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NBC rules hot week

NBC has dominated the primetime Nielsens for Jan. 6-12, a week in which chilly temperatures and hot premieres snapped network audiences out of their holiday-season lethargy.

The hottest debut may have been Sunday’s “King of the Hill” on Fox, but NBC also enjoyed a powerful start from Wednesday’s “Chicago Sons” and CBS is generating some valuable timeslot gains with “Orleans” and “JAG.”

ABC was left somewhat in the cold, with its big schedule shifts (including premieres of “Arsenio Hall” and “The Practice”) mostly being saved for the spring. Lesser adjustments so far this midseason haven’t made much difference, and last week the Alphabet web slid into third in adults 18-49 behind Fox and third in homes behind CBS, positions ABC may occupy with some regularity through the balance of this tough season.

The week saw NBC and CBS achieve their highest ratings since November and Fox hit its best in five weeks. ABC equaled its second-best weeklong rating in seven weeks.

NBC opened up its widest adults 18-49 margin of victory in eight weeks. Those averages were: NBC, a 7.7 rating, 19 share (up in rating by 8% over results for the same week last year); Fox, 5.8/14 (down 15%); ABC, 5.6/14 (down 11%); CBS, 4.8/12 (down 2%); UPN, 2.0/5 (up 43%); WB, 1.4/3 (up 8%).

Monday

On Monday of this week, the CBS lineup (11.0 rating, 17 share) scored its first outright win in homes and adults 18-49 since premiere week.

Fox held the edge 8-10 p.m. among adults 18-49, as “Ned and Stacey” (6.2/10 in homes) and “Married … With Children” (6.3/10) matched their week-earlier 18-49 perfs. That kept the sitcom pair 4 shares ahead of what series programming managed in that hour earlier this season, but 2 shares behind what 10 weeks of specials averaged before the arrival of “Ned” and “Married.”

Sunday

Fox intercepted the night’s adults 18-49 win, a remarkable feat vs. NBC’s big AFC championship overrun at the start of the evening.

Fox did it with its highest non-sports Sunday average ever. “King of the Hill” led the climb, premiering as the first program in Fox history (besides a second “Simpsons” episode) to retain its entire “Simpsons” lead-in. “King” also reached Fox’s highest regular-series rating in that slot since March 29, 1992 (“In Living Color”). For its part, “The Simpsons” scored its highest rating since Oct. 29, 1995.

Those “Simpsons”-“King” heroics led to the highest-rated “X-Files” ever and Fox’s top rating in that 9-10 p.m. hour since Sept. 8, 1991 (“Married, With Children,” “Herman’s Head”).

NBC got a big, but less-than-spectacular, spillover rating from its Jacksonville-New England gridcast. As a meas-ure of that matchup’s relative marquee value, the overrun of this Super Bowl prelim rated 5 points below the week-earlier game in which the country’s most popular and controversial team, the Dallas Cowboys, were eliminated. The Jaguars-Patriots gridcast was still strong enough to boost “Dateline NBC” to its highest Sunday 18-49 rating ever.

Like Fox, CBS flourished despite the football competition. “Touched by an Angel” soared to a series-record rating and “60 Minutes” reported its best figures since Feb. 4, 1996. Then at 9 p.m., “The People’s Choice Awards” earned a powerful 22% improvement over its year-ago rating. The kudocast also topped its average of the past five years, an exceptional feat in this era of continual audience erosion.

“Men Behaving Badly” got a Sunday tryout and held 87% of its 18-49 lead-in from “3rd Rock,” better than 12 of the last 14 perfs there by slot regular “Boston Common.”

ABC’s “Lois & Clark” and “America’s Funniest Home Videos” continue to run below what they averaged for that 7-9 p.m. period before switching slots.

Saturday

Fox led its 8-10 p.m. block among adults 18-49, while CBS won 8-11 p.m. in that and most key adult and female demos, as well as homes.

Friday

ABC hung on against NBC in homes, but the two tied in adults 18-49. It was the first time NBC earned a share of the Friday 18-49 lead two weeks in a row since June 24-July 1, 1988.

Season highs from “Unsolved Mysteries” and “Homicide,” plus the second-highest-rated Friday “Date-line” pow-ered NBC’s rally. “Hom-icide” also topped slot rival “Nash Bridges” by 5 shares in adults 18-49 (and 3 shares in adults 25-54), its biggest 18-49 span over “Bridges” to date.

Compared with the year-ago Friday, ABC slipped by 12% among adults 18-49 and NBC improved by 2%, while CBS was up 11% and “X-Files”-less Fox was down 23%. A rerun “Family Matters” contributed to ABC’s fade.

CBS’ “JAG” strengthened its case with a solid 11% increase among adults 25-54 over its satisfactory previous-week premiere numbers.

Thursday

Season highs for “Friends” and “Seinfeld” kept NBC way out front on Thursday, despite a week off for “ER.” Subs “3rd Rock” and “Frasier” equaled “ER’s” best rerun 18-49 rating of the season, allowing NBC to achieve its best non-Olympics Thursday 18-49 average without “ER” since Jan. 6, 1994. At 8:30 though, “The Single Guy” held just 84% of its 18-49 lead-in from “Friends,” “Guy’s” weakest retention since last Feb. 15.

Aided by “ER’s” absence, John Stossel’s “Junk Science” newspec topped slot regular “Turning Point’s” households average by 5 shares.

Wednesday

ABC withstood a pair of strong premieres on the competing nets to take Wednesday with its highest 18-49 average since premiere week. “PrimeTime Live” led the way with its interview of Monaco’s royal family, which earned that newsmag’s best regular-slot 18-49 rating since last Jan. 24.

NBC had the night’s hotter premiere, as “Chicago Sons” added on a sizzling 34% of its adults 18-49 lead-in to win that slot by 3 shares in the 18-49 demo. Slot predecessor “Larroquette” averaged a 9% falloff from its 18-49 lead-in, and since “Larroquette’s” departure, a variety of NBC’s established sitcoms have averaged a 14% build in the slot. It was NBC’s best in-season, regular-series 18-49 rating in that slot since Feb. 9, 1994 (“Unsolved Mysteries”). For the night, it was NBC’s best 18-49 Wednesday average since premiere week.

CBS’ debut of “Orleans” showed promise as well, averaging a 13 share among adults 25-54, the Eye web’s fourth-best figure in that slot this season. The Larry Hagman drama sentenced “Law & Order” to its lowest regular-slot firstrun rating since April 21, 1993. It was also the first time regular CBS competition topped a firstrun “Law” in homes since May 4, 1994 (though “Law” did beat “Orleans” by 3 shares among adults 25-54).

On WB, “The Jamie Foxx Show” achieved that weblet’s highest rating in two months.

Tuesday

ABC won by 2 shares among adults 18-49, as “Roseanne” built its biggest 18-49 margin (3 shares) over “Mad About You” since October. NBC’s “Something So Right” perked up, building by 1% on its 18-49 lead-in while slot rival “Life’s Work” lost 12%. At 10 p.m., “Dateline” tied a firstrun “NYPD Blue” for the first time among adults 25-54.

Monday

NBC mystified the night’s adults 18-49 competition with “The Secret” (Daily Variety, Jan. 8). CBS tied the Peacock in homes, as “Murphy Brown” won its slot for the first time since premiere week.

Each rating point represents an estimated 970,000 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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