Groovy ‘ ’70s’ preem boosts Fox Sunday punch

Show fills 'King'-size hole

Fox’s pivotal Sunday lineup has received a key boost with the promising premiere of ”That ’70s Show,” the first debuting series ever to improve on its adults 18-49 lead-in from a firstrun ”The Simpsons.”

According to preliminary national Nielsens for Sunday night, ” ’70s” premiered with a 7.5 rating, 13 share in households and a 7.0/19 in adults 18-49. That 18-49 score is 17% better than results from the slot’s lead-in, ”The Simpsons” (7.0/13 in homes, 6.0/19 in adults 18-49).

Previously, Fox’s best premiere after a firstrun ”Simpsons” came with the January 1997 debut of ”King of the Hill,” which equaled its 18-49 lead-in.

This fall, ”’70s” will be trying to fill the void left by the switch of ”King” to Fox’s Tuesday schedule. Since both ”Simpsons” and ”X-Files” have dropped in ratings in the past when Fox has subbed for ”King,” the pressure is on ”’70s” to draw big numbers and help maintain Fox’s Sunday audience levels.

”That ’70s Show” won its slot in virtually all key demos, including adults, men and women in the 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54 breakouts.

Fox didn’t fare as well at 7:30 p.m. with the premiere of ”Holding the Baby” (3.7/7 in homes, 2.8/10 in adults 18-49), which crawled 7% behind its 18-49 lead-in, but a football overrun in the East renders those preliminary results somewhat unreliable. Updated numbers (due today) may tell a different story. ”Baby” was third for its half-hour in adults 18-49 and fourth in homes.

Fox used up a firstrun ”Simpsons” to hype the early launch of the Sunday sitcoms. Last season, ”Simpsons” debuted with a 10.7/17 and averaged a 9.8/15 with firstruns through the season. Sunday’s prelim 7.0/13 reps the lowest-rated firstrun Sunday ”Simpsons” since May 5, 1996.

Those preliminary nationals show Fox still winning the night by five shares in adults 18-49, while CBS moved ahead by four shares in households.

Each household rating point reps an estimated 980,000 homes, or 1% of the country’s TV households. 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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