Pageant, NFL boost Alphabet web; Fox tops in key demos

Football and Miss America have lent their attractive figures to an ABC victory in Sept. 8-14 primetime Nielsens. Meanwhile, strong season premieres and a big rerun rating for “True Lies” has allowed crafty Fox to steal the week in the important adults 18-49 demographic.

CBS got a big Sunday boost from the Emmy Awards (Daily Variety, Sept. 16), but with Fox shrewdly counterprogramming with action pic “True Lies,” the Emmys couldn’t lift CBS out of third for the week in homes or fourth in adults 18-49.

It’s the first time in five tries (since ABC in 1985) that a Big Three net has failed to win a week with the Emmys on its schedule (Fox has carried the Emmys seven times during that 12-year span).

For ABC, the weeklong win is its first in homes since the week of the “Ellen” coming-out episode, April 28-May 4. The win broke NBC’s 16-week household winning streak and an 18-week streak in adults 18-49.

For Fox, this is its first 18-49 weeklong win since the Super Bowl and the first without major sports help since the August 1996 Democratic National Convention.

Solid premieres for “Beverly Hills, 90210,” “Melrose Place,” “Ally McBeal,” “413 Hope St.” and “Between Brothers” helped boost Fox to additional wins for the week in men, women and adults 18-34 and men 18-49. Counting only the 15 “common time” hours programmed by Fox, the News Corp. net even won the week in adults 25-54, men 25-54 and women 18-49.

Last week’s adults 18-49 averages were: Fox, a 5.0 rating, 15 share (up in rating by 28% vs. results for the same week last year); NBC, 4.9/14 (down 11%); ABC, 4.7/14 (down 6%); CBS, 3.5/10 (down 20%); UPN, 2.1/6 (down 5%); WB, 1.2/3 (down 25%).

Sunday

Fox’s “True Lies” shot down CBS’ Emmy Awards in most key demos, including adults 18-49 and 25-54. In fact, CBS couldn’t even equal its households average on the year-ago Sunday (with regular-series season premieres and “Undue Influence, Part 1″), though CBS was up 17% in adults 18-49.

It was the lowest-rated Emmy telecast ever on the Big Three, down 6% from last year in homes and down 10% in adults 18-49. Part of the falloff is attributable to big football numbers for an exciting and much-hyped New York Jets-New England Patriots football game cablecast nationally by TNT and broadcast on indies in New York and Boston.

“True Lies” tied Fox’s fourth-best 18-49 movie rating ever and won the night in several demos, including adults 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54.

The combo of the Arnold Schwarzenegger starrer “True Lies” and the Emmys chased NBC’s faltering “3rd Rock From the Sun” and “Men Behaving Badly” to worst-ever ratings.

WB’s Sunday lineup also struggled against the night’s tough competition, dropping 26% behind its premiere-week rating. Biggest problems come in the 9-10 p.m. hour, when rookies “The Tom Show” and “Alright Already” plunged a collective 34% below their premiere levels and 42% behind year-ago results (when WB did not face the Emmys).

Saturday

ABC’s “Miss America” sagged to its lowest household rating ever, but demos held firm — the pageant equaled its year-ago adults 18-49 average. “Miss America” strutted to ABC’s first Saturday win since the world figure-skating championships March 22 and highest Saturday rating since that same event of the previous year.

NBC counterprogrammed “Miss America” most effectively with Steven Seagal’s “On Deadly Ground.” The combo of beauty and Seagal sent “Walker, Texas Ranger” to third place in its slot for the first time in its 191 Saturday tries.

Friday

ABC gave away the night when its Saturday morning preview spec retained just 72% of its “Sabrina” lead-in.

“Sabrina” moved to its new 8 p.m. slot with satisfactory results, equaling ABC’s best 18-49 rating that hour since May. At 10 p.m., “20/20″ topped “Dateline” by 3 shares among adults 18-49.

NBC won a third-straight Friday in adults 18-49, the first time it’s accomplished that without major sports help since April 22-May 6, 1988.

Thursday

Fox’s new Thursday team started with an 11% dropoff in adults 18-49 vs. the net’s year-ago premiere Thursday. Rookies “Between Brothers” and “413 Hope St.” debuted satisfactorily though, with “Brothers” building on its 18-49 lead-in by 6% and “Hope” adding 19% more. “Hope” also sprung to Fox’s highest 18-49 rating in that hour since Jan. 16.

The first try for a new Thursday edition of “20/20″ reported ABC’s best regular-programming household rating in that slot since March 14, 1996 (with the film “Straight Talk”). “20/20″ also beat out NBC’s “ER” rerun that hour in L.A., New York, Chicago and four other top-10 markets.

From 8-10 p.m., gymnastics tumbled to ABC’s worst 18-49 rating there in five weeks.

“Mike Wallace Remembers” was CBS’ highest-rated primetime news spec since “Walter Cronkite Remembers” (May 23, 1996).

Wednesday

Fox’s eighth-season premiere of “Beverly Hills, 90210″ won the night in adults and led its two-hour block in households. An interview with a friend of the JonBenet Ramsey family on “PrimeTime Live” helped ABC slip ahead in 8-11 p.m. household averages.

Fox’s “90210” matched or improved on its year-ago premiere shares in key demos, but compared with the more similar Sept. 13 premiere two seasons ago, “90210” was down by 13% in adults 18-49.

The Spelling soap still scored Fox’s best non-sports Wednesday rating since March 6, 1996 (with the film “Rookie of the Year”).

Three-fourths of WB’s lineup premiered, but with a nightlong average behind every one of the weblet’s first five Wednesdays of a year ago. Worse, the lineup managed less than half the adults 18-49 rating of rival UPN (1.4/4 vs. 3.0/9).

UPN was still down from last year, with “The Sentinel” premiering 18% below its year-ago 18-49 results.

Viewers said no to “She Cried No,” which sobbed to NBC’s lowest 18-49 rating in that slot since July 5, 1995 (“Special Olympics”).

Tuesday

NBC led Sept. 9 results with another strong “Dateline” performance (Daily Variety, Sept. 11).

UPN’s Tuesday is fading along with its star, “Moesha.” Last week, that Big Ticket sitcom plunged 32% below its year-ago 18-49 rating.

ABC castoff “Clueless” may bring help when it takes over the 8-8:30 p.m. slot Sept. 23.

Monday

Fox’s Sept. 8 premieres took the 8-10 p.m. block in adults 18-49, but ABC led 8-11 p.m. averages with Kansas City-Oakland football (Daily Variety, Sept. 11). UPN’s sitcoms looked sharp, up 12% over year-ago household figures.

Each rating point represents an estimated 980,000 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.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more