Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, September 14, 2001

Terror attacks disrupt fall TV schedule

Advertiser News Services

With the terrorist attacks still taking up a lot of airtime, networks are pulling back on fall season programming.

Associated Press

As network news divisions continue to cover the aftermath of Tuesday's attacks on Washington and New York, programmers are facing tough decisions about when to launch their fall schedules.

NBC said Wednesday it was bumping all its premieres; its new season was to have launched Monday. "We are going to push (back) the premieres a week," says NBC Entertainment chief Jeff Zucker. "Given what happened, it's the appropriate thing to do."

Fox and CBS have not followed suit. However, CBS has confirmed that the first segment in its CIA drama "The Agency" will be replaced when the season launches; the episode concerned the recruitment of a Middle Eastern official who knew about a terrorist plot to bomb London. At press time, ABC had not yet decided whether to move back the premieres of its returning series, scheduled for next week, and its new shows, set for the week of Sept. 24.

The WB and UPN networks, whose shows are seen in Hawai'i on KFVE, plan to premiere their slates as scheduled, starting Friday with a block of comedies. UPN's next scheduled premiere is "Enterprise" on Sept. 26. PBS said it will pre-empt regular programming for special reports through Friday.

NBC's concerns about sticking to a normal schedule also are pragmatic: With wall-to-wall news coverage this week, the network will have few chances to promote new shows to viewers in the crucial days leading up to planned premieres. Repeats of season-ending cliffhangers of "The West Wing," "Friends" and "Frasier," among other series, were bumped this week by news coverage. And networks risk continued local news pre-emptions next week in New York, the country's largest media market, with 8 percent of U.S. homes.

"There's no question the season will begin slower," with smaller audience levels than anticipated, says CBS president Leslie Moonves, as viewers wait to resume normal routines. Fall TV seasons have been delayed only twice, because of a 1988 writers' strike and last year's Olympics.

ABC, CBS, NBC and the cable news networks stayed on the story full time into yesterday, eschewing commercials

Television ratings showed how many millions of Americans turned to TV as the "national campfire," in the words of ABC anchor Peter Jennings.

An estimated 60.5 million people watched the attack coverage in prime-time Tuesday night on NBC (22.4 million), ABC (17.6 million), CBS (14.4 million) and Fox (6.1 million), according to Nielsen Media Research. Viewership on those four networks was up 47 percent over Sept. 11, 2000.

The three cable news networks also drew big audiences in prime time: 7.7 million for CNN, 4.4 million for Fox News Channel and 2.4 million for MSNBC, Nielsen said. It still may be difficult to determine how many people were watching overall because cable networks that don't normally carry news — ESPN, TNT, VH1 and others — beamed coverage of the attack from other networks and their ratings were not immediately available.

The Associated Press, Zap2It.com and USA Today contributed to this report.