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ABC boosts Thursday, wins week

Season leader NBC slips into 2nd in adults 18-49, 3rd in households

ABC’s strongest Thursday in 11 months, plus powerful pro and college football telecasts, have boosted the Alphabet net to a surprising primetime Nielsens weeklong victory in Dec. 1-7 results.

It was an electrifying turnaround for ABC, which just a week earlier had tumbled to its worst-rated regular-season week ever.

The Dec. 1-7 week also saw faltering season leader NBC slip into second in adults 18-49 and third in households, both firsts for this fall.

NBC has not won a week outright in households since the close of the World Series six weeks ago (though NBC has tied CBS twice over that span).

NBC’s growing list of problems includes a slate of new fall shows that have almost all fizzled, big holes in its Sunday and Wednesday schedules, soft results most of the rest of the week and a noticeable loss of Thursday momentum.

Last week the Peacock suffered the first timeslot defeat ever for “ER” vs. regular competition (ABC’s “20/20”), a poor returning performance for Wednesday’s “Tony Danza Show” and a big Tuesday dive when “Frasier” took the week off. In households, the Peacock won just two of the week’s 38 non-Thursday half-hours, and finished with its second-lowest regular-season weeklong average ever.

ABC exploited NBC’s lackluster week with strong news counterprogramming on Thursday, a Green Bay-Minnesota gridcast that tied for the second-highest “Monday Night Football” rating of the fall, and a Saturday 18-49 win from the Tennessee-Auburn college football game.

CBS provided a big surprise in evening news, tying NBC for first in that race. It’s the first time CBS has gained a share of the evening-news lead since the week of Aug. 24-28, 1992 (Hurricane Andrew).

Weeklong averages in the adults 18-49 demo were: ABC, a 5.6 rating, 15 share (matching its results for the same week last year); NBC, 5.5/15 (down 5%); Fox, 5.1/14 (down 7%); CBS, 4.2/11 (down 11%); UPN, 1.8/5 (up 6%); WB, 1.5/4 (up 50%). It’s ABC’s first outright win in this demo since the week of the “coming out” episode of “Ellen” last April 28-May 4. In the 30-week interval, NBC won 29 weeks (tied once by ABC) and Fox won once.

Monday

ABC led Dec. 8 results with Caro-lina-Dallas football (15.3 rating, 25 share). NBC (9.7/15) finished just 3 shares behind for the night in adults 18-49.

The highest-rated “Billboard Music Awards” (8.6/13) in four years presented Fox with a second-place finish from 8-10 p.m. It was Fox’s second-best Monday adults 18-49 rating this season.

“Cybill” (8.0/12) and “Brooklyn South” (8.0/12) both drooped to their lowest firstrun ratings to date and apparently the lowest ever in those slots for firstrun regular programming on CBS.

WB earned its second-best Monday rating ever with a record “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (3.9/6) and the highest rerun “7th Heaven” (3.7/6) to date. Rival UPN equaled its lowest Monday rating (2.6/4) since mid-July.

Sunday

Fox won Sunday by 5 shares in adults 18-49. “The X-Files” was the week’s second-highest-rated program by that measure.

CBS swept the night in households and took second in adults 18-49, 3 shares ahead of NBC and 6 ahead of ABC. “Touched by an Angel” tallied the week’s best total-viewers score, with an average of 24.4 million viewers.

By benching “The Tom Show,” WB improved its 8:30-10 p.m. rating by 29% vs. what that block has averaged in six weeks with “Tom” at 8:30.

Saturday

ABC’s football won the night in adults 18-49 with ABC’s best Saturday score since last Feb. 22 (“The Body-guard”).

CBS led in homes but ran third in adults 25-54, down 23% from its average on the year-ago Saturday.

Friday

CBS used a Disney special to close in on the Friday family-audience leader, Disney-owned ABC. “Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too” won the 8-9 p.m. hour among kids, most key women and adults 18-49.

That helped CBS’ 9-10 p.m. sitcoms finish within 11 shares in kids and 12 shares in teens of the ABC comedies, which have beaten CBS that hour by 20 shares and more.

ABC edged CBS for the night in adults 18-49, with NBC just a share behind while Fox settled for fourth.

Thursday

NBC won the night by 12 shares among adults 18-49, but ABC scored a moral victory in households, pulling within 3 shares of the lead with its strongest Thursday rating since Jan. 2.

ABC’s “20/20” beat an “ER” rerun in homes, while losing by 8 shares in adults 18-49. The newsmag snapped NBC’s streak of 287 consecutive Thursday half-hours in the households lead, a streak that dated back to the Sugar Bowl Jan. 2. It was “ER’s” lowest regular-season homes rating ever and ABC’s best that hour with non-sports programming since Octo-ber 1994.

ABC’s two-hour “Kennedy Years” newspec proved charismatic as well, tallying ABC’s highest non-sports vote count in the slot since February 1996. “Kennedy” helped drag NBC’s wither-ing Thursday rookies “Union Square” and “Veronica’s Closet” to lowest-yet 76% retentions of their 18-49 lead-ins. “Union” got busted for NBC’s worst retention in that post-“Friends” slot since Oct. 26, 1995. It was also the network’s lowest in-season firstrun rating in the slot since April 8, 1993.

Thursday viewers gave the cold shoulder to CBS’ reskedded “Dellaventura,” down 15% from the 18-49 average of slot predecessor “48 Hours” and the returning “413 Hope Street,” Fox’s lowest-rated regular-season program in that slot since Dec. 28, 1996 (“Bravo Awards”). It was Fox’s lowest-rated Thursday ever with firstrun regular programming.

Wednesday

ABC edged Fox in adults 18-49, while CBS nearly caught NBC for third with strong holiday specials. “A Charlie Brown Christmas” grew by a joyful 17%, compared with its year-ago score, and “A Garfield Christmas” gobbled down its best rating since 1992.

That tough family competition snowed under NBC’s return of “The Tony Danza Show,” which retained an unsatisfactory 77% of its 18-49 lead-in from “3rd Rock.” “Danza” quickly made “Dharma & Greg” look like a hit again — vs. “Danza,” a rerun “Dharma” built on its 18-49 lead-in by a spectacular 45%.

WB finished second for the night among teens, behind Fox.

Tuesday

Perhaps hoping it could farm out one of its Tuesday powerhouses to another struggling night, NBC tried a Tuesday without “Frasier” and got thumped, losing the night by 4 shares in adults 18-49 to ABC.

Without “Mad About You” to contend with at 8 p.m., “Grace Under Fire” moved from 8 shares behind in adults 18-49 the previous week to 3 shares ahead last week.

A 10 p.m. “Barbara Walters” spec improved by 9% in adults 18-49 vs. its comparable year-ago telecast and dropped slot-rival “Dateline” to its lowest Tuesday 18-49 score since Aug. 19.

“The American Comedy Honors” slipped to Fox’s lowest Tuesday 18-49 average in eight weeks.

A “Spice Girls” special strutted to UPN’s highest homes rating in that slot since Jan. 23, 1996, and set UPN slot records for teens and women 18-34.

Monday

The Dec. 1 Green Bay-Minnesota gridcast put ABC back in charge of Mondays (Daily Variety, Dec. 3).

Each household rating point repre-sents an estimated 980,000 homes, or 1% of the country’s TV homes. Each adults 18-49 rating point reps 1.23 million viewers, 1% of the U.S. total. A share is the same sort of percentage, except it measures only the homes or viewers watching TV during the timeslot involved.

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