NBC, ABC Pinched By New Competish

The most significant number of the week’s primetime race won’t show up in the Nielsen chart. That honor went to the Jan. 16 debut of the United Paramount Network, or, more specifically, “Star Trek Voyager,” which garnered a rousing 14.9 rating, 20 share in the metered markets.

The web that felt the sting of the newcomer’s presence most sharply were NBC and ABC, both of which have been struggling with series programming on Monday this season.

‘Ballgame’ plunges

NBC’s repeat of “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” managed only an 8.9/13, and a new episode of “Blossom” earned a mere 8.1/12,23% below its season average. ABC’s “Coach” (10.3/15) and “Whole New Ballgame” (8.2/12) tandem also suffered: Compared to the previous week when “Ballgame” premiered, “Coach” was down by 9% and “Ballgame” plummeted by 26%. CBS won the night with solid performances from its revamped lineup, but the one network that seemed most oblivious to the newcomer was Fox. A special two-hour “Melrose Place” snagged a 12.7/18, the best Fox has ever done on a Monday night. That robust figure was also the second-highest “Place” rating ever.

Fox fever

In fact, while millions of Americans may be suffering through the cold and flu season, it seems that an equally large amount are coming down with Fox fever. Fox has been on a roll of late, the high point being the primetime overrun of the Dallas Cowboys-San Francisco 49ers game on Jan. 15, which was Fox’s highest-rated show ever. It scored a whopping 35.9/54 in its 39-minute run. The postgame show grabbed an impressive 19.4/30.

The entire game pulled off the highest rated non-Super Bowl football game since 1982, and the NFC Conference match-up between – you guessed it – Dallas and San Francisco. That game, which the 49ers won in the closing minute, courtesy of the Joe Montana to Dwight Clark play known as “The Catch,” snagged a 42.9 rating.

NBC game trounced

Naturally, the game scored big in Dallas (57.0) and San Francisco (48.1), but it also drew superb numbers in Texas neighbor Houston (42.6) and Cowboy rival and football-crazy Washington (45.4). The NFC game trounced NBC’s AFC game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and San Diego Chargers, which earned a 28.3 rating.

In addition to the football game and the “Melrose Place” special, Fox snagged its highest Tuesday household ratings on Jan. 17, when “The Rock ‘n’ Roll Skating Championships” glided to an 11.0/16 from 8-10 p.m. But the fact that it outperformed Fox’s season-to-date average in that time period by 75% – as Fox press releases so proudly declared – only highlights how much room for improvement the network really has on Tuesdays.

Then on Jan. 18, Fox received encouraging news when its struggling freshman drama “Party of Five” scored a 7.3/11, an improvement by 14% from the previous week.

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