‘Jacksons’ nails ABC Nov. sweeps victory

“The Jacksons” has done it again, topping the Nielsens charts for the Nov. 16 -22 week with the strongest ratings for a net multiparter in 3 1/2 years. That’s put a lock on the November sweeps for ABC and led the web to its first regular-season, four-week winning streak in more than 13 years.

The last time ABC won four weeks in a row during the regular season was March 26-April 22, 1979. That was the spring after ABC’s most recent November sweeps win back in 1978. Prior to this month, ABC hadn’t won any major sweep at all without the aid of Olympics programming since May 1984.

With just last night’s results left to count in the Arbitron sweeps period, Nielsen averages are: ABC, a 13.2 rating, 21 share; CBS, 12.7/20; NBC, 11.9/19; Fox Broadcasting Co., 8.2/13.

And with last night and tonight yet to count in the Nielsen period, the averages are identical except that CBS has a 12.8/20.

NBC is projecting final averages of a 13.4 for ABC, which would represent a 6 % increase over last year, vs. a projected 2% decline for CBS, 11% slide by NBC and 5% improvement for Fox. If those figures hold, combined three-net viewing will have suffered a 2% drop from November ’91.

It’s a significant and encouraging win for ABC, which is clearly challenging CBS for the Nielsen crown overall and has established itself as the strong leader in the key adults 18-49 category.

ABC Entertainment president Robert Iger, on his way to becoming head of the ABC TV Network Group, sent a sort of valentine to affiliates in the form of the web’s 10:30-11 p.m. performance, where, thus far, ABC has averaged a 13.9 rating (excluding Mondays due to football) compared to a 12.2 for NBC and CBS’ 12.1. That half-hour is of vital importance to stations because it leads into their late local news, helping determine what sort of rates they can charge advertisers.

CBS looks to be losing some of its overall advantage and will finish the sweep a weak third among adults 18-49, as well as a mere tenth of a rating point ahead of third-place NBC, season to date, by that standard.

NBC has suffered through a rough month, losing its first November in eight years and landing a distant third this time. Still, the Peacock’s runner-up position in adults 18-49 suggests some of NBC’s key goals this fall are being realized.

At a press briefing yesterday NBC senior VP of media & audience research John Damiano maintained the web is “on the right track,” despite its decline in adults 18-49 vs. last year. (NBC also offered data about the performance of three migrated series–“In the Heat of the Night,””Golden Palace” and “Matlock”–pointing out their low ranking in terms of key adult demos.)

“If you were a stockholder in a major league sports franchise, would you rather have the most attendance or the most profit?” Damiano asked, defending the approach of targeting the demo most sought by advertisers.

At his session, CBS senior VP of research David Poltrack joked about studying sports cliches by way of explanation, or perhaps excuse, for his web’s sweeps finish.

Fox growth

Fox is able to tout 3% growth in the important adults 18-49 demo, an impressive improvement considering how the nets have aggressively targeted that demo and considering that Fox has expanded to a fifth night of regular programming this fall.

Through Sunday night, ABC was running up 4% among adults 18-49 this November with an 8.2 rating, while NBC (7.1) is off by 8% and CBS (6.3) is down by 9%. Fox’s average is a 6.0. NBC’s biggest decline, however, came among adults 50 and older, where ABC and CBS were both up over last year.

Last week’s adults 18-49 averages were: ABC, 8.4/21; NBC, 6.9/17; CBS, 6.7/17 ; Fox, 6.4/16. NBC Research projects that when the final sweeps numbers are in, basic-cable services will finish with a combined prime time rating of 12.3 (up 8 %); independent stations (not including Fox programming) will earn a 9.5 (down 7 %); pay cable will hold steady with a 2.8; and PBS will finish with a 2.5 (up 4 %).

For individual cable services, NBC projects these finishes: ESPN, 1.7/3 (down 11% in rating); USA Network, 1.4/2 (even); TBS Super Station, 1.3/2 (down 13%); TNT, 1.1/2 (up 10%); CNN, 1.1/2 (up 83%, due largely to the election); Lifetime, 0.4/1 (down 20%); and MTV, 0.2/1 (down 50%).

Among pay cable services, NBC’s projections are: HBO, 1.5/2 (up 7%); Showtime , 0.5/1 (even); and Cinemax, 0.5/1 (up 25%).

NBC got a strong start on the current-week race by sweeping Monday’s results. Part two of “Deadly Matrimony” marched to an 18.9/29, giving it a two-night 17.5 /27. That ties it with CBS’ “Sinatra” as the second-highest-rated miniseries of the season so far.

It also means all three nets hit multiparter home runs this sweep, with “Matrimony,””Sinatra” and “Jacksons” all rating higher than 13 of the 15 firstrun multiparters aired during the entire ’91-92 year.

“Jacksons,” though, was in a class by itself, finishing last Wednesday as the highest-rated net mini since “I Know My First Name is Steven” (24.5/38) on NBC May 22-23, 1989 (Daily Variety, Nov. 20).

It was NBC’s first Monday win since Aug. 17 and highest Monday-pic rating since part two of “Switched at Birth” April 29, 1991. Helping NBC’s cause Monday of the current week was “Blossom” (14.3/21), which topped CBS’ “Hearts Afire” ( 13.7/20) for the first time and won the slot for the first time since Aug. 24.

CBS Sunday punch

The Nov. 16-22 week went to ABC but it ended with a big CBS Sunday win. “60 Minutes’ ” Woody Allen interview delivered that show’s second-highest rating of the season and “Murder, She Wrote” followed up with its highest rating since last Jan. 12.

Sunday’s big 9-11 p.m. showdown went to NBC’s part one of “Deadly Matrimony,” which won the slot by 5 shares among adults 18-49. ABC settled for the lowest firstrun “Columbo” rating since Feb. 20, 1991.

Fox got its highest-rated Sunday since the Aug. 30 Emmys, thanks to a second helping of “In Living Color” and a “Stuntwomen” spec that leaped to Fox’s best rating in the 7-8 p.m. hour since Emmy night.

Saturday saw NBC’s first nightlong win in a week, but Fox stole the show by finishing just 0.1 rating points out of the lead 8-10 p.m. (as did ABC with a “Columbo” rerun). For Fox, it was the weblet’s highest Saturday rating and share ever, with both episodes of “Cops” and “Code 3” each delivering series record ratings and shares.

And demographics were that much stronger. “Cops,” for example, captured 8:30 half-hour in the significant and broad adults 18-49 demographic by an astonishing 15 shares.

On Friday, a decisive ABC victory gave that net a sixth-straight night in which it led or tied for the lead. The ABC regular lineup cruised, as NBC’s “Perry Mason” Friday fix begins to lose its potency.

NBC has also programmed itself deep into fourth from 8-9 p.m. in households and adults 18-49 by moving “I’ll Fly Away” there.

Thursday was stolen again by an ABC “Matlock” vidpic, though the rating was down 20% from first ABC “Matlock” two weeks earlier.

Thus, NBC could have fought back had its new 8 p.m. entry, “Out All Night,” not been dumped deep into fourth in the half-hour with NBC’s worst regular-season share in that slot in at least 11 years.

Still, ABC’s lineup skewed old and NBC won the night by a commanding 6 shares among adults 18-49 (a race in which “Matlock” earned a mere 11 share). ABC’s “PrimeTime Live,” meanwhile, looks to be taking over the 10 p.m. Thursday hour, last week beating “L.A. Law” by 8 shares in households and even edging “Law” by 1 share in adults 18-49.

Wednesday fell to part two of “The Jacksons,” which finished with a two-night average 22.2/33. Teamed with the growing hit “Home Improvement,””Jacksons” belted out ABC’s highest Wednesday rating since the Academy Awards aired on that night March 29, 1989, and scored a 41 share in the adults 18-49 category.

CBS had its highest regular-schedule Wednesday household rating of season but finished with a 12 share among adults 18-49.

For a fourth straight night, NBC was crunched between the competing webs and left crumpled in third place. Among the victims was “Unsolved Mysteries,” which suffered its worst share ever and first third-place finish ever during the regular season.

By contrast, “Seinfeld” rose to a season-high rating despite its toughest opposition yet, suggesting its usual ABC slot competition, “Home Improvement,” is an extremely tough challenger demographically.

Tuesday and Monday both ended up in ties between ABC and CBS, in both cases with pairs of 15.3 ratings. Tuesday saw CBS rally into the tie with its highest “Rescue 911” rating since Jan. 7 and the second-highest-rated CBS Tuesday film of the season, the femme-serial-killer pic “Overkill.”

ABC’s lineup, increasingly handicapped by “Going to Extremes’ ” 10-11 p.m. numbers, still won the night among adults 18-49.

Monday’s tie almost went three-way, as NBC’s “A Child Lost Forever” beat CBS’ lineup for three of four half-hours.

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