Olympic lift keeps CBS in first

The afterglow of the Winter Olympics continues to warm CBS, helping the network win the Feb. 28-March 6 primetime Nielsen race by 2.2 rating points — a margin of victory that equals CBS’ widest without benefit of a major sporting event in just over two years.

CBS did it with a broad-appeal schedule that brought the net home first among adults 18-49, a valuable demographic that ABC and NBC both target more aggressively than does CBS. The Eye network, generally stronger in the 25-54 breakout, hadn’t finished first in the adults 18-49 race without major help from a sporting event in the 11 months since March 22-28, 1993 (the week of the “Man With Three Wives” vidpic).

CBS highlights last week included impressive start-ups for “Tom” and “The Road Home,” new entries on the web’s Wednesday and Saturday skeds, respectively. ABC is also off to a promising start with Thursday’s “Byrds of Paradise,” though in all three cases, the key indicator will be the number of viewers who stick around for week two and thereafter.

ABC finished a distant second last week largely because its “Heaven and Hell” multiparter never recovered from a hellish start against the Olympic closing ceremonies.

“Heaven” expired Wednesday with a three-night 9.8 rating, 15 share average, apparently making it the second-lowest-rated firstrun regular-season miniseries for any network ever, ahead of only ABC’s previous sweeps-month disaster, November’s “JFK: Reckless Youth” (8.7/14).

Boosted by record Wednesday numbers, Fox won the week in one of its targeted demos — adults 18-34. The weblet’s 6.3/18 in that audience segment topped NBC’s 6.0/17 and the 5.8/16 scores of ABC and CBS. It’s Fox’s first win in this demo since March 22-28, 1993.

The week’s adults 18-49 averages were: CBS, 7.2/19; ABC, 6.7/18; NBC, 6.6/17; Fox, 5.3/14.


CBS is off on the right foot toward a sixth-straight weeklong win, having swept the half-hours on Monday of this week. “Dave’s World” (15.6/23) enjoyed its most lopsided timeslot victory margin ever, while equaling its second-best rating so far.

NBC stumbled to its worst Monday numbers (9.7/15) since last July 26. Its Fred Dryer-Geoffrey Lewis vidpic “Day of Reckoning” (8.7/14) fell to NBC’s worst results for a firstrun Monday film since “Flying Blind” crashed to a 7.8/14 on July 30, 1990.


CBS breezed in households but ran third among adults 18-49. NBC won the night in that demo when the rerun theatrical “Pure Luck” took the 9-11 p.m. film race by 5 shares among adults 18-49. Fox won the 8-9 p.m. hour by that measure with “Martin” and “Living Single” reruns.

Fox got its weakest firstrun rating in the Sunday 7-8 p.m. hour since Aug. 15 from “Code 3.”


“The Road Home” paved the way for an easy CBS nightlong win with the Eye web’s best regular-series rating in the Saturday 9-10 p.m. hour since “Harts of the West” premiered last Sept. 25. “Road” improved by 24% on CBS’ regular-programming average in that slot.

That lead-in shot “Walker, Texas Ranger” to a regular-slot record rating.


ABC moved back into control of Friday, winning the night by 7 shares among adults 18-49. Still, CBS wasn’t hurt a bit by Olympic interruptions, finishing just 2 shares out of first place in households with “Diagnosis Murder’s” highest share to date and “Picket Fences’ ” closest finish behind “20/20” since “Fences” first opened on Sept. 18, 1992. NBC was a distant third for the night with the worst regular-season rating ever for a “Perry Mason” vidpic.


ABC got a flying start from “The Byrds of Paradise,” a solid second-place in the Thursday 8 p.m. hour with the web’s best share there in 15 weeks. It was ABC’s best series premiere in the slot since “Wildside” bowed with a 16.1/24 on March 21, 1985.

NBC won the night comfortably with an all-rerun lineup, breaking a 21-night winless streak for the Peacock.


Fox won the night among adults 18-49 and received its second-highest Wednesday household grades ever with the 100th episode of “Beverly Hills, 90210” (the top-rated “90210” since last May 19) and the highest-rated “Melrose Place” ever (Daily Variety, March 4).

CBS won the night in households, as “48 Hours” reported its highest rating in 50 weeks.

The premiere of “Tom” in the 8:30 p.m. slot got a powerful initial sampling, building an impressive 28% on its lead-in rating from “The Nanny.” That’s easily CBS’ best post-“Nanny” perf yet. Slot predecessor “Hearts Afire” has been averaging a 5% falloff from “Nanny.”

“Tom” also improved on CBS’ regular-programming average in that slot by 19%.

Against “Tom,””The Critic” got savaged, holding just 56% of its lead-in rating from a special “Home Improvement.” When “Critic” premiered Jan. 26 after another “Home” special, the animated series held 87% of that strong lead-in.


After 110 consecutive half-hours with CBS in first place

(mostly with Winter Olympics coverage), ABC finally broke the Eye’s stranglehold when “Roseanne” elbowed past the Grammys during the 9-9:30 half-hour.

ABC went on to win the night, ending a 17-night CBS winning streak, as “NYPD Blue” nabbed its second-highest rating yet and locked the Grammys out of the 10- 11 p.m. lead.

The Grammy hit a somewhat off-key Nielsen note — the kudocast’s lowest rating since 1989 and second-lowest in at least 20 years. The Grammys did edge out this year’s “American Music Awards” (16.0/24 on Feb. 7), the first time the Grammys have done that in six years.

NBC’s “Ancient Prophesies” recorded the Peacock’s strongest Tuesday 8-10 p.m. rating since Aug. 4, 1992, during the Barcelona Olympics.


CBS’ regular lineup swept the night with a rating that equaled its average for the five weeks before the Olympics (Daily Variety, March 2).

Fox got its second-best vidpic rating this season from “Rise and Walk: The Dennis Byrd Story.”

Each rating point represents an estimated 942,000 households, or 1% of the country’s TV homes. The share is the same sort of percentage, except that it’s measured against only the households in which TV is being watched during the timeslot involved.

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