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TELEVISION & RADIO

Reality-TV January is off to a sizzling start in the ratings

January 10, 2003|Brian Lowry

Any thoughts -- or in some quarters, hopes -- that staged "reality" shows might suffer from this month's prime-time saturation were dealt a blow Wednesday, as ABC's "The Bachelorette" picked up pretty much where "The Bachelor" left off and CBS' "Star Search" revival also got off to a solid start.

Those results, coupled with stellar ratings Monday for Fox's own dating show, "Joe Millionaire," reinforce why such shows have become a mainstay for programmers -- representing a relatively inexpensive genre that draws disproportionately high numbers of adults age 18 to 49, the main category media buyers monitor in placing ad time.

"The Bachelorette," for example, averaged 17.4 million viewers, based on Nielsen Media Research estimates, and 10.8 million of them -- or more than 60% of its audience -- fell into that coveted age bracket. ("Joe Millionaire" fared even better by that measure, with seven in 10 of its viewers in that range.)

By contrast, NBC's "The West Wing" -- which drew 14 million versus "The Bachelorette," its lowest rating for an original episode since the show's first season -- skews significantly older, with 18-to-49-year-olds accounting for less than 45% of its audience.

The new "Star Search," meanwhile, hosted by Arsenio Hall, also won its time slot in both viewers and key demographics, with 13.8 million viewers.

The talent contest, however, excludes viewers in the Pacific and Mountain time zones from participating, accepting votes as to who should win only from the Eastern and Central regions, where it is broadcast live.

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