Two networks re-examine Saturday night

November 30, 1992|By New York Times News Service

The continuing problem of trying to find viewers on Saturda night is leading two networks in different directions.

CBS believes the answer is in one of the most traditional television forms: the western. ABC has concluded that nothing traditional can work on Saturday night and that the solution lies in something totally new and experimental.

Both networks, which have been unable to make money on Saturday night, agree on one thing: They must find less expensive ways to produce shows for that period.

Viewing of network channels has eroded on Saturday night more than on any other, with only 52 percent of homes now watching network channels then.

The loss is especially heavy in the early evening, as viewers turn to movies on independent and cable channels and on videocassettes.

"We have to thoroughly rethink Saturday night," said Robert A. Iger, who will leave his job as president of ABC Entertainment to become president of the network in January.

ABC tried two drama series in September. Both failed quickly, costing the network several million dollars each.

CBS tried two comedies and two dramas, all of which failed. But starting next month, the network will add a new drama, "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman," about a woman doctor on the prairie.

(NBC is the one network that has been able to use traditional programming on Saturday night -- led by "Empty Nest" -- and has been able to make money. Fox has profited by using inexpensive reality programs like "Cops.")

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