Family Sitcoms Rock MTVN's Ratings

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Views of family life on two opposite ends of the spectrum helped two Viacom Inc.-owned channels post strong ratings last week.

MTV: Music Television's March 5 premiere of the reality series The Osbournes— featuring the unconventional and unpredictable lives of rock star Ozzy Osbourne and his brood — set an MTV record for a series debut.

Meanwhile, the Nick at Nite debut of the scripted, squeaky-clean The Cosby Show— NBC's Thursday-night juggernaut of the 1980s — provided the retro channel with a double-digit ratings increase.

MTV's The Osbournes
drew a 2.8 Nielsen Media Research household rating, besting the May 1998 premiere of Celebrity Deathmatch, which generated a 2.6, MTV officials said.

The weekly, one-hour show also resonated with MTV's core 12- to 34-year-old viewers, posting a 3.4 rating, MTV said.

The Osbournes
follows the real-life drama of Osbourne, his wife and two of his three teenage children as they move into a new house in Southern California. The series — 13 episodes of which have been ordered thus far — provides viewers with unlimited access to the Osbournes' personal and professional lives for six months.

Meanwhile, the fictitious Huxtable family helped Nick at Nite post a significant weekly primetime ratings gain. The retro channel's weeklong, primetime Cosby
marathon posted a 1.7 household rating through March 6, said network executives.

The off-network series boosted Nick at Nite's ratings by 55 percent from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m., compared with the same period last year. The show has also upped the classic sitcom channel's ratings among 18-to-49-year-old adults by 60 percent, compared with 2001 numbers, said the network.

Meanwhile, sister network VH1's new block of original series launched to a decent ratings performance. The March 4 premiere of the highly touted late-night talk show Late World With Zach
pulled a 0.2 rating. That's typical for late-night cable fare, according to VH1 executive vice president of programming and production Fred Graver.

The daily show was able to maintain its performance through the rest of the week, but Graver said the numbers should rise as viewers become more familiar with its format.

"We're pretty pleased at [Zach's] performance and we're very pleased, creatively, with the show," Graver said.

The network's weekly series premieres of Being, a intimate, behind-the-scenes look at contemporary music stars, and Nevermind the Buzzcocks, a music quiz show, pulled a 0.4 and a 0.2, respectively, on March 4.

The network hopes its new original programs will help jump-start VH1, which sustained a 20 percent primetime ratings decline during 2001.

"We're going to be different and not look like the old VH1," Graver said.

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