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Million Dollar Baby - May 17

Welcome to Part 3 of the Numbers Game's special series, "Sweeps, the Universe, and Everything." This week, we're going to muse on the why of an event that happened earlier this month: CBS's sudden rearrangement of its Friday schedule, replacing "The Price is Right Million Dollar Spectacular" with "CSI". Don't get me wrong, I love "CSI"... But still, it's a question that needs an answer, and so far, CBS isn't willing to give one.

Most likely, though, it's an issue of that all-important X-factor of sweeps: ad rates. Ad rates that bring in money. Money that helps run the network, thus being able to bring in MORE TPIR. Among other things.

Now it's no secret that "The Price is Right" is one of the crown jewels in CBS's daytime schedule. So many awards. So many accolades. So many die-hard fans. No wonder why CBS is consistently number one in the morning/afternoon. If you ask anyone born after the mid-70s what they looked forward to on sick days or summers, a great deal of them could give you the same answer: "The Price is Right." 

As of late, that fandom has translated into number one time-slot finishes for the Million Dollar Spectacular. So far this year, though, they were all on Saturdays, a day not typically known for TV excess.

So it surprised a lot of folks when CBS scheduled its third MDS of the season on May 6, a Friday. Not that much of a stretch from the Saturday slots, but a stretch nonetheless. But enough conjecture on what we know based on common knowledge. This is, after all, the Numbers Game, so let's look at the numbers.

The last episode that aired, April 16, saw CBS remain first in households and total viewers, while Fox's combination of Cops and America's Most Wanted was No. 1 among adults 18-49. CBS' The Price Is Right Million Dollar Spectacular opened with a 4.6/10 in households (#1), 7.03 million viewers (#1) and a 1.4/ 6 among adults 18-49 (#2) at 8p.

As for the one airing previously, April 9, CBS started strong with "The Price Is Right Million Dollar Spectacular" and didn't let up, winning each of the night's three hours. Overall, CBS averaged a 5.5 rating/10 share for the night, comfortably ahead of the 4.2/8 for second place FOX. ABC was third with a 3.4/6, edging the 3.2/6 for NBC.

FOX moved into first among adults 18-49, posting a 2.4 rating in the all-important demographic. CBS dropped to second with a 2.2 rating, followed by the 1.5 rating for ABC. NBC trailed again with a 1.4 rating.

At 8 p.m., CBS got a 5.0/10 (for total viewers) from the primetime "Price Is Right" episode to win the hour.

The specials last year around this time (a Saturday each for Bob's Hall of Fame induction, Bob's voting rally, colleges, and teachers) posted similar numbers. If we're going back to 2003, MDSes scored in excess of 7 or 8 million homes.

Comparing that to "CSI", a megahit franchise for the network, the answer seems obvious. If I'm using a metaphor, it's the same reason why Colin & Christie from "Amazing Race 6" chose to go for the last Fast Forward while they were in the lead. In short, nothing is to be taken to chance. CBS has been close to the lead this season (only Fox, with its Tuesday lineup, has been better numberwise), so you need big numbers for big ad rates, do you go with what works or take a chance?

During a sweeps month, when people take a chance on movies and specials and such, it seems like CBS chose to go with what works. Funny thing, though. "The Price is Right" worked last year. Rather well, I must say.

Part 4 of "Sweeps, The Universe, and Everything" airs next week, then we're off for a week or two to recover and get ready to do it all again for the summer. Until then, remember, the numbers never lie.

Chico Alexander
thinks that a promise of a million dollars should actually come with a million dollars. Checks can be made out to chico@gameshownewsnet.com.


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