,000.

Among the Spanish-language networks, Univision averaged 3.4-million, Telemundo 930,000 and Telefutura 560,000.

NBC's Nightly News won the evening news ratings race, averaging 8.5-million viewers. ABC's World News had 8-million and the CBS Evening News 7-million.

The week's top 20 shows:

1. Grey's Anatomy, ABC, 22.8-million viewers

2. CSI, CBS, 21.51-million

3. Desperate Housewives, ABC, 20.96-million

4. Lost, ABC, 18.82-million

5. Dancing with the Stars, ABC, 18.38-million

6. CSI: Miami, CBS, 17.9-million

7. Dancing results, ABC, 17.49-million

8. NCIS, CBS, 15.89-million

9. Survivor, CBS, 15.83-million

10. Two & a Half Men, CBS, 15.8-million

11. CSI: NY, CBS, 15.73-million

12. Without a Trace, CBS, 15.27-million

13. Criminal Minds, CBS, 15.19-million

14. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, ABC, 15.16-million

15. Sunday night football, NBC, 15.14-million

16. ER, NBC, 14.68-million

17. Law & Order: SVU, NBC, 14.3-million

18. Ugly Betty, ABC, 14.26-million

19. Shark, CBS, 13.75-million

20. Cold Case, CBS, 13.73-million

[Last modified October 12, 2006, 05:57:58]

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