NBC a winner with 'Loser'

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NEW YORK -- NBC's "The Biggest Loser" on Tuesday kicked off the unofficial start of a TV season that the broadcast networks hope will end better than the last.

Paired with the opening night of NFL football last Thursday and the "Sunday Night Football" opener, NBC can be happy with its early prospects. "The Biggest Loser" (7.8 million, 3.1 rating/9 share in adults 19-49) matched its demo ratings for the season premiere last September and was up about 10% in viewership. If the competition wasn't exactly up to regular-season levels, it was still summer-formidable with reality on ABC and CBS, including the end run of "Big Brother" on the latter.

Live viewing declined last year for the broadcast networks, but accelerated in the spring when a spate of repeats and long layoffs kept viewers away from many of the top shows. While the picture is better when DVR viewing is added, the declines gave network executives pause and prompted a flurry of activity to correct.

Most of the new and returning shows don't premiere until the week of Sept. 24, with other shows like ABC's "Pushing Daisies" waiting until October. Whether that approach will work, and to what extent, is anyone's guess.

The summer buzz went mostly to cable this year, with originals on TBS, TNT, Lifetime and even AMC, among others. Some shows did well, including NBC's "America's Got Talent" and "The Singing Bee," plus Fox's "Don't Forget The Lyrics" and CBS's "Big Brother." here was no "Survivor" or "Dancing With the Stars" this summer, let alone another "American Idol."

"I think there's some concern that some of these shows that the cable networks put on during the summer may have created more sampling to the cable networks," said Brad Adgate, senior vp research at New York-based ad buyer Horizon Media. "There's concern about what impact that might have."

Adgate said that like any TV season, there will be more misses than hits.

"They're all looking for the next 'Heroes,' " Adgate said.

"Heroes" was the one true hit of the freshman series, though it also faltered.

Vince Manze, NBC's head of scheduling, said he's encouraged by the early returns of "The Biggest Loser." He said that pairing "Loser" with "Singing Bee" will be a good match, much like "Bee" worked well after the 90-minute episode of "America's Got Talent."

Manze said that NBC, in particular, is trying to address the repeat issue that hurt viewing so much last year by adding "Heroes: Origins," increasing the order of "The Office" and minimizing repeats as much as possible.
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