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A rough course in the rating race

Perhaps the biggest surprise one month into the new kids TV season is how poorly several of the big broadcast networks are doing. Saturday morning ratings among kids two to 11 are all down for Fox, WB and CBS, with CBS...
November 1, 1996

Perhaps the biggest surprise one month into the new kids TV season is how poorly several of the big broadcast networks are doing. Saturday morning ratings among kids two to 11 are all down for Fox, WB and CBS, with CBS falling sharply. ABC has managed to hold even with last season, while UPN’s fledgling kids lineup is doing rather well.

Fox Children’s Network still leads the pack on Saturday-some people there claim its seven-percent decline is relatively good in this difficult kids season. Fox has Saturday’s top seven shows: Goosebumps leads the pack, followed by Spider-Man and Casper. Life With Louie, a semi-depressing cartoon version of comic Louie Anderson’s childhood, is tied with Casper, an unexpected, but pleasant development for Fox since it owns the show.

ABC is a solid second to Fox among the broadcast nets, and the Disney connection has paid off-its new parent company supplied almost all of its new shows. The two best performers of that bunch are Disney’s Mighty Ducks and Brand Spanking New Doug (Disney bought out the production company, Jumbo Pictures, to get the latter show). ABC’s highest-rated show, however, remains old episodes of Bugs Bunny & Tweety. Gargoyles: The Goliath Chronicles is the network’s second-lowest-rated show, a disappointment considering its success in syndication.

WB had a terrific rookie season last year, but is suffering some growing pains this year. Its rating has slipped 26 percent as it expanded from three to four hours. Any preseason wagers on WB’s shows would likely have favored the much-anticipated Superman to outperform the little-noticed Road Rovers, but so far the latter show, a canine car comedy, is doing a little better. Critics note that the action of Superman is a jarringly different genre for comedy-centric WB. It also faces off against Goosebumps.

UPN, an archrival of WB in prime time, eschews the Saturday rat race and runs its two-hour kids block on Sunday. So far this year, it has enjoyed week-to-week growth, outscoring WB and CBS a few times. Its top shows are Bureau of Alien Detectors and Jumanji.

And CBS, which led the Saturday morning race just a few short years ago with Garfield and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, has fallen on hard times. Its rating has plummeted 58 percent this season, though that comparison is skewed by a strong premiere last year. Of its two sophomore hits, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective is holding up better than The Mask, which has been diluted by a weekday strip version in syndication. None of CBS’s new shows have done much better than the network’s anemic average.

But the strongest Saturday morning trend is hardly a surprise at all: the surging strength of Nickelodeon. Nick now runs second to Fox on Saturday in an average of all U.S. homes, quite a feat considering it is available in only 70 percent of the country. Nick d’esn’t even program this time period with fresh shows, sticking with reruns such as Rugrats, Tiny Toons and Beetlejuice.

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