‘Dateline’ delivers

NBC newsmag performs well on newest night

With “Dateline” making itself at home on Mondays this summer, NBC has established a comfortable advantage in primetime Nielsens for June 16-22, the first post-basketball week of the rerun season.

Last week’s Monday “Dateline” scored the second-highest households rating of the week (seventh-highest in adults 18-49) and is building momentum toward its fall matchup against firstrun competition in that hour.

On Monday of this week (June 23), “Dateline” slipped a notch to a 10.4 rating, 19 share, but still dominated the slot. That same night, NBC’s first attempt at a Monday “Must-She TV” female-appeal sitcom lineup topped CBS’ rival sked by 18% in adults 18-49 although it trailed CBS by 10% in households.

That’s a credible start for a high-risk approach the Peacock is planning for Mondays this fall, though the June 23 results were boosted by a special “Mad About You” to kick off the night.

Peacock gains

NBC posted gains vs. year-ago results on five nights last week, but most of the competition melted in the summer heat. In fact, not including weeks disrupted by conventions, the July 4 holiday or the Olympics, it was the lowest combined ABC-CBS-NBC rating and share (21.2/40) ever. Also, ABC equaled its previous-week record for worst Big Three household rating ever in a non-disrupted week.

Fox reports it’s running 10% ahead of year-ago results in the 18-49 demo in averages covering the four weeks since the May sweeps. CBS and NBC are down by 3% in that comparison and ABC is off by 14%.

Fox attributes its progress to the addition of extra firstrun programming this summer, though its Monday and Wednesday firstruns are contributing modest increases, if any, while Sunday’s “Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction” is, in fact, an important contributor to Fox’s gains.

In the ongoing battle of the netlets, WB topped UPN in weeklong households averages for the first time since last Aug. 19-25 (with two ties during that span). WB’s key blow came Wednesday, when the recording group En Vogue hosted a slate of rerun sitcoms and won the night in Atlanta and New Orleans and took second in New York, L.A. and Chicago.

UPN notes that it beat WB last week by 8% in adults 18-49 and by 18% in adults 25-54.

Last week’s adults 18-49 averages were: NBC, a 4.6 rating, 16 share (up 2% in rating vs. results for the same week last year); ABC, 3.5/12 (down 10%); Fox, 3.0/11 (up 3%); CBS, 2.7/9 (down 16%); UPN, 1.3/4 (even); and WB, 1.2/4 (up 20%).

Monday

The satisfactory launch of NBC’s Monday “Must-She” lineup highlighted June 23 results. The weakest link in the sked so far appears to be “Fired Up” (5.2 rating, 10 share), down 11% compared with its 18-49 lead-in from “Mad About You” (6.2/12 in households). The strongest link is apparently “Suddenly Susan” (6.9/12), up 13% over its 18-49 lead-in from “Caroline in the City” (6.1/11 in homes), which was good enough to move “Susan” 2 shares ahead of slot rival “Murphy Brown” (6.8/12 in homes) among adults 18-49.

Fox’s summer lineup cooled by 29% among adults 18-49 vs. its first try two weeks earlier, with the offbeat “Ruby Wax” sagging most noticeably. After retaining 88% of its 18-49 lead-in with its June 9 premiere, “Ruby” held just 70% on Monday, June 23.

Sunday

Fox remains in control of Sundays among adults 18-49. Last week, all four Fox series won their slots in that key demo. At 7 p.m., the promising “Beyond Belief” achieved its highest shares to date and nearly doubled Fox’s year-ago 18-49 rating in that time period.

CBS took the night in homes despite a feeble start for the two-part repeat of “Oldest Confederate Widow,” CBS’ lowest-rated Sunday pic since last Labor Day weekend.

In the 7 p.m. battle of the newsmags, “Dateline NBC” finished just a tenth of a rating point behind “60 Minutes” in adults 18-49, marking the fourth-straight airing “Dateline” has virtually matched or beaten “Minutes” in that demo. “Minutes” beat “Dateline” by 3 shares in CBS’ target demo, adults 25-54.

At 8 p.m., the orbit continues to erode for NBC’s “3rd Rock From the Sun,” which last week could only tie CBS’ “Touched by an Angel” for second in NBC’s target 18-49 demo, 7 shares behind “The Simpsons.”

Saturday

CBS gunned down the competition with a two-hour “Walker, Texas Ranger,” though Fox inched ahead in 8-10 p.m. adults 18-49 averages.

ABC has ensured that “Family Matters” won’t be going to the CBS sked this fall with any momentum by shifting the vet sitcom to Saturday, immediately producing the lowest “Matters” numbers ever and an 18-49 rating worse than anything ABC has settled for in that slot since March. The return of “Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper” also hit lowest-ever depths.

At 10 p.m., “Spy Game” again bumbled to what’s apparently the lowest regular-programming rating ever in that slot for ABC, CBS or NBC.

Friday

ABC and NBC tied for first in nightlong adults 18-49 averages. It looked like ABC would lose the night when Disney’s weakling “Hercules” spec stumbled 19% below its lead-in (albeit with the week’s second-best kids 2-11 rating), but “20/20” came to the rescue, topping NBC’s “Profiler” by 5 shares in the 18-49 demo.

At 8 p.m., NBC’s “Unsolved Mysteries” sent “Step By Step” and “Dave’s World” to their lowest-ever household ratings, despite firstrun episodes.

Thursday

NBC maintained its iron grip on Thursday. “Men Behaving Badly” (headed for Sundays this fall) is performing good deeds in the post-“Friends” slot, last week holding 99% of its 18-49 lead-in.

Wednesday

ABC bounced back into the lead on Wednesday after three weeks of basketball-boosted wins for NBC.

The Peacock’s “Chicago Sons,” which didn’t make the fall sked, improved by an okay 12% on its 18-49 lead-in from “Wings.” The last five episodes of “Men Behaving Badly” in that slot averaged a 21% build.

WB won Wednesday in kids, teens and viewers under 30 with its En Vogue-hosted sitcoms. Nationally, WB’s Wednesday sked beat UPN’s in homes for the first in 11 weeks.

Tuesday

NBC increased its Tuesday momentum, amassing its biggest adults 18-49 margin over ABC’s Tuesday lineup (with all regular programming) since at least 1987. It was NBC’s fifth-straight Tuesday win in both adults 18-49 and homes. The canceled “Something So Right” helped out by retaining all of its 18-49 “Mad About You” lead-in for the first time in 17 tries.

Monday

NBC’s soaring Monday “Dateline,” the highest-rated newsmag for a second straight week, boosted the Peacock to a decisive June 16 win.

UPN slipped to its lowest Monday rating since last August.

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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