Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

NBC Stands by `Sea Quest' despite Its Low Ratings

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

NBC Stands by `Sea Quest' despite Its Low Ratings

Article excerpt

ONLY IN THE television business can a show ranked 60th in the Nielsen ratings become a symbol for a network's rebound.

The network is NBC and the show is "SeaQuest, DSV," a futuristic adventure series about an undersea vehicle (7 p.m. Sundays on Channel 5). The show, a consistent disappointment to NBC by creative standards, opened last fall to enormous ratings success but has since declined. In its time slot, it trails the longtime CBS hit, "Murder, She Wrote" and is in a close battle with a new ABC series, "Lois and Clark."

But NBC executives argued here that "SeaQuest" is winning a more important race. They said advertisers are paying more for commercials on "SeaQuest" than on "Murder, She Wrote" because the NBC show is so appealing to young adults.

That demographic advantage, the executives said, showed why NBC and CBS are going in opposite directions in the prime-time competition: NBC up, CBS down.

Warren Littlefield, the president of NBC Entertainment, said "Sea Quest" has fallen short in almost every creative area. "We need stronger character development," he said. "We need better storytelling."

But he said the show has been an enormous economic success because advertising time is sold not on the basis of the most viewers, but the right kind of viewers. He cited Nielsen statistics covering "viewers per viewing household" or VPVH, which measure the number of viewers in specific age groups for a show.

In one important demographic group, viewers between the ages of 18 and 49, "SeaQuest" has a VPVH of 106, the second highest in prime time after NBC's "Seinfeld," with 107. That means that for every 100 households tuned in to "SeaQuest," there are 106 adults ages 18 to 49 watching the show. "Murder, She Wrote," which attracts a much older audience, is watched by just 42 young adults per 100 households. That is the lowest in prime time.

For that reason, Littlefield said, the 60th-ranked "SeaQuest" is selling for higher prices than the 7th-ranked "Murder, She Wrote." He declined to specify the prices.

David Poltrack, the senior vice president of research at CBS, said his network never sells "Murder, She Wrote" or other prime-time shows on the basis of the 18-to-49 group. …

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