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‘Odyssey’ gives Eye sharp poke for sweeps

“The Last Don” has rigged the May 12-18 primetime Nielsen numbers game in CBS’ favor, but NBC still towers above the competition in the important demos thanks to “The Odyssey,” which delivered a painful poke in the Eye’s hopes for an upset sweeps-month victory.

Through Monday of this week, with two nights left to count in the May sweeps, household averages are: NBC, a 10.5 rating, 18 share (down 13% in rating vs. results for the same period last year); CBS, 10.3/17 (up 7%); ABC, 8.8/15 (down 3%); Fox, 7.2/12 (even).

In the key adults 18-49 demo, the only race is for second, with Fox needing a rally if it’s to catch ABC in total prime figures. Fox is already second counting only the 15 “common time” hours it programs, and Fox is anticipating its third straight sweeps-month runner-up finish by that measure.

Total prime 18-49 averages for the sweeps are: NBC, a 7.0 rating (down 10%); ABC, 5.4 (up 6%); Fox, 5.2 (up 4%); CBS, 4.4 (up 5%). Fox expects to finish the month with its highest May 18-49 average in three years.

CBS led six of seven nights last week in households, marking the first time any web has managed that feat without major sports help since ABC won May 9-15, 1994 (with “The Stand” and “Terminator 2”). CBS also won three of seven nights in adults 25-54, but won no nights in adults 18-49. Advertisers tend to pay a premium for viewers in that demo (and younger), who are generally tough to reach and whose buying habits may be, theoretically, more influenced by advertising.

For a second week in a row, NBC snuck ahead of CBS in total viewers, despite CBS boasting the higher percentage in households. That seeming disparity reflects more people watching per viewing household in homes tuned to NBC than in homes tuned to CBS.

CBS’ “The Last Don” (the Eye’s highest-rated mini since November 1994’s “Scarlett”) and a couple of powerful Friday specials kept alive CBS’ hopes for an improbable upset sweeps win in households, and that’s put added pressure on NBC’s late-sweeps stunts to pull out the win.

It looks like “The Odyssey” has answered that call, winning big Sunday and Monday while earning the second-highest rating of 15 multiple-parters aired on the nets this season.

Still, NBC needs a big late-sweeps rally to avoid giant year-to-year losses. Through Monday night (after both nights of “The Odyssey”), the Peacock is down this month by 10% in adults 25-54, 17% in adults 18-34 and 12% in teens.

Last week’s adults 18-49 averages were: NBC, 7.2/20 (up 3%); Fox, 5.3/15 (up 6%); CBS, 4.8/14 (up 30%); ABC, 4.7/13 (down 15%); UPN, 1.7/5 (even); WB, 1.2/3 (up 33%).

Monday

“The Odyssey” has slain the competition on Monday of this week, earning a part-two 16.7 rating, 26 share, for a two-night average of 17.0/26. “Odyssey” teamed with the highest-rated “National Geographic” spec in a year (8.7/14) to give NBC its top-rated Monday since “Asteroid” 12 weeks ago.

NBC notes that “Odyssey” finished a bit taller than February 1996’s “Gulliver’s Travels” in adults 18-49 (12.4/29 vs. 12.2/27). Combined with “Asteroid” and “Pandora’s Clock,” “Odyssey” gives NBC the season’s three highest-rated multiple-parters in adults 18-49 for a second straight season.

Fox was easily second for the night in adults 18-49 with the season wrap-up of “Melrose Place” (8.9/14 in homes), which improved by a strong 8% over its year-ago finale in that demo.

Sunday

Part one of “The Odyssey” sailed off with an easy NBC Sunday win. It was the highest-rated film on any net since “Schindler’s List” on Feb. 23.

Backed by a big promo push, NBC’s “3-D” episode of “3rd Rock From the Sun” eclipsed CBS’ divine “Touched by an Angel” in key demos, with a 5-share win in adults 25-54.

The Eye’s “True Women” got off to a solid start in homes, trailing just four first-episode ratings among the 15 multiple-parters aired this season. In demos, however, “Women” was trampled by “The Odyssey,” managing just half the 25-54 audience of the NBC multi.

Fox’s “Busted on the Job” stole the 7-8 p.m. hour in adults 18-49 and finished a surprising second in households. At 9 p.m., the season closer for “The X-Files” topped its year-ago Friday finale by 30% in adults 18-49.

Fox is up 53% in adults 18-49 on Sundays this May, the biggest increase for any net on any night.

Saturday

“Bloopers” and a two-hour “Pretender” carried NBC to a solid 3- share win in adults 18-49, though it was the lowest-rated “Bloopers” spec since July ’93. CBS led in homes, despite dropping a steep 24% from the year-ago Saturday.

Friday

ABC survived Friday with a narrow 18-49 win, though a disastrous 8-9 p.m. magic special caused much of the Alphabet’s audience to disappear. ABC was last in the slot among adults 18-49, with its worst average since at least 1994 and possibly ever.

Embarrassing ABC that hour was the Bill Cosby-hosted “Kids Say the Darndest Things,” CBS’ highest-rated program there since Feb. 3, 1995 (“Diagnosis Murder”). “Darndest” scored a 19 share among adults 25-54, topping results for 32 of 34 episodes to date of Cosby’s Monday sitcom.

Also getting socked by “Darndest” was NBC’s “Unsolved Mysteries,” which staggered to the worst in-season regular-slot rating in that show’s nine seasons.

CBS strolled off with nightlong honors in households and adults 25- 54. “Miss Universe” helped with its most attractive figures in four years.

Thursday

NBC’s lineup wrapped its big season with an easy win, as “ER” sewed up its best 18-49 rating yet for a season-ending episode. A special 8:30 “Fired Up” fizzled, holding just 82% of its 18-49 lead-in from “Friends.” That’s NBC’s worst retention in the slot since Feb. 8, 1996 (“The Single Guy”).

Only Fox could make things interesting, as “Scariest Police Shootouts” earned Fox’s best non-sports 18-49 rating that hour in more than two years.

Wednesday

CBS’ “The Last Don” ruled the Wednesday households race, while ABC and Fox snuck ahead in adults 18-49. “Don’s” third episode earned CBS’ best Wednesday-pic rating since Nov. 16, 1994 (“Scarlett”). “Don’s” three-night 15.9/25 households average is third best among 15 multiple-parters this season (behind only “Asteroid” and “The Odyssey”).

“Coach” staged a modest rally with its final episode, scoring ABC’s second-best 18-49 rating that hour in 11 weeks. At 9:30, “Ellen” continues to show a little post-outing momentum, building by 1% on its 18-49 lead-in from “Drew Carey” in a slot where ABC had previously seen big losses.

NBC’s Wednesday lineup is limping to the season’s finish line. Just a week before its finale, “Wings” got clipped for its lowest firstrun rating ever.

Fox almost caught ABC for the night in adults 18-49, as “When Stunts Go Bad” nearly doubled Fox’s previous-week 18-49 score in that slot with “Pacific Palisades” (6.4 vs. 3.3).

UPN’s “Star Trek: Voyager” crashed to its lowest firstrun rating to date.

Tuesday

“The Last Don” collected CBS’ first outright Tuesday households win with regular programming since March 15, 1994, but ABC successfully defended its adults 18-49 turf.

NBC’s “Caroline in the City” impressed with its two season-closing episodes, earning NBC’s best 18-49 builds in the post-“Mad About You” and post-“Frasier” slots since August (excepting a night on which a second “Mad” ran at 8:30), up 9% and 12%, respectively. It was also the biggest regular-programming 18-49 build ever after a firstrun “Frasier.”

The rugged competition dropped “NYPD Blue” to another series-low firstrun rating. The last four firstrun episodes of “Blue” have been its four lowest-rated ever.

Monday

On Monday, May 12, “Video Justice” kept Fox first in adults 18-49, while CBS led in homes and adults 25-54 (Daily Variety, May 14).

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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