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Webs rest on Saturday.

The broadcast nets have seen their Saturday night audience dwindle over the years--and now they've seemingly stopped trying to do anything about it.

By continuing to serve up "Cops," stale movies and repeats of crime dramas, the Big Four have driven viewers out of the habit of expecting any thing decent to watch on the loneliest night of the week.

Saturday has been the home to many winning series over the years, including "Mary Tyler Moore," "Love Boat" and "Golden Girls." But the last real successful show on the night was CBS' "Walker, Texas Ranger," which rode off into the sunset in 2001.

Last season, basic cable commanded a 58 share of Saturday's primetime 18-49 aud compared with a measly 31 share for the broadcasters--and that includes major sporting events like the World Series and NFL playoffs that boosted the Big Four's averages.

Unscripted series and repeats of dramas are a cheaper way to go on Saturday nights for the nets, which also must appreciate not having to allot much marketing muscle to the night. Watch any network in Thursday primetime, for example, and you will rarely see any promo spots for Saturday night.

There's an obvious aud that's available on Saturday--older, more rural folks and families--but the broadcasters have never been less interested in reaching these groups.

Here's a look at the night:

Fox

The veteran lineup of "Cops" and "America's Most Wanted" remains the leader here, with its 2.8 regular-program rating among adults 18-49 towering over second-place ABC's 2.2.

There's been no reason for the net to abandon this lineup, so it hasn't.

ABC

The Alphabet is dropping the "Wonderful World of Disney" banner for "ABC Movie of the Week," which will allow a greater variety of films.

Look for popular theatricals like "Catch Me if You Can" and "Finding Nemo" among this year's titles, which will also include some originals like the Carol Burnett starrer "Once Upon a Mattress." They should be enough to keep the net a solid second for the night.

Don't rule out ABC trying some firstrun programming here, as its brand of feel-good reality shows would seem a good fit for the night. Throw in a compatible drama, and the net could rule here.

CBS

The Eye is going all crime on the night--shocker--by airing repeats of its successful dramas from 8 to 10 and then sticking at 10 with "48 Hours Mystery."

Although the low-rated "48" is a reliable utility player, the murder-mystery-of-the-week format has been played out, and the newsmag likely will place third most weeks.

NBC

The Peacock will start the season with theatricals like "Shrek," "Chicago" and "Scary Movie," but nobody would be surprised to see various "Law & Order" repeats on the sked as the season progresses.

Yawn.

Bottom line

It's Fox's night to lose, but it would be great to see ABC or NBC try fresh fare at some point during the season.

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Title Annotation:TELEVISION; Saturday night audience dwindle
Author:Kissell, Rick
Publication:Variety
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 19, 2005
Words:487
Previous Article:P'time divas move into daytime.
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