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TV Notes: 2/8/03

Saturday, February 08, 2003

TV study finds more sex but warnings rise, too

Sex on television is heating up, but more TV programs are including the risks and responsibilities of sexual behavior.

The percentage of shows depicting or implying sexual intercourse rose from 10 percent two years ago to 14 percent in the 2001-02 season, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation study.

The rate was even higher for the 20 top shows among teenage viewers: One in five of those programs, or 20 percent, included implied or depicted intercourse.

The foundation's initial TV sex study, released in 1999, found that 7 percent of shows overall included intercourse. Previous studies did not detail figures for shows favored by teenagers.

If television is becoming more boldly titillating, it's also more honest, according to the biennial study.

Among shows with depictions or talk about intercourse, 26 percent had a "safer sex" reference to topics such as abstinence or possible fallout from unprotected sex, the study found. That's double the rate found four years ago.

Of shows with any kind of sexual content -- including talking about sex, kissing and intimate touching -- 15 percent included such safer sex references, up from 10 percent two years ago.

For shows with sexual content involving teenagers, one in three, or 34 percent, included a safer sex reference, nearly double the 18 percent rate found four years ago.

A majority of teens cite TV as an important source of information about sex, according to studies cited by the foundation. Other studies have found a correlation between watching TV programs with sexual content and the early initiation of intercourse, the Kaiser Family Foundation report said.

The study found that TV's fascination with sex in all its facets is holding steady.

The rate of shows with any sexual content, including sexual talk and touching, is similar to that found previously: 64 percent of all shows in the current study, compared to 68 percent two years ago.

In the top 20 shows among teen-age viewers, eight in 10 episodes, or 83 percent, had some sexual content.

"Sex on TV 3: Content and Context" looked at a random sample of more than 1,100 shows, including movies, drama and comedy series, soap operas, talk shows, newsmagazines and reality shows.

(Lynn Elber, Associated Press)

Viewers hooked on Jackson

Nearly 27 million television viewers watched ABC's two-hour documentary last week that offered a peek into Michael Jackson's unusual private life, Nielsen Media Research said Friday.

That's on a par with what television's most popular show, "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," gets every week and is comparable to the 26.5 million people who watched the second-season debut of "American Idol" on Fox last month.

Those preliminary numbers are why American television networks had a bidding war for the rights to show the Jackson documentary, originally broadcast on Granada Television in Britain. ABC reportedly paid nearly $5 million to air the interview.

Considering ABC has been averaging 6.5 million viewers on Thursday nights this season, it means a hefty chunk of advertising revenue for the network and parent Walt Disney Co.

"We have to go back to the old, moldy pages of Nielsen data to find out when we did better on a Thursday night," said Larry Hyams, chief researcher at ABC.

A "Primetime Live" special about Jackson that followed the documentary was watched by 23.5 million people, beating an original episode of NBC's "ER," Nielsen said.

The Jackson documentary, however, didn't significantly cut into the viewership of the night's most popular shows on ABC's broadcast rivals. That indicates the special enticed new viewers or people who might have watched cable channels instead.

Thursday's "CSI" episode on CBS had 25.3 million viewers, or 7 percent off its season average, Hyams said. NBC's "Friends" was watched by 23.1 million, only a fraction off its season average of 23.5 million.

(David Bauder, Associated Press)

ABC praises 'Kimmel'

Jimmy Kimmel's new late-night talk show has a smaller audience than the show it replaced, "Politically Incorrect," but ABC executives are pronouncing its first week a success.

Kimmel's post-"Nightline" show averaged 1.75 million viewers for its first week on the air, discounting the nearly 5 million who watched a special edition after the Super Bowl.

The last four weeks of "Politically Incorrect" averaged 2.1 million, Nielsen Media Research said.

But it's all about young people: ABC is trying to reach a young audience in that hour, and the network said Kimmel beat CBS's Craig Kilborn head-to-head in certain youthful demographics.

(Associated Press)

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