Anchor Katie Couric Blasts Into Third Place

CW's "Everybody Hates Chris" (with Whoopi Goldberg and Tyler James Williams) drew 2.4 million viewers. (By Bruce Birmelin -- The Cw)
By Lisa de Moraes
Tuesday, October 3, 2006

CBS's Katie Couric-anchored newscast has fallen to third place in a three-way race for viewers among the broadcast evening newscasts, triggering an exuberant news release from CBS News marveling at Couric's unprecedented double-digit, across-the-board gains in her first month and celebrating her victory over the decades-old ratings curse that has plagued new anchors.

The multimillion-dollar campaign to launch Couric as anchor of the perennially third-place "CBS Evening News" delivered two weeks in which Couric's was the most-watched newscast. It opened with more than 10 million viewers and settled -- not unexpectedly -- down to about 7.9 million the second week.

Couric's slide continued in Week 3; she finished in second place with about 7.7 million viewers, behind perennial evening news winner Brian Williams, who logged about 8.2 million on NBC.

And, while final numbers on Couric's fourth week in office will come out today, it appears from preliminary stats that she has fallen to third place with about 7.5 million viewers, behind Williams's 8.2 million and Charles Gibson's 7.6 million at ABC. To get there, Williams and Gibson held firm week to week, while Couric continued to shed some viewers.

CBS News noted that last week Couric was still in first place among the 25-to-54-year-olds advertisers try to reach with news programming. In that demographic group, Couric tied Williams, and they were one-tenth of a ratings point ahead of Gibson.

In its news release, CBS slapped Couric on the back for reversing the "historic pattern of first-month losses when anchors change."

"The ratings history of network evening news anchor changes reveals a clear pattern of audience loss in the first month versus the same period a year earlier," CBS News said. "Compared to the five anchor changes of the past two decades, Couric has dramatically reversed that pattern with the broadcast's remarkable growth."

* * *

Free to Be . . . a ratings miss. Also known as: the CW's Sunday series' returns.

At 7 p.m. the return of "Everybody Hates Chris," with guest star Whoopi Goldberg, suffered its smallest audience ever for an original episode -- 2.4 million viewers, according to early stats. That's off nearly 70 percent compared with the crowd who tuned in to its premiere last season on the defunct UPN network.

Among the contributing factors: football on NBC and CBS in the rough Sunday 7 p.m. time slot.

It was a similarly depressing story for CW for the rest of the night: "All of Us" averaged 2.3 million viewers, followed by "Girlfriends" with 2.7 million viewers -- down about 50 percent and a third, respectively.

New "The Game" opened with an anemic 2.6 million viewers at 8:30 p.m., and even an "America's Next Top Model" rerun, from 9 to 10 p.m., couldn't muster more than 2.5 million viewers.

A CW rep noted that "Chris," "All of Us" and "Girlfriends" were not only moved to a new network this past weekend -- which meant viewers had to find the shows on a new station in 70 percent of the country -- but also moved to a new night. These series used to be part of UPN's black-cast comedy block on Monday and Tuesday nights.

Most of the CW's prime-time series -- which is to say, series that formerly aired on the defunct WB network -- have remained in their old WB time slots for their relaunches. Once the decision was made to return WB's Monday drama "7th Heaven" on the new CW, these former UPN sitcoms were pretty much stuck with Sunday night berths.

"We knew Sunday would be a slow start. . . . We have our work cut out for us, but this was not a huge surprise," a CW rep told The TV Column yesterday.

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