Keeps NBC ahead despite Eye's NCAA playoffs

NBC’s Tuesday-through-Thursday comedies have highlighted a convincing March 16-22 primetime Nielsens victory for the Peacock.

After a bad stumble by Monday’s sitcom lineup, NBC reversed its comedy fortunes last week with promising premieres for the Tuesday rookies “For Your Love” and “Lateline,” a successful “Working” stunt Wednesday and a “Gazillion Laughs” promotion that eased the pain of an “ER”-less Thursday.

Those successes kept NBC comfortably first despite an impressive rebound by CBS’ NCAA basketball tournament. After a soft first week, the tourney managed an 8% increase vs. year-ago results Friday and 15% and 21% jumps respectively for brief Saturday and Sunday overruns.

CBS’ primetime rating for the tournament has caught up with last year’s, and now averages a 6.9/13. Figures that include overnight results for non-prime games show a 2% increase over last year with a 6.2/13, the highest average at this point for the tourney since 1994′s 6.6/15.

Adults 18-49 averages for the March 16-22 week were: NBC, 5.9 rating, 16 share (up 4% vs. results for the same week last year); Fox, 4.7/13 (down 4%); ABC, 4.6/13 (down 2%); CBS, 4.2/12 (down 5%); WB, 1.8/5 (up 38%); UPN, 1.2/3 (down 40%).

For the season, NBC is leading second-place Fox in this demo by 31% (a 6.7 rating vs. 5.1), which the Peacock says is the biggest 18-49 advantage at this point of the season in TV history.

Sunday

A demo boost from basketball helped CBS take Sunday in homes, adults 18-49 and adults 25-54 for a second straight week. “It Could Happen to You” just missed beating a rerun “X-Files” in adults 18-49 but otherwise dominated its competition.

Fox’s premiere of “Damon” (eventually headed to the Monday sked) retained 95% of its 18-49 lead-in from “The Simpsons” (Daily Variety, March 24). That’s down from the 109% average of slot regular “King of the Hill” but well ahead of the 83% Fox average for premieres in the post-”Simpsons” slot. “Damon” also won its half-hour in the 18-49 demo over the fast-closing “Little Rascals.”

“Rascals” tied for fifth-highest rating out of 23 “Wonderful World of Disney” pics this season and was last week’s top-rated telecast among kids 2-11.

Saturday

Fox won close four-way races in adults 18-49 and 25-54. CBS ran third by those measures despite a basketball boost, but won the night in homes.

“Beverly Hills Cop 3″ put the cuffs on ABC’s second-best 8-10 p.m. Saturday rating in 10 weeks. With that ABC boost, each of the Big Four finished within 4 shares of each other for the night in adults 18-49.

NBC’s “Pretender” dropped to its lowest firstrun rating of the season and lowest ever in that 9-10 p.m. hour.

Friday

This was the night the NCAA tournament began to pick up steam, virtually tying ABC in nightlong 18-49 averages (trailing in rating but leading in share).

An extra helping of ABC’s “Boy Meets World” at 9:30 p.m. retained 91% of its 18-49 lead-in from “Sabrina,” up from the 76% average of yanked slot predecessor “Hiller and Diller.”

Thursday

NBC’s “Night of a Gazillion Laughs” beat the combined 18-49 rating of the ABC-CBS-Fox competition. “Caroline in the City” doesn’t look like a 9:30 p.m. solution though, holding just 72% of its 18-49 lead-in from “Seinfeld,” NBC’s second-worst perf in the slot this season.

“Busted on the Job” turned in Fox’s best non-sports 18-49 rating in that slot since May 15.

“Waterworld” got sunk by soggy lead-ins on Sunday and Thursday and ended up with a foundering 8.0/13 two-night average.

Thursday’s lead-in, “Prey,” plunged to ABC’s worst regular-season rating in that slot since Christmas Eve 1987 and worst ever with regular firstrun programming.

Wednesday

“NewsRadio” joined NBC’s Wednesday lineup with its weakest firstrun signal this season, but NBC still finished a close second behind ABC for the night as a guest shot from “Wonder Years’ ” Danica McKellar on “Working” boosted that series to its top 18-49 rating to date (Daily Variety, March 20). Also, a special “Dateline” improved by 16% on the 18-49 average of slot regular “Law & Order.”

The special “Working” tossed ABC’s “Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place” to a 75% retention of its 18-49 lead-in, down from the 95% of “Pizza’s” premiere against easier competition.

Fox’s “Significant Others” is looking insignificant in Nielsen homes, falling last week to less than half the 18-49 average of slot regular “Party of Five” (3.2 vs. 6.5).

Tuesday

NBC got competitive starts out of “For Your Love” and “Lateline” (Daily Variety, March 19). “Love” held 97% of its 18-49 lead-in from “Mad About You,” topping the 90% average of slot predecessor “NewsRadio” and the 94% that night of slot rival “Something So Right.” “Lateline” retained 87%, down somewhat from the 95% for the past 10 airings of previous slot regular “Just Shoot Me,” but way ahead of ABC’s slot rival “That’s Life” and its weak 69%.

“The American Comedy Awards” settled for unfunny numbers in their first Fox try after 11 years on ABC. “ACA” fell 45% below last year’s tally and settled for Fox’s weakest Tuesday rating since Nov. 18.

CBS’ “48 Hours” finished deep in last for its hour in adults 25-54, but up 26% from what the quickly scrubbed “Four Corners” had averaged there.

UPN’s “Moesha” fell to its lowest firstrun rating ever and “Clueless” equaled its lowest firstrun ever.

Monday

The March 16 competition fell to Fox and its rookie hit “Ally McBeal” (Daily Variety, March 18). NBC struggled, with “Caroline in the City” slipping to what’s apparently the Peacock’s lowest firstrun regular-programming rating ever in that timeslot. “Suddenly Susan” also hit its lowest firstrun rating ever.

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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