ABC's NFL broadcast beats `The Apprentice'

Old friend `Joey' takes 8 p.m. slot

Fall TV

September 11, 2004|By David Zurawik

Joey, the Friends' spin-off starring Matt LeBlanc, got off to a fast start for NBC Thursday night with an audience of 17.1 million viewers. But Donald Trump's The Apprentice proved highly vulnerable to counterprogramming, and that could mean big trouble for NBC on its lucrative franchise evening as the season unfolds.

Based on preliminary "fast" national Nielsen ratings, it appears that ABC's opening broadcast of the National Football League season topped The Apprentice when the two went head-to-head from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday.

Even by NBC's reading of the preliminary data, the audience for The Apprentice was only 14.1 million. Last year, the reality TV series averaged an audience of 20.7 million viewers each week.

While the audience for Joey was the largest by far during the 8 o'clock time period Thursday, the series it replaced, Friends, averaged 21.4 million viewers a week last year. The competition will only get more intense for Joey as the season moves forward, with Fox bringing on the red-hot teen drama The O.C., starting Nov. 4 after the baseball playoffs and World Series.

- David Zurawik

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