Viewers Flock to a Ritzy Zip Code; CNN's Obama Coverage Makes Cable News History

The new "90120," with Shenae Grimes and Dustin Milligan, was big, drawing more viewers than (gasp!) the premiere of "Gossip Girl."
The new "90120," with Shenae Grimes and Dustin Milligan, was big, drawing more viewers than (gasp!) the premiere of "Gossip Girl." (By Michael Desmond -- Associated Press)
By Lisa de Moraes
Thursday, September 4, 2008

With the two-hour season debut of "Top Model" yet to come -- featuring the reality series's very first transgender contestant! -- execs at under-the-gun CW felt comfortable taking their necks out of the guillotine after a second night of encouraging numbers.

An average of nearly 5 million people caught Tuesday's two-hour unveiling of "90210" -- CW's biggest new-series premiere ever.

A spinoff of the long-running Fox prime-time soap opera "Beverly Hills, 90210," the series also bagged the highest rating for any CW scripted show among the 18-to-34-year-old viewers the network targets, as well as among 18-to-49-year-olds many advertisers chase.

The "90210" audience was about 1.5 million more viewers than watched last year's premiere of CW's previously most hysterically hyped OMG soap, "Gossip Girl."

("Gossip Girl" returned and 3.4 million watched the night before the "90210" unveiling, causing CW execs to breathe a sigh of relief. It's the only CW-grown series surviving to this fall; one other series developed last season -- "Reaper" -- is a midseason bench warmer.)

The "90210" kickoff pushed CW to No. 1 Tuesday night among 18-to-49-year-olds, which, trade reporters marveled on their Web sites, is a rarity for the network on a non-"SmackDown" night. Of course, CW isn't usually playing against broadcast networks whose prime-time audience is aging faster than Dorian Gray's portrait, thanks to the inclusion of an hour of Republican National Convention coverage.

CW boasted that the "90210" kickoff clocked a bigger crowd than had the launches of several hit series on UPN and WB, of which CW is the love child. They include "Veronica Mars," "One Tree Hill" and, yes, even "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

Among chicks in the 18-to-34 age bracket -- CW's holy grail -- the "90210" launch performed better than the premieres of such UPN/WB classics as the aforementioned shows as well as "Smallville," "Gilmore Girls" and even "Dawson's Creek."

Meanwhile, the second night of the Republican confab grabbed about 21.5 million viewers on six networks in the 10 p.m. hour -- the hour when the broadcast networks cover the convention, Nielsen Media Research reports.

That's about 4.5 million fewer viewers than caught the same hour the second night of the Democratic National Convention. That said, the RNC's second night didn't get much of a buildup; first-night coverage was pretty well scrapped owing to news divisions' turning their focus on Hurricane Gustav Monday.

The six networks included in Nielsen's report are ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC. Nielsen does not put out numbers for PBS's convention coverage because, it says, PBS does not request national numbers for its convention coverage, nor does it provide Nielsen with the necessary information about which of its stations carry its convention coverage live. C-SPAN also is not included because Nielsen does not measure and report the public affairs network's audiences. "Many cable networks choose not to have Nielsen measurement for a variety of reasons specific to the network," Nielsen explains. "For example, the home shopping networks do not subscribe to Nielsen. It is probably safe to say they measure their success by other means."

That grinding sound you're hearing is the gnashing of my teeth.

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