Kids, crooks help CBS push sweeps to wire

CBS has inched ahead of NBC in primetime Nielsen households results for the Nov. 10-16 week, allowing the Eye to hold onto a surprising lead two-thirds of the way through the November sweeps.

NBC remains in control of the key adults 18-49 demo, where surging Fox is a solid second for both the week and the sweeps. In fact, counting only the 15 “common time” hours programmed by Fox, the News Corp. net tied NBC for last week’s 18-49 crown. Households winner CBS remained fourth for the week and the month in adults 18-49 and in its target demo, adults 25-54.

Upstart CBS is now considered a legitimate threat to win the month in households — that race will probably go down to the wire — but the sweeps-month 18-49 war is virtually over, with NBC looking like a sure thing to win, and Fox closing in on a stunning second-place finish.

Last week’s CBS households win was keyed by Friday’s “Kids Say the Darndest Things” (which joins the sked as a series Jan. 9), the second-highest-rated “Touched By an Angel” ever and boosts from multiple-parters “Bella Mafia” and “The Third Twin.”

It was CBS’ first outright weeklong win since last May, and first during a November sweeps in three years. The Eye tied NBC for first the week before last.

WB also excelled last week, leaping to its highest weeklong rating ever thanks to season-high Wednesday and Sunday results. The netlet’s Monday sked also soared to record levels this week.

Through Monday of this week — 19 nights into the four-week November sweeps — household averages are CBS, a 10.2 rating, 16 share (down in rating by 1% vs. the same period last year); NBC, 10.0/16 (down 12%); ABC, 9.4/15 (down 7%); Fox, 8.2/13 (up 8%).

In adults 18-49, it’s: NBC, 6.8/16 (down 8%); Fox, 6.2/16 (up 11%); ABC, 5.5/14 (down 5%); CBS, 4.3/11 (down 4%).

Last week’s adults 18-49 averages were NBC, a 6.8/18 (down 12%); Fox, 6.3/16 (up 21%); ABC, 5.4/14 (down 5%); CBS, 4.4/12 (down 6%); UPN, 2.0/5 (down 13%); WB, 1.7/4 (up 21%). NBC has yet to lose a week this season in the 18-49 demo.

Monday

WB grabbed the Nov. 17 spotlight, bounding to a 4.2 rating, 6 share, its strongest nightlong rating ever against standard programming. The netlet’s only higher-rated night came Oct. 9, 1996, against the Vice Presidential debate. WB took Monday among teens by a margin of 3 shares.

WB’s charge was led by “7th Heaven” (4.8/7), the top-rated WB drama ever and the netlet’s highest-rated show of any type against non-political competition.

Rival weblet UPN also managed its best Monday since Nov. 4, 1996, earning a 3.5/5.

Football scored an 11th-straight Monday homes win for ABC with a 13.4/22 for the Buffalo-Miami match.

Fox snuck ahead 8-10 p.m. in adults 18-49, led by the most beguiling rookie of the fall, “Ally McBeal” (7.7/12 in homes, 5.8/14 in adults 18-49). “Ally” set a new series 18-49 record for a third-straight week, retained 100% of its 18-49 lead-in from “Melrose Place” for the first time and intercepted the hour’s adults 18-34 lead from football.

Sunday

Record ratings for “King of the Hill” and “World’s Funniest!” propelled Fox’s dominant schedule to a 6-share Sunday victory in adults 18-49. A 28-minute football overrun led into that lineup with Fox’s highest primetime rating of any sort since Super Bowl Sunday.

The second-highest-rated seg ever of “Touched By an Angel” kept CBS far ahead in homes and an easy second in 18-49 results. It was the highest-rated Sunday for CBS since May 11 (“The Last Don”). Part one of “Bella Mafia” rubbed out the competition in homes, but was third, just 3 shares out of fourth, in adults 18-49.

NBC’s Sunday woes continued with season lows for “Dateline” and “Jenny.” The latter show finished fourth for its half-hour in adults 18-49, 5 shares out of third place and just 3 shares ahead of WB.

ABC got ugly numbers from “Medusa’s Child,” lower than 14 of 15 first episodes of multiple parters aired on the Big Three last season.

WB rallied to its highest-rated Sunday since Feb. 23.

Saturday

Fox apprehended the Saturday win in adults 18-49, with the highest-rated “America’s Most Wanted” in that demo in seven months. CBS led in homes with season highs for “Dr. Quinn” and “Walker, Texas Ranger.”

Oddly, NBC’s “Profiler” declined by 14% in adults 18-49, despite a 13% boost in its lead-in, when “Pretender” subbed for the put-to-sleep “Sleepwalkers.” In homes, it was the lowest-rated firstrun “Profiler” ever.

Friday

CBS hit it big with a second “Kids Say the Darndest Things” spec, that network’s best entertainment performer in that slot since Feb. 12, 1994 (“Miss USA”). “Darndest” more than doubled CBS’ sitcom average in that 8-9 p.m. hour this fall among adults 25-54 (a 6.3 rating vs. a 2.8).

ABC’s competing comedies attracted more than twice as many kids and teens as “Darndest,” but trailed by 6 shares in adults 25-54.

The Alphabet net still pulled out the night, when “20/20” reported its best rating since May, but Fridays are still completely up for grabs — all four nets finished the night last week with either a 13 or 14 share in adults 18-49.

NBC’s disappointing “Players” finished deep in last during its hour among adults 18-49, 3 shares out of third. At 10 p.m., struggling “Homicide” rallied to its highest homes rating since Feb. 9, 1996, as a crossover with “Law & Order” brought more than a 50% increase over “Homicide’s” previous-week results.

Thursday

NBC got its best Thursday since premiere week, though “Union Square” and “Veronica’s Closet” continue to cool. Last week, both rookies slipped to their lowest retentions to date of their 18-49 lead-ins, 78% for “Union” and 80% for “Closet.”

Nine days after setting a Tuesday 8-9 p.m. 18-49 record for Fox, “Scariest Police Chases 3” rolled to that net’s best Thursday 9-10 p.m. 18-49 rating since the ’96 World Series.

CBS’ first try with former NBC series “Unsolved Mysteries” resulted in the Eye’s weakest 25-54 rating in that 10-11 p.m. slot in four weeks.

“Cracker” crumbled to what’s apparently ABC’s lowest firstrun in-season rating ever that hour.

Wednesday

ABC won the evening, though an off-night for “PrimeTime Live” dropped the Alphabet’s 8-11 p.m. 18-49 average behind Fox’s 8-10 p.m. average. ABC’s fading “Ellen” again suffered its weakest post-“Drew Carey” 18-49 retention to date — 79%. (Slot rival “Working” managed a 97% retention following “3rd Rock From the Sun.”)

Fox’s emerging hit “Party of Five” improved again on its 18-49 lead-in from “Beverly Hills 90210,” this time by 6%.

“Bloopers” stumbled across the best 18-49 rating for NBC in that 8-9 p.m. hour, excluding the World Series, since last April 23 (“Country Music Awards”). Despite that beefy lead-in, “3rd Rock” fell 10 shares behind the “Full Monty” episode of slot rival “Drew Carey” in adults 18-49.

In its second try at 8 p.m., “Star Trek: Voyager” set UPN slot records in households and key female demos. WB countered by tying what was at the time its second-highest nightlong rating ever. “Sister, Sister” contributed its highest WB rating to date.

Tuesday

ABC wrested back Tuesday from NBC by airing a rerun “Home Improvement” at 8 p.m., which allowed ABC to beat an original “Mad About You” for the first time since May 6. With “Improvement” leading off the night, “Soul Man” did better in rerun at 8:30 than it’s managed in three firstrun tries at 8 p.m. Then the 9 p.m., “Improvement” built its sturdiest rating since October 1996.

NBC slipped in the other direction, as “Just Shoot Me” misfired for this season’s weakest retention of its 18-49 leadin — 80%.

CBS’ “The Third Twin” finished its two-night run with an average 11.9/18, placing it behind seven of 15 firstrun multiple-parters aired on the nets last season. “Twin, Part 2’s” 13 share in adults 25-54 nearly doubled CBS’ previous-week 7 in that slot.

“Die Hard 3” earned Fox’s best Tuesday-pic 18-49 results since April.

Monday

ABC led the Nov. 10 standings with S.F.-Philadelphia football (Daily Variety, Nov. 12).

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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