'Airline' Soars, 'Dreams' Fade

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A&E Network programming chief Robert DeBitetto's two new series are batting .500 one month after their respective launches.

Reality series Airline has performed well, particularly with the network's 25-to-54 target audience.

But the highly touted House of Dreams has thus far failed to attract many viewers, and will collapse after its season concludes.

Airline — which takes a behind-the-scenes look at the duties of Southwest Airlines pilots, flight attendants and other employees and their interactions with passengers at Los Angeles International Airport and Chicago's Midway International Airport — has averaged a 0.84 household rating through eight premiere installments, beginning on Jan. 5.

The back-to-back, half-hour episodes on Mondays at 10 p.m. have raised A&E's time period rating by 25% over City Confidential, which ran in that slot in 2003.

Importantly for A&E, Airline, which is based on a long-running United Kingdom series of the same name, has enhanced the network's new-found focus on reducing its median viewer age and reaching adults 25 to 54, according to DeBitetto, the senior vice president who joined A&E in January 2003.

"Households are no longer our focus from a creative and content point of view. Our No. 1 job is to focus on improving the delivery of adults 25 to 54," he said.

To that end, the 30-minute Airline has increased the number of 25-to-54-year-old viewers during its 10 p.m. time slot by 8%.

The median age of an Airline viewer is 44 — 15 years younger than A&E's average of 59.

"I'm extremely pleased with the performance of Airline," DeBitetto said. "We have a show that's averaging nearly a generation younger than the A&E environment that we're putting it into, and is over-delivering against adults 25 to 54."

The one-hour House of Dreams, hosted by George Wendt (Cheers) and featuring 16 people helping to build a house in which only one will live, last week was moved from its 9 p.m. slot to 11 p.m. after generating lower than expected ratings.

The show bowed with a 0.7 household rating on Jan. 5, but consistently lost viewers in subsequent weeks, bottoming out at a 0.3 on Jan. 26. It showed improvement in the new time slot on Feb. 3, garnering a 0.4 rating.

A&E will air the full 13-episode order, but DeBitetto confirmed House won't be back for a second season.

"House of Dreams has a place in our strategy and has worked on some levels, but has not worked on our overall rating and overall demo delivery," DeBitetto said. "We'll run through the entire season, but we will not renew the show."

A&E does expect to bring Airline back for a sophomore season, although it's unclear when the show will return.

DeBitetto intimated that the show could originate from destinations other than its current airport locations.

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