'Yankers' Cranks Out Ratings for Comedy

Three weeks into its inaugural season, Comedy Central's outlandish Crank Yankers
is calling up ratings performances strong enough to merit a potential return engagement next year, network officials said.

The series — in which puppets depict prank telephone calls made by several well-known comedians — has averaged a 1.1 rating since its June 3 premiere, despite stiff competition from both cable and broadcast networks, Comedy executive vice president and general manger Bill Hilary said.

In its first two weeks, the show was pitted against the National Basketball Association's June 3 Game 7 playoff game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings and Game 3 of the NBA Finals on June 10, between the Lakers and the New Jersey Nets.

Last week, the show was up against USA Network's The Dead Zone, which set a series-premiere ratings record with a 4.7 mark.

The show's early performance will certainly provide a boost to Comedy Central's stagnant primetime ratings. Those numbers were down 17 percent in May, from a 0.6 last year to a 0.5 in 2002.

Importantly, the show — produced by The Man Show
hosts Jimmy Kimmel and Adam Carolla — is averaging a 0.9 rating within the network's 18-to-49 adult demographic.

"Each week the show has built upon the audience for its lead-in (The Man Show) by 23 percent," Hilary said. "It's a slow burner, but it's beginning to find an audience and it continues to improve week to week."

The show's ratings popularity isn't contained to just Sunday nights. Hilary said the Wednesday-night repeat is retaining 90 percent of the viewers for the network's signature series, South Park. That's the highest retention rate of any original network show that's aired in the 10:30 p.m. time slot, including The Man Show,
and Insomniac.

The show has performed well despite mixed reviews from television critics, which actually may have worked to the show's advantage.

With very little middle ground — either critics liked it immensely or despised it — Hilary said viewers may have been forced to sample the show and draw their own opinions.

If the show continues to average a rating greater than 1, it will most likely return for a second season, said Hilary. Comedy ordered 10 episodes for the initial run.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.