Nets ready for early fall

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Marred in double-digit ratings declines, the broadcast networks probably can't wait for the strike-impacted 2007-08 season to be over. But they also might be eager to get a fresh start with next season sooner than expected.

Fox is likely to kick-start its schedule the week of Aug. 25, a month before the official start of the broadcast season.

The CW is said to be mulling an even earlier return, possibly in early August. Even CBS — which traditionally has been very conservative, rolling out most of its shows during premiere week — might get a jump a week earlier.

A big incentive for early launches is the Summer Olympics in Beijing, which will air on NBC.

For the Peacock, launching a fall lineup right after its presentation of the Olympics closing ceremony Aug. 24 makes sense.

But an early rollout also would benefit NBC's rivals, which could pick up some of the viewers drawn to broadcast TV by the Olympics. During the Athens Summer Olympics in 2004, overall television audience viewing rose 10%.

"It's wise for NBC's rivals to not allow it to have the exclusive post-Olympics promotional platform," Campbell Mithun's John Rash said. "They need to compete vigorously once the Olympics end."

Another factor is the WGA strike.

Such shows as NBC's "Heroes" and ABC's "Pushing Daisies" will have been off the network schedules since last year. Given the recent ratings decreases by network dramas, broadcasters would rather not make viewers wait longer than necessary.

The networks already are going with extended orders for next season to some of their hit series, including NBC's "The Office" and "My Name Is Earl" and the CW's "Gossip Girl."

Early launches could also help nets recoup lost ad revenue during this strike-addled fiscal year. (partialdiff)
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