TV advertising buyers rate fall network lineups

— While advertising buyers say they generally like what they see in the fleet of new TV shows for the fall, they expect competition between networks to be fierce.

Thirty-five new shows will pepper broadcast lineups next fall, the majority being dramas, game shows and reality series.

After previewing clips from upcoming shows, media buyers gave high marks to ABC's new spy drama "Alias," CBS' family drama "The Education of Max Bickford," NBC's new "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" and Fox' crime drama "24," starring Kiefer Sutherland.

"Bickford," which stars Oscar winners Richard Dreyfuss and Marcia Gay Harden, was widely considered a good fit for CBS at 7 p.m. on Sundays, where it is expected to retain a large number of older adults who tune in at 6 p.m. for "60 Minutes."

"'Max Bickford' looks like a show with star quality, and with Richard Dreyfuss, it should be able to make it," said entertainment analyst Kathy Styponias of Prudential Securities.

"We liked '24' on Fox," said Andy Donchin, director of national broadcast buying for the media buying firm Carat. "We like the concept of doing a show in which the story takes place in real time."

Other shows in advertisers' plus columns include NBC's legal drama "Crossing Jordan" with former "NYPD Blue" star Kim Delaney, ABC's "Thieves" with John Stamos, CBS' newest adventure reality entry, "The Amazing Race," and two new CBS dramas, "The Guardian" and "The Agency."

"I liked 'Crossing Jordan,' but I think that it's in for some strong competition," said media analyst Stacey Lynn Koerner with TN Media, noting that it will compete for an adult female audience against CBS' "Family Law" at 9 p.m. on Mondays.

Many advertisers agree that the networks will again trot out their finest fare against established hits to create one of the most competitive TV landscapes in years.

"A lot of things can work next fall, but there's a lot of good competition in a number of time periods," said Donchin.

On Mondays, ABC and NBC are triggering their own ratings war for the 7 p.m. slot by pitting ABC's gold-standard game show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" against NBC's fledgling "Weakest Link."

At 9 p.m. on Wednesdays, CBS' new mystery drama "Wolf Lake" is pitted against NBC's stronghold "Law & Order" and ABC's cop drama "NYPD Blue."

Thursday is a ratings battleground at 8 p.m., when CBS logs its freshman hit "CSI" against the return of Fox' relationship series "Temptation Island" and ABC's "Millionaire." At 9 p.m., NBC's veteran hit "ER" faces CBS' court drama "The Agency."

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