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2003-04 Ratings History -- New Records as FOX Outright Claims 3rd, ABC Becomes the Oldest Network to Fall to 4th Place


Written Outfoxing the Alphabet by Bridger Cunningham

Frolicking FOX enjoyed the spoils of another Idol-laden year, taking the top two places and outright claiming 3rd Place.  NBC was again in 1st place, and CBS went for the silver in 2nd.  Sadly, ABC reached a new low in 4th Place, becoming at this time the oldest network to sink to this low.  That record would be accelerated the following season when NBC tumbled from 1st to 4th in a shocking plunge.  Down in the cellar, WB again claimed 5th Place despite aging franchises and sagging hype from their late-90's heyday.  UPN followed closely in 6th and was aided by the search for America's Next Top Model, creating UPN's Next Top-Rated fare.


Trending Hot -- Reality TV became the rage.  Varieties range from talent competitions (American Idol, America's Next Top Model), winning in life (The Apprentice, Survivor, Fear Factor, The Bachelor(ette)), personal improvement (The Simple Life, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition), to asinine (My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancee).  Procedural dramas multiplied in franchise and found success with CBS' CSI's and NBC's Law and Orders, as new franchises popped up all over CBS.  Continuations of prior hits formed as NCIS made a tepid debut, and Private Practice shucked half of the cast to fold into Boston Legal the following season.

Trending Tepid -- NBC lost its footing as its scripted hits aged, leaving the network ripe for a sharp fall.  Newsmagazines and their duplicates cooled their ratings power they held in the 90's, as did scripted productions.  Networks turned to the cheaper genre to bypass union fees and marquee names, choosing cost-effective over talented.

Trending Cold -- Three letters: A-B-C.  Sitcoms for all networks struggled to generate new hits, with the lone success being CBS' Two and a Half Men.  Friends and Frasier bid adieu, as did Must-See-TV's unprecedented run with a 4 sitcom block raking in high-dollar performers.  Movie nights, a signature of the 70's and 90's, became a wasteland solution to networks' inabilities to colonize an evening with a hit show.

Source -- http://www.angelfire.com/tv/JustTV/tvreview0304finalviewers2.html