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Laughs aside, TBS falters

Two months ago, TBS Superstation introduced a comedy block in fringe headlined by Friends
and Seinfeld. Great programming, but, since then, prime time numbers have faltered.

TBS averaged a 1.3 household rating in prime for October, off 19% from last year. September ratings were off 24%. TBS has not ranked in the top five since June.

"Let's wait until the end of the quarter until we worry," said Turner research guru Jack Wakshlag, "especially since a lot of resources were pushed to a different daypart." The comedy block receives the bulk of programming and promotional dollars. Ratings started out slow but are improving.

In prime, TBS is fueled by movies and, in baseball season, the Atlanta Braves. In October, the top-rated movie was Pretty Woman, with a 3.5 rating, but it's hardly fresh. Other theatricals sputtered, but they will remain the backbone of TBS's schedule, said GM Dennis Quinn. "Big movies can grab 150% above the prime time average." He noted that bigger titles, such as A Few Good Men, are back-loaded into late fourth quarter.

TNT is steadier, thanks in part to Law & Order
and the National Basketball Association. "Turner never seems to be able to get both cooking at once," Lifetime research head Tim Brooks said of TBS and TNT.

Lifetime, as usual, finished October with the highest prime time score, a 1.8 average.

Fox News' Hannity & Colmes
edged out CNN's Larry King Live
for the first time, with 1.7 million viewers to King
's 1.6 million.
The O'Reilly Factor
remained the most-watched show, with 2.5 million viewers.

The Washington, D.C., sniper coverage perked up ratings for the three major cable news channels. Fox News rose from a 1.1 in September to a 1.5 average in October; CNN logged a 1.1, up from 0.8. MSNBC finished October with 0.5 in prime, its first time above 0.4 this year. All three were off from October 2001's record levels.