Farley, Titanic float NBC

Boat buoys Discovery

The Chris Farley-David Spade pic “Tommy Boy” and a Titanic teen boost for Wednesday’s “Dateline” have nudged NBC back into first place in Aug. 10-16 primetime Nielsens.

It’s just the second outright household win for NBC without major sports help since the May sweeps. During that span, CBS has beaten NBC in homes four times and tied the Peacock twice.

Those household results remain a traditional measure of net performance, but have little business application. In adults 18-49, the demographic that perhaps most closely corresponds to advertising revenues, NBC remains undefeated for a 20th week in a row (the third-longest streak in TV history) and CBS stayed fourth.

Last week’s adults 18-49 averages were: NBC, a 4.0 rating, 13 share (down in rating by 9% vs. results for the same week last year); Fox, 3.3/11 (up 3%); ABC, 3.1/10 (down 16%); CBS, 2.7/9 (down 10%); WB, 1.2/4 (up 9%); UPN, 1.0/3 (down 38%).

NBC managed its minor rally last week when “Tommy Boy” earned the Peacock’s best Sunday 9-11 p.m. adults 18-49 rating since May 10, and Wednesday’s coverage of a dive to the remains of the Titanic lifted “Dateline” to NBC’s top non-hoops 18-49 rating in that hour since May 20. The Oscar-winning “Titanic” film has turned that sunken ship into a teen obsession, helping Wednesday’s “Dateline” finish the week as the sixth-highest-rated telecast among teens. The next highest-rated newsmag was 41st on that list.

That Titanic dive also scored big numbers for cable’s Discovery Channel, which earned a 2.2 rating nationally in adults 18-49 with Sunday’s “Titanic Live,” making it the week’s fourth-highest-rated cablecast in that demo.

The week’s top national primetime cable 18-49 averages were: HBO, 1.2/4 (even); TBS, 1.2/4 (up 100%); TNT, 0.8/3 (down 20%); USA, 0.8/3 (even); Discovery Channel, 0.7/2 (down 13%).

ABC may have gotten the week’s best news from Wednesday tryout “Whose Line Is It Anyway,” which, after two airings, is looking like the hit of the summer and a possible regular-season addition to the ABC sked.


National results for Aug. 17 weren’t available at press time, but results in the 40 markets metered by Nielsen showed ABC’s Dallas-New England gridcast edging NBC for first, scoring a 9.4 rating, 14 share from 8-10 p.m. The nets broke for President Clinton’s speech at 10 p.m., with NBC scoring the highest overnight ratings for that coverage.


Fox won the night in adults 18-49, and CBS led in homes. NBC was a close second in the 18-49 race as a second run of “Tommy Boy” beat by 23% the film’s first try on a February Saturday vs. the Olympics.

“60 Minutes” was the week’s top-rated show in households, but in adults 18-49, older-skewing “60” was merely 10th among 15 newsmagazines and 35th overall.

ABC is having trouble establishing its news/”The Practice” tandem in the traditional Sunday film slot. With last week’s 9-10 p.m. “Monicagate” newspec getting grilled in adults 18-49, ABC equaled its worst 18-49 average in that two-hour block since August 1997.


Every one of the night’s mediocre net primetime broadcasts was topped in Nielsen’s metered markets by NBC’s John Belushi “Saturday Night Live” retrospecial (6.2/17 in those markets), airing in latenight. The “SNL” national rating won’t be released till Thursday.

The NFL returned to CBS with Saturday’s San Francisco-Seattle preseason telecast, which compiled the Eye’s best Saturday 18-49 stats since May 16 and best male demos since a college hoopcast March 28. It was the top-rated Saturday preseason gridcast on any net since Aug. 24, 1996.

Fox’s regulars led 8-10 p.m. in both homes and adults 18-49 with the top-rated “America’s Most Wanted” since May. CBS’ football had the higher homes 8-11 p.m. average.

NBC’s “Op Center” struggled, but managed a 19% increase over 18-49 results for the comparable Friday-Saturday rerun of “Gulliver’s Travels” five weeks earlier.


“20/20” pushed ABC back ahead in the wide-open Friday race, winning the 10-11 p.m. newsmag battle with “Dateline” by 5 shares in adults 18-49. A switched-at-birth babies report from Barbara Walters boosted “20/20” to its best 18-49 numbers in 12 weeks.

Fox’s “Getting Personal” improved a bit, but not enough to prevent 9 p.m.’s “Millennium” from collapsing to a third-straight all-time low.


NBC stayed 8 shares ahead of the Thursday competition, but Fox’s young-skewing fare helped drop the Peacock 16% below year-ago results.

“Fox Files” shook out of a slump, beating its 18-49 average to date by 32% with a best-yet 3.7/11. “Files” reported better 18-49 numbers than last week’s “60 Minutes” and two editions of NBC’s “Dateline.”

Cleared in just 80% of the country due to Billy Graham preemptions, CBS’ “Promised Land” equaled its lowest rating ever.


Summer hit “Whose Line Is It Anyway” led ABC, coming up with the biggest improvement ever (17%) on a “Drew Carey” 18-49 lead-in in that slot (Daily Variety, Aug. 14).

The improv “gameshow” made life difficult for NBC’s imported animation sitcom “Stressed Eric,” which dropped 14% of its 18-49 lead-in, vs. an average 21% build for slot regular “Working.” NBC notes that even with its slow start, “Eric” doubled the 18-49 rating of that night’s rerun episode of “South Park” in the 53% of the country that receives Comedy Central.

NBC was a close second for the night, as Titanic coverage raised “Dateline” to a 5.6/21 among teens, 7 shares better than any other Wednesday telecast.


NBC moved back ahead in the Tuesday 18-49 race as Fox’s lineup lost a bit of momentum, but still earned the stronger average 8-10 p.m.

“Guinness World Records” slipped 23% below its premiere 18-49 rating of two weeks earlier, and “King of the Hill” declined to lowest-yet Tuesday figures.

The disappointment of the night, though, was ABC’s “Maximum Bob,” down by 25% in its second try, bringing “Bob” within 8% of what ABC was averaging in the 18-49 demo this summer with reruns of “NYPD Blue.”

CBS’ “JAG” won its slot in homes for the fifth time in seven tires.


Fox led Aug. 10 results in adults 18-49, while NBC took the homes race without winning a single half-hour (Daily Variety, Aug. 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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