NBC wins Tuesday, but night’s ratings down

Fox's 'King' takes a beating

NBC eked out a victory Tuesday night, but the bloody competition took its toll. NBC and ABC fell 26% and 24%, respectively, behind their year-ago Tuesday premieres in the key adults 18-49 demo.

One of the few bright spots for the night was from ABC’s rookie sitcom “The Hughleys,” which built on its adults 18-49 lead-in from “Home Improvement,” while NBC’s frosh sitcom “Encore! Encore!” and ABC’s “Sports Night” each eroded significantly from their lead-ins.

CBS also had some good news. The Eye web improved in households and demos vs. last year, and its sleeper drama “JAG” actually defeated “King of the Hill” among young adults in its first half-hour.

Fox, in fact, got its clock cleaned after that poor showing for “King of the Hill” at 8 p.m. The web placed fourth in homes and tied for third with CBS in key demos, but still registered dramatic gains over its disastrous movie performance last year.

Peacock prime

For the night, NBC was first in homes with a 10.3/17 (down 26% from last year) and adults 18-49 (down 26%), based largely on the decisive 10 p.m. “Dateline” victory. ABC was third in homes with an 8.4/14 (down 26%) and second in demos with a 6.0 (down 24%). CBS was second in homes with a 9.6/16 (up 5%) and tied for third in adults 18-49 with a 4.1 (up 11%). Fox placed fourth in homes with a 5.7/9 (up 50%) and tied for third among adults 18-49 (up 64%).

ABC actually beat NBC from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. with head-to-head sitcom blocks, which means NBC’s nightlong victory may be short-lived once “NYPD Blue” returns. Also debuting next week are the WB’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Felicity,” which could make the Tuesday competish even more interesting. (UPN doesn’t premiere until October.)

ABC’s “Home Improvement” (10.5/17 in homes and 7.0 among adults 18-49) won the scrappy 8 p.m. battle, edging out NBC’s “Mad About You” (10.2/17 and 6.6). “Home” was up 9% in young adults compared with last year’s timeslot debut, while “Mad” was off a full 40% from last year’s stellar baby-naming bow.

“JAG” (10.4/17 and 4.3) placed third for the half-hour in homes and demos, while “King of the Hill” (5.1/8 and 3.7) was fourth. “King of the Hill” actually tumbled 33% among young adults from its season premiere last week, when it faced repeat competition.

‘The Hughleys’ wins

At 8:30 p.m., ABC’s “The Hughleys” won the demo race (7.7) against NBC’s “Encore!” (5.7) after the frosh ABC sitcom built 10% on its 18-49 lead-in. “The Hughleys” still dropped 18% below the year-ago timeslot performance with a “Home Improvement” repeat, while “Encore” lost 14% of “Mad’s” lead-in audience and fell 29% below the premiere of “NewsRadio’s” demo bow last season.

“JAG” took the 8:30 p.m. half-hour in homes, while Fox’s struggling comedy “Costello” (4.0/6 and 3.1) placed a distant fourth after tumbling 16% from its young adults lead-in and 31% from its premiere last week.

NBC’s “Just Shoot Me” won the 9 p.m. race, as expected, but not by nearly as comfortable a margin as most people predicted. “Just Shoot Me” averaged a 10.7/17 in homes and a 7.9 among adults 18-49, just a hair ahead of ABC’s “Spin City” (10.1/16 and 7.6). “Shoot” was 25% behind the “Frasier” premiere in the timeslot last season, and “Spin” was 37% below its timeslot debut last year.

Sitcom race

The close 9 p.m. sitcom race and year-to-year erosion may be attributable to the fact that “Shoot” and “Spin” target the same young, urban viewers, whereas “Frasier” and “Home Improvement” have very different audience compositions.

At 9:30 p.m., NBC’s “Working” (8.6/13 and 6.5) defeated ABC’s rookie “Sports Night” (8.7/14 and 6.1) among adults 18-49, although the CBS movie led the half-hour in homes. “Working” lost 18% of its young adults lead-in and was 27% below the timeslot premiere last year, while “Sports Night” tumbled 20% from lead-in and 25% below the premiere of “Hiller and Diller” last year.

NBC’s “Dateline” dominated the 10 p.m. hour with an 11.1/18 in homes and a 6.6 in young adult demos, but the newsmag was still down 15% from its year-ago performance.

Judging from the showing for ABC’s “Sex With Cindy Crawford” special, viewers appear to be tired of sex on TV after being saturated with the details of President Clinton’s affair. ABC’s “Sex” rated a third-place 5.1/9 in homes and 3.3 among young adults, trailing the CBS movie and last year’s timeslot rating in both categories.

Overall, the CBS showing of the theatrical “Primal Fear” averaged a 9.3/16 in homes and a 4.2 in demos, up 2% in homes and 17% in demos from last year’s 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. average with the dramas “Michael Hayes” and “Dellaventura.”

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