'Deaf Man'leads net to Nov. lead over NBC

CBS has virtually locked up the November sweeps households crown with a huge Sunday win from the “Hallmark Hall of Fame” telefilm “What the Deaf Man Heard.”

According to preliminary national Nielsens for Nov. 23, “Deaf Man” earned a booming 23.0 rating, 34 share, achieving the highest rating for a single-episode vidpic in more than six years (since HHOF’s “Sarah, Plain and Tall,” Feb. 3, 1991, on CBS).

The Sunday results won’t be final until Tuesday, but even if they’re adjusted slightly by Nielsen, the huge “Deaf Man” numbers give CBS a big enough lead in the November sweeps that it’s unlikely second-place NBC can catch the Eye in the sweeps’ three remaining nights.

If CBS holds onto its lead, as expected, it will end NBC’s streak of eight straight major sweeps wins in households, dating to November 1994. NBC remains comfortably ahead in the adults 18-49 demographic, a measure that much more closely reflects advertiser demand. Fox appears headed to a second-place finish in that demo, ahead of ABC in third and CBS in fourth.

With “Deaf Man” on its team Sunday, CBS averaged a nightlong 19.4/29, more than double the results of second-place Fox (9.6/14).

NBC (8.8/13) and ABC (8.4/13) trailed, although a noticeable adjustment may be made to NBC’s average (because of the football overrun) when final numbers are released Tuesday. In adults 18-49, Fox led its 7-10 p.m. block with an 8.5/18, but CBS’ 7-11 p.m. average (8.8/19) was higher. It was CBS’ first Sunday 18-49 victory in six weeks.

Among the night’s highly promoted theatricals, “The Santa Clause” (11.2/17) stuffed ABC’s stocking nicely, but NBC’s “Legends of the Fall” (8.8/13) wilted. ABC’s 9-11 p.m. vidpic “Dead by Midnight” (5.5/8) was, in fact, dead by about 9:05.

CBS’ “Deaf Man” has made itself heard with the third-highest “Hallmark Hall of Fame” rating since the early ’70s, behind only “Sarah, Plain and Tall” (23.1/35) and the ’79 pic “Aunt Mary” (25.2/40), both on CBS. It was CBS’ top Sunday-film rating of any type since “Queen, Part 1″ (24.7/38) on Feb. 14, 1993, boosting the Eye to its strongest Sunday nightlong rating with regular programming since Nov. 13, 1994 (“Scarlett, Part 1″).

If these preliminary numbers hold up, CBS is expected to emerge from the night with a 0.4 rating point advantage over NBC in the November households race. It’s an edge that seems virtually unassailable, given NBC’s relatively routine programming the rest of the sweeps.

NBC eschews household tallies, which have no business application, but the Peacock does report total viewers (likewise of no use to advertisers), a race NBC is also likely to lose to CBS this month. By most measures that matter to advertisers, NBC remains well in front this month and CBS is generally running fourth.

Each household rating point represents 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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