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Media Buyers Handicap Fall

It's judgment day. Analysts at big media agencies have scrutinized the latest reality shows, comedies and dramas to help clients brace for inevitable cancellations and time-slot shuffling. After all, advertisers lavished $9.3 billion on the broadcast network upfront, and they're about discover if their investment paid off. The six broadcast networks are launching 31 new fall shows, with NBC up first this week, looking for a post-Olympics glow.

So B&C
sifted through reports from four top media-buying shops—Carat North America, Horizon Media, Initiative Media and Magna Global—that tried to handicap the new season. There is plenty at stake.

According to Ad Age, Carat billed $4.72 billion, Initiative $5.08 billion in 2003; figures for Horizon and Magna Global were not separated from their corporate parents.

This fall, analysts predict only a handful of sure bets, such as CBS'CSI: NY
and NBC's Friends
spinoff Joey. Some new entries, like ABC's dark survival drama Lost
and CBS' baseball-centric ,
get good reviews but could fall victim to tough time slots. Others are more problematic. Jason Alexander's latest stab on CBS, Listen Up, seems unlikely to break the Seinfeld
curse, while siren Heather Locklear may not be enough to make NBC's airport drama LAX

The fresh shows getting buzz include ABC's Desperate Housewives, an HBO-style dark comedy about suburban homemakers, and UPN's drama Kevin Hill, starring hunky Taye Diggs. Hill
should score with young women, particularly thanks to lead-in America's Next Top Model. And The WB could uncover its newest teen hit with Jack & Bobby.
(No, it's not
about the Kennedys.)

Still, innovative ideas don't always grab viewers right away—just look at Fox's quirky comedy Arrested Development, which has narrowly survived for a second season despite an Emmy nod and a cult following.

Of course, network suits and advertisers budget for some dogs. They need look no further than last season's mortality rate. Of 45 new scripted shows, only 12 survived. Remember Skin
and Brothers of Poland, New Hampshire? Enough said. —with reporting by Anne Becker