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CBS, NBC blast Fox's reality-driven sweeps ratings

By Wade Paulsen, 02/24/2003 

Sore loser #1, meet sore loser #2. In separate articles, Reuters/Variety reports that both NBC president Jeff Zucker and CBS president Les Moonves blasted the reality-show genre for distorting the February sweeps -- apparently because the biggest ratings successes of the month, Joe Millionaire and American Idol, ran on Fox.

CBS will actually end the month with the highest total audience, although it will lag both Fox and NBC in the crucial 18-49 demographic. Moonves focused on CBS's success with its core series, including Survivor, which Moonves referred to as the "Rolls Royce" of reality TV. In his words, February was "the craziest sweeps in the history of show business, the month of Michael Jackson, reality finales, reality premieres and shows that just plain defied reality."

For his part, Zucker called the February sweeps the "most ridiculous" ratings period ever. However, Variety notes that Zucker, who told a group of TV critics in January that reality "has its place on NBC ... in the summer," may just be expressing his frustrations that reality TV wasn't just a passing fad -- and that NBC is the weakest network in the genre. In the November sweeps, Fox finished fourth among viewers 18-49; in the February sweeps, it will finish first. NBC, for one, is responding to Fox's success by launching as many as 10 new unscripted shows between now and Labor Day.

Will the flood of half-baked ideas kill the genre, as some observers are predicting (and maybe hoping), or will viewers continue to flock to the well-made series while ignoring the dreck, as they currently do with scripted programming? If you know the answer to that question, please contact one of the networks soon!


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