Di-themed ‘Datelines’ power NBC

Viewer interest in the death and funeral of Princess Diana has dominated the Sept. 1-7 primetime Nielsens, with NBC’s six Di-themed “Datelines” pushing the Peacock a surprising 2 shares ahead of football-boosted ABC for the week. It’s the first time ABC has lost the week of a “Monday Night Football” premiere since 1989.

ABC fumbled its chance to extend that streak when the Sept. 1 Chicago-Green Bay game slipped to the lowest opening-week “MNF” rating ever. Then NBC clinched the weeklong upset win by most successfully satisfying the country’s colossal appetite for coverage of the Princess Diana tragedy.

NBC broadcast the most and the most successful Diana-themed primetime programs last week. Its six hours of Di primetime coverage equaled the combined total for ABC, CBS and Fox, and each of the Peacock’s six “Datelines” earned the net’s highest non-basketball rating in those respective slots since at least April.

The week also featured a powerful fourth-season premiere for UPN’s “Star Trek: Voyager,” leading that netlet to its highest weeklong rating since last Nov. 4-10 and a rare fourth-place finish for the week in adults 18-34 ahead of CBS and WB.

Last week’s adults 18-49 averages were: NBC, a 5.5 rating, 16 share (up 12%); ABC, 4.8/14 (down 11%); Fox, 3.4/10 (down 17%); CBS, 3.1/9 (up 7%); UPN, 2.7/8 (up 13%); WB, 1.3/4 (down 7%). UPN achieved its best average in this demo since Jan. 22-28, 1996.


NBC’s “Dateline”-Diana combo pulled out another Tuesday win on Sept. 9, with “Dateline’s” 10-11 p.m. 12.1 rating, 21 share enough to overcome a solid 8-10 p.m. ABC edge.

The season premiere of Fox’s Tuesday pic, “Bad Girls” (5.7/10), fell 17% below the comparable year-ago results for “Dark Angel.”

In metered-market overnights, UPN’s lineup averaged a 4.0/7, down another 9% from its mediocre second-try numbers of last week. “Hitz” (3.6/6) showed a bit of promise, though, equaling its previous week overnights despite a big drop from its lead-in.


National ratings for Sept. 8 showed Fox’s premiere of “Ally McBeal” failing to live up to the promise of its stellar overnights (Daily Variety, Sept. 10), but still managing a 7.3/11, up 38% over the comparable year-ago slot premieres of “Party Girl” and “Lush Life.”

“Ally” retained 92% of its lead-in from the sixth-season premiere of “Melrose Place” (7.9/13), easily the best-retention to date for a post- “Melrose” premiere.

“Melrose” won its hour in all key adults demos and equaled its year-ago 18-49 premiere rating. Fox went on to win the 8-10 p.m. block among adults 18-49 and all key female demos.

ABC led 8-11 p.m. averages on the strength of the Kansas City-Oakland “Monday Night Football” matchup (13.4/24), though the grid series continues to trail year-ago stats significantly. The Sept. 8 game slipped by 15% vs. the year-ago Philadelphia-Green Bay contest.

Excepting games played last year on Dec. 23 and opposite the World Series, it’s the lowest “MNF” rating since Aug. 29, 1993.

Monday overnights showed UPN’s lineup (4.3/7) improving by 8% vs. last week and by 5% vs. a year ago. “Malcolm & Eddie” (4.8/7) continues to be the star of that lineup.


National ratings for WB’s Sunday premieres failed to live up to the 14% increase over year-ago results earned in the overnights (Daily Variety, Sept. 10) but still looked solid, equaling the nationals earned by the weblet’s year-ago Sunday premieres.

NBC got a mediocre effort out of the first 8 p.m. “Men Behaving Badly.” The sitcom, being counted on as a cornerstone of the Peacock’s Sunday lineup this fall, did manage to top the last five ratings of “3rd Rock from the Sun” in that half-hour, but ran 3 shares behind slot leader “The Simpsons” in the adults 18-49 demo.

That was despite a 7-8 p.m. triumph for “Dateline NBC,” which equaled its biggest win ever over “60 Minutes” in adults 25-54.

Fox’s football overrun improved by 37% vs. the comparable year-ago rating and won its 23-minute segment in adults 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54. That helped Fox to the nightlong win in adults 18-49 with its best Sunday average since May 18.

CBS dominated in homes, as its Sunday pic won that 9-11 p.m. slot for the 13th time in 15 tries (including one tie).


Fox captured Saturday among adults 18-49 with its season premieres of “Cops” and “America’s Most Wanted,” but NBC reruns finished just 1 share behind.

CBS led in homes, boosted by a “Farewell to Diana” spec that attracted the Eye’s highest rating that hour since May 17 and CBS’ best rating for a primetime news special on any night since May 23, 1996 (“Cronkite Remembers”).


Though “20/20” came back to defeat a special “Dateline NBC” head-to-head, two hours of Diana-themed “Datelines” were enough to propel NBC to a second-straight Friday win. In adults 18-49, it’s the first time NBC has won two straight Fridays without major sports help since January 1992.

The 9-10 p.m. “Dateline” earned that series’ best Friday rating since Jan. 17 and the extra 10-11 p.m. edition equaled NBC’s best non-sports rating that hour in three years, since Sept. 2, 1994 (“Kindergarten Cop”).

An 8-9 p.m. Princess Di spec earned Fox’s best non-football rating in that slot since May 16.


Reality spex blasted to Fox’s best Thursday results since May 22, but they failed to wound Thursday kingpin NBC.


UPN enjoyed a breakthrough fourth-season launch for “Star Trek: Voyager” with that series’ highest Wednesday rating ever and best on any night since Monday, Feb. 19, 1996. “Trek” also won its hour in all key male demos and was second in adults 18-49. It was UPN’s highest nightlong 18-49 orbit since Jan. 23, 1995 (its second week on the air) and highest-ever for a Wednesday.

“PrimeTime Live’s” Diana coverage won the night for ABC with the highest “PTL” rating since the “coming-out” night of “Ellen.”

A special 9 p.m. “Dateline” helped offset “Steve.oedekerk.com,” which crashed to NBC’s lowest rating in at least 16 years and probably ever in that Wednesday 8-9 p.m. hour. The comedy spec failed to beat even reruns on WB and UPN in the 8:30-9 p.m. half-hour.


NBC led Sept. 2 results, as “Dateline” achieved its highest 18-49 rating on any night of the week since April 18, 1995. (Daily Variety, Sept. 4).


Despite dropping 23% below its year-ago premiere rating, “Monday Night Football” dominated Sept. 1 results for ABC (Daily Variety, Sept. 4).

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.

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