A Ratings Boom For Summer TV

summer tv programming
The start of the summer television season has traditionally meant re-runs and low ratings as people get out and enjoy the warm weather. But as CBS News Correspondent Richard Schlesinger reports, a spike in summer ratings has the networks reevaluating the strength of summer programming.

Summer will never be the same for Jennie Slater, and it's all because of television.
She used to get by without TV during what was the summer re-run season.

But the networks have revamped their summer schedules to attract viewers. "It's fantastic. There are new shows on all the time. Its almost like having a regular season just for the summer," says Slater. "When season finales came up for all my favorite shows I was like 'oh my gosh,' you know, this is gonna be the last. This is it, there's no more the whole summer. But you know, low and behold, all these new shows came up."

It happened last summer. ABC put on Who Wants to Be A Millionaire? in the dog days and watched ratings skyrocket, something that had never occurred before in the traditionally slow season of summer.

CBS quickly bought its own hit, Survivor, and will follow up with another new show next week in an effort to keep people like Jennie Slater glued to their sets.

Robert Thompson, a professor of public communication at Syracuse University, admits to being drawn in by the programming blitz. "All of a sudden summer has become the new cultural battleground for network television," says Thompson. "Even professors like myself, as embarrassed as we may be about it, are watching with a great deal of enthusiasm."

Summer will be different for all sorts of people -- especially Ben Silverman.

Silverman is an agent who sells voyeuristic programs to viewer hungry networks. He found Millionaire and Survivor and is selling new programs as fast as he can. "We've been out to LA frequently with producers from Australia, Belgium, Holland and England selling like Willie Loman," says Silverman, referring to the Arthur Miller character.

And how has business been? "We sold five projects into production last week," says Silverman.

One of Silverman's latest projects is an Australian program that is a part game show, part talent show, called Pop Stars. "It's the process of taking 2,000 young women and finding the five that can make a real pop act," explains Silverman.

Silverman and the networks hope this and other new shows will force millions of people like Jennie Slater to forget about sampling summer's fresh air and instead consider what's on the air.