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Love and Basketball - April 19

March Madness. It was mad, alright. After more than a couple of upsets and about 9 out of every ten brackets ruined, my Tar Heels of North Carolina emerged victory. After THAT, Raymond Felton and Rashad McCants decided to forego their senior years, and well... Let's just say I personally believe in the old adage: "The NBA will always be there".

But the opener of this round of "The Numbers Game" isn't about college basketball... At least not exclusively.

It's about what happens afterwards.

A Game of Preemptions

Above all, CBS' coverage of the NCAA Division I tournament was a very extensive piece, from the opening round tipoff to Luther Vandross' annual tribute, "One Shining Moment." And due to network/affiliate obligations, the coverage only left so much room for local & network news and whatever happened to be in prime access at the time.

Needless to say, preemptions spelled downward trends for syndication all around during said tournament.

Fast-forward to the week ending April 3. The top four games in syndication, Sony's "Wheel of Fortune" & "Jeopardy!", Buena Vista's "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire", and Tribune's "Family Feud", were all up as the tournament wound into its final stages.

Going by the numbers, the Wheel was up 7% to a 9.3, Jeopardy!, still winding down its own version of March Madness (round 1 of the Ultimate Tournament) was up 5% to a 7.7, Millionaire was up 13% to a 3.6 in households and up 20% in women 25-54 to a 1.8 (which, as an aside, would also explain why more women are now embracing the show - as evidenced by the tryout I attended. And no, Meredith doesn't hurt either), and the Feud was up 10% to a 2.3.

And let's not forget that sweeps is on the horizon. Producers are hoping that the final of the Ultimate Tournament, more special Millionaires, and the American Idol week on Family Feud will punch up bigger numbers. And I don't see any foreseeable preemptions that would stop them from doing that.

And it's not that they need to or anything. All four shows have been given the green light for a new season.

The Ultimate Word on the Ultimate Fighter

Cable is a fickle beast. Usually a show will premiere to decent-enough ratings, then tumble to an audience of core loyalists. Surprisingly, that wasn't the case for Spike TV's "The Ultimate Fighter".

According to MMAWeekly.com, in the first week, the series drew a final national rating of 1.4, while drawing a 1.6 rating in the 18-34 year-old male demographic. In week two, the overall rating of 1.4 remained the same, while the rating in the 18-34 year-old male demographic actually went up from 1.6 to 1.8. Spike TV and Zuffa were both thrilled that the ratings held strong in Week Two, only to have that topped by the Week Three numbers. In Week Three, TUF's overall rating actually increased from 1.4 to 1.6. Most impressive of all, the rating in the 18-34 year-old demographic increased further from 1.8 to a whopping 2.2. Keep in mind that this is a cable series. As an approximate rule of thumb, any given show on cable is a hit if the overall rating averages a 1.0 rating over the course of the series, a big hit if it averages 1.5 over the course of the series, and a mega-hit if it averages 2.0 or higher over the course of the series.

The finale, which didn't air out of WWE, but instead aired live on Saturday, April 9, drew 2.6 million viewers, making it the most watched fight in UFC history. The 2-1/2 hour climax tallied a 1.9 household rating. Among its other accolades: triple digit gains in male demos (up to a 562 percent increase), most watched show for men 18-34, most watched Saturday in Spike TV history, and second most-watched show in Spike TV history (only trumped by the first season finale of "The Joe Schmo Show").

Now you could easily note that the fact that it led out of WWE and carried a similar niche was a factor. But if you looked at the numerous failures that followed the WWE ("Joe Schmo 2" comes to mind), AND the fact that the finale did so well, you would see that this was a non-issue.

That said, a second season should definitely be on the fight card.


Good-news-bad-news situation in three, two, one...

Last Saturday's TPIR Million Dollar Spectacular scored a 5.0/10 from the show to win the hour last Saturday. It also placed #1 in total viewers with 7.79 million, but was second to "Cops" in adults 18-49, a still respectable 2.0/8 to Fox's 2.3/9.

This Saturday, CBS was still number one. The Price is Right was still on top at 8p, BUT the show delivered a 4.6/10 for the hour, translating into 7.03 million viewers, and a 1.4/6 in the covered 18-49 against "Cops'" 2.5/10. Not exactly serving youth as it portrays in the contestant pool shown in every episode. But then again, that was always a boon for controversy in the
Numbers Game, given that college students aren't typically allowed to keep Nielsen boxes.

Worst-case scenario: the old psychological question: if a person spins out $1 million on the big wheel and no one's around to see it, does CBS' budget make a sound?

Best-case scenario: just a typical leveling off.

We'll see which comes to pass in the next Spectacular come May.

That's all the numbers I can think of, save one... Four, the number of serial contests that have featured double eliminations: "Survivor" (the Palau premiere), "The Apprentice", "American Idol".... and now last week's "America's Next Top Model". Geekage mode on... Note to self... do not piss off Tyra Banks, for she is large and in charge... and she will pwn you. Geekage mode off. Until next week, remember... the numbers don't lie.

Chico Alexander
is a geek. He can be reached at chico@gameshownewsnet.com.


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