Webs struggle with Saturday skeds

NBC’s Saturday rookie “Sleepwalkers” has gotten off to a drowsy start in preliminary Nielsens for Nov. 1, limiting the NBC lineup to a modest adults 18-49 victory from the premiere of its Saturday-night “Thrillogy” series lineup. In households, CBS beat the NBC schedule by 3 shares, but was down 20% vs. year-ago results.

Preliminary Friday nationals showed ABC moving back into the lead on that night, while NBC’s fading rookie “Players” was haunted by Halloween distractions.

Final nationals for Thursday were dominated, as usual, by the NBC lineup despite season lows for all of the night’s regulars except “Seinfeld.”

Final Friday and Saturday nationals will be released today and Tuesday,respectively, but adjustments to the preliminary numbers are expected to be minor.

Sleepy bow numbers

On Saturday, “Sleepwalkers” stumbled to a fourth-place 5.8 rating, 10 share in homes and a tied-for-second 4.0/12 in adults 18-49. That’s a 34% drop in homes from the slot debut for “The Pretender” in that hour last fall.

An equally foreboding sign for “Sleepwalkers” is that NBC did considerably better in the hour before and the hour after the rookie thriller’s premiere. Both “The Pretender” (7.6/13 in homes and 4.9/15 in adults 18-49) at 8 p.m. and “Profiler” (6.8/13, 4.8/14) led their hours in adults 18-49.

For the night, NBC’s lineup averaged a second-place 6.7/12 in homes, down 7% vs. the year-ago Saturday, Nov. 2, and down 21% vs. that lineup’s six-weeks-earlier 1996 premieres. In adults 18-49, NBC won the night with a 4.6/14, equaling the lineup’s year-ago Nov. 2 average but down 18% vs. their year-ago premieres.

That soft performance has to be somewhat of a disappointment for NBC, which made big demo strides on Saturdays last season (up 10% in adults 18-49).

The competition has been far from fierce on Saturdays this fall. Last week, Fox (6.3/11 in homes, 4.3/13 in adults 18-49) was able to equal its year-ago 18-49 rating, but CBS (8.6/15, 4.1/12) was down 20% and ABC (6.5/12, 2.7/8) tumbled by 29%. Surprisingly, ABC’s U.S. Pro Figure Skating Championships couldn’t even match the Alphabet’s last-place season-to-date Saturday 18-49 marks (2.9/9).

‘Players’ outplayed

Friday’s disappointment was NBC’s “Players” (5.9/11 in homes, 2.9/10 in adults 18-49), which fell to fourth that hour in adults 18-49, 17% below its previous lowest rating. The Peacock was also last 10-11 p.m. with the tiring “Homicide” (6.6/13, 3.4/11).

CBS spooked the Friday competition with “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” (6.4/12 in homes, 3.8/14 in adults 18-49). The “Peanuts” spec rose 36% above the 18-49 average of slot regular “Family Matters,” despite hovering 14% below “Pumpkin’s” year-ago heights.

Thus, CBS finished Friday night down just 3% from its year-ago 18-49 result, while ABC (down 24%), NBC (down 19%) and Fox (down 29%) all got clobbered, in large part because of Halloween (which didn’t fall on a Friday last year).

On Thursday, the killer NBC lineup (18.1/28 in homes) started the sweeps with its usual huge win, though both “Union Square” and “Veronica’s Closet” fell to lowest-yet retentions of their 18-49 lead-ins (79% and 84%, respectively). “Union’s” was NBC’s lowest in that slot since Feb. 8, 1996 (“The Single Guy”).

With just three nights counted, and results for two of them not yet final, early sweeps averages are of limited significance. NBC is way ahead with roughly a 10.7/18 in homes (down 6%) and a 7.5 rating in adults 18/49 (down 3%). Fox is second in adults 18-49 with a 3.8 (down 17%), followed by CBS’ 3.7 (down 3%) and ABC’s 3.6 (down 8%). In homes, CBS is second with an 8.5/14 (down 3%), followed by ABC’s 7.4/13 (down 10%) and Fox’s 5.6/10 (down 14%).

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