Cows wow, skeds skid in ratings

Hartman tribute propels NBC

CBS’ telecast of the Country Music Assn. Awards has claimed primetime Nielsen honors for Wednesday, but with what is apparently lowest-ever numbers.

It’s an appropriate twist for yet another night of across-the-schedule losses in a premiere week filled with ratings dropoffs. All six broadcast networks were down in adults 18-49 that night vs. their results during last year’s premiere week. NBC continues to suffer the heftiest falloffs among the Big Four, down by 16% Wednesday after declines of 26% Tuesday and 14% on Monday.

Stars of the Wednesday Nielsens include “NewsRadio’s” Phil Hartman tribute (9.5 rating, 14 share in homes, 6.5/15 in adults 18-49), up a stellar 25% over its 18-49 lead-in from “3rd Rock,” and the second-season premiere of ABC’s “Dharma & Greg” (10.4/18 in homes, 7.0/21 in adults 18-49), up 30% over ABC’s year-earlier 18-49 rating in that slot with “Spin City.”

Biggest disappointments included ABC’s summer success “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” (7.5/11 in homes, 5.8/14 in adults 18-49), down 27% vs. its 18-49 lead-in, and that net’s new Wednesday edition of “20/20” (8.4/14 in homes, 4.7/12 in adults 18-49), down 27% from its previous-week premiere 18-49 numbers.

CBS’ kudocast led the night with a 12.3/19 in homes (down 8% from last year) and 6.8/18 in adults 18-49 (down 7%). In the 18-49 demo, CBS was followed by ABC’s 6.1/16 (down 2%), Fox’s 5.8/15 (down 3%); NBC’s 5.3/14 (down 16%); UPN’s 1.2/3 (down 50% in rerun); and WB’s 1.2/3 (down 25% in rerun).

The households finish behind CBS was: NBC, 9.4/15 (down 8%); ABC, 9.0/14 (down 5%); Fox, 7.1/11 (down 10%); WB, 2.6/4 (down 26% in rerun); UPN, 2.3/4 (down 41% in rerun).

The 12.3/19 of CBS’ CMA Awards reps the lowest tally for that kudocast since at least 1980 and probably ever. It was still CBS’ top-rated Wednesday since the Grammys last February.

Big losses

NBC’s double-digit losses so far this season largely reflect unusual success during the year-ago week with several potent premiere-week stunts. Wednesday’s NBC figures were nevertheless fairly discouraging.

“Dateline NBC” (7.9/13 in homes, 3.6/10 in adults 18-49) topped last year’s premiere performances in that slot by the quickly canceled “Tony Danza Show” and “Built to Last” by just 6% in adults 18-49.

At 9 p.m., “3rd Rock From the Sun” (8.1/12 in homes, 5.2/13 in adults 18-49) was down 32% from its year-ago 18-49 result and “Law and Order” (11.4/18 in homes, 6.6/17 in adults 18-49) was off by 16%.

NBC’s bright spot was “NewsRadio,” which tuned in its highest Nielsen frequency since last Jan. 13 with an episode that addressed the death of cast member Phil Hartman.

Over at ABC, “Drew Carey” (10.3/15 in homes, 7.9/19 in adults 18- 49) helped carry the Alphabet’s lineup, which continues to look like it’ll be the Wednesday leader once CBS goes back to its regular sked. At 8:30, “Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place” (8.9/14 in homes, 6.3/17 in adults 18-49) is looking stale, down 10% from its 18-49 lead-in, while four of its five competitors were building audience.

Fox remains a solid Wednesday presence with “Beverly Hills, 90210” (6.9/11 in homes, down 14%, and 5.7/16 in adults 18-49, down 5%) and “Party of Five” (7.2/11 in homes, down 6%, and 6.0/14 in adults 18-49, up 2%).

For the first time, “90210” faced slot competition from the WB’s “Dawson’s Creek” (2.4/4 in homes, 1.1/3 in adults 18-49), but the rerun “Dawson’s” appeared to have little impact.

Each household rating point represents an estimated 994,000 homes, or 1% of the country’s TV households. Each adults 18-49 rating point reps 1.239 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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