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Summer slump over

Football boosts ABC; Fox's ''70s' preem far-out

CBS has won the households race and NBC the adults 18-49 battle in Aug. 17-23 primetime Nielsen results that suggest the worst of the summer doldrums are over.

More fall-like numbers were in evidence starting on Monday, when the return of football to the ABC lineup boosted that net to second for the week in adults 18-49 with its closest finish behind NBC since Oscar week. Then Fox scored far-out premiere numbers with Sunday’s “That ’70s Show,” the week’s top-rated telecast in adults 18-49.

CBS’ households victory marked the fifth time in six weeks the Eye has beaten or tied NBC by that measure, but the Peacock stayed undefeated in adults 18-49 for the 21st straight week.

The Aug. 17-23 adults 18-49 averages were: NBC, a 3.8 rating, 12 share (down 21% in rating vs. results for the same week last year); ABC, 3.6/11 (down 5%); Fox, 3.3/11 (up 6%); CBS, 2.9/9 (down 12%); WB, 1.3/4 (up 8%); UPN, 0.9/3 (down 47%). ABC’s 3.6 was its highest average since May.

National primetime 18-49 averages for the top cable services last week were: HBO, 1.3/4 (up 18%); TBS, 1.0.3 (up 25%); TNT, 0.9/3 (even); ESPN, 0.9/3 (up 13%); USA, 0.8/3 (down 11%).

Monday

ABC has finished atop the Aug. 24 standings with a Green Bay-Denver Super Bowl rematch (9.5 rating, 16 share) that scored the highest pre-season NFL rating in the two years since Aug. 19, 1996 (Minnesota-Miami, 9.6/17).

Fox snuck ahead of ABC in the night’s 8-10 p.m. adults 18-49 averages but ABC’s 8-11 p.m. score was higher. NBC hung in the race with the top-rated Monday “Dateline” (11.2/19) since June 8.

Sunday

The successful launch of “That ’70s Show” propelled Fox to a 5-share Sunday victory in adults 18-49 (Daily Variety, Aug. 25). “That ’70s” is the first Fox show ever to earn the week’s highest 18-49 rating with its debut episode. The retro-sitcom also built on its 18-49 leadin by 16%, making it the first Fox premiere to ever improve on a firstrun “Simpsons” leadin.

Fox got tiny numbers from its 7:30 premiere of “Holding the Baby” but did manage to retain 100% of the slot’s 18-49 leadin from “World’s Funniest!” “Baby” also won that half-hour in teens and adults 18-34.

CBS led the night in households as “Nothing Lasts Forever” earned the best first-episode rating of any rerun multiple-parter aired on the nets since July 1997.

NBC’s “U.S. Gymnastics Champions” fell off the beam, down 20% from year-ago results, resulting in that event’s lowest marks in at least five years.

Saturday

Fox’s regulars captured the night in adults 18-49 despite equaling their lowest average in that demo since Aug. 2, 1997. CBS led in households.

ABC’s “Videos” is picking up Saturday momentum, last week finishing just a share out of the slot lead in adults 18-49.

Friday

This night is a virtual three-way dead heat, with only Fox out of the race. ABC, NBC and CBS all finished within a share of each other in adults 18-49 last Friday and within a 10th of a rating point of each other in homes.

Thursday

Fox tried to chip away at NBC’s Thursday domination with a couple of “Simpsons” reruns but fell 25% below what “World’s Wildest Police Videos” had been averaging in that hour — results that suggest Fox programmers got it right when they decided against shifting “King of the Hill” to Thursdays this fall.

So NBC won the night by 8 shares in adults 18-49, though “Working” flopped in a special Thursday try. The Fred Savage sitcom held just 79% of its 18-49 leadin from “Friends,” the worst retention in that slot for NBC since Jan. 15 (75% by “Union Square”).

“Nightline’s” third “Crime and Punishment” special helped ABC apprehend its best Thursday numbers since March 12.

Wednesday

“Whose Line Is It Anyway?” came up with more hit numbers, building on its 18-49 leadin from “Drew Carey” by 12% (Daily Variety, Aug. 21). Failing firstrun slot-rival “Stressed Eric,” meanwhile, faded to what’s apparently the worst regular-sked rating ever for NBC in that slot.

NBC may have stumbled onto something, though, at 8 p.m., where “Bloopers” earned the Peacock’s best 18-49 rating in that slot in 10 weeks.

Tuesday

NBC edged Fox and ABC for the nightlong 18-49 win, but “Guinness World Records” led Fox to the best 8-10 p.m aver-age.

ABC’s “Home Improvement” is taking control of the 8-8:30 p.m. half-hour, winning last week by 5 shares in adults 18-49. At 10 p.m., “Maximum Bob” in its third try failed to improve on its disappointing week-two 4.0/12 in adults 18-49.

Bumped from Monday by the Clinton sex scandal, CBS’ “Miss Teen USA” drooped 15% below its year-ago rating, resulting in scrawniest-yet network figures for that pageant. “Miss Teen” still attracted CBS’ best non-sports teen rating in that slot since the pageant aired there in 1995.

UPN’s “Moehsa” tripped to its lowest rating ever.

Monday

The highest Aug. 17 ratings went to President Clinton’s four-minute speech, which drew a 14.3/21 on NBC, a 13.1/19 on CBS and a 9.6/14 on ABC (where it interrupted football). A Fox feed reached 66% of the country and earned a 2.6/4.

The speech provided an interesting snapshot of the cable-news pecking order: CNN, 5.5/8; CNBC, 1.0/1; Fox News, 0.5/1; Headline News, 0.3/1. More than five times as many homes viewed the speech on broadcast as on cable.

Despite a one-sided game and the interruption for Clinton’s speech, “Monday Night Football” launched its revamped an-nouncer team by equaling the highest pre-season football rating for any net in two years.

Fox led the night in adults 18-49 while NBC prevailed in homes.

Each household rating point represents 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 time slot involved.

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