Sunday ratings race tests ‘Home,’ ‘Heart’

Fox stalking 2nd place in sweeps

Jack Lemmon has outslugged Mel Gibson in preliminary household results for their Sunday-night motion picture showdown, but in most key demos, Gibson’s “Braveheart, Part 1” has claimed victory over the Lemmon vidpic “The Long Way Home.”

Meanwhile, Fox’s regular lineup dominated the night in adults 18-49, keeping alive that net’s slim hopes of edging out NBC for second place in the 18-49 demo for the February sweeps, which end Wednesday. CBS swept the night in households and won the night by 8 shares.

Preliminary national Nielsen ratings for Sunday show CBS’ “Long Way Home” averaging a 15.8 rating, 25 share in house-holds to beat “Braveheart’s” 11.9/19. But “Braveheart” fought back with a vengeance in the 18-49 demo with an 8.3/19 vs. “Long’s” 6.0/14.

“Braveheart” also beat “Long” in virtually every other key demo except women 25-54.

Among kids 2-11, “Pocahontas” generated a big 12.7/37, second best to date for a “Wonderful World” pic behind only “Cinderella’s” 22.1/52. “Pocahontas” also quadrupled ABC’s year-ago kid rating in that slot.

Neither “Braveheart” nor ABC’s broadcast debut of “Pocahontas” achieved blockbuster results, though both improved significantly on time period averages. “Pocahontas” earned a fair 9.1/15, tying it for the fifth-best rating this season on “The Wonderful World of Disney” behind “Cinderella” (18.4/27), “The Santa Clause” (10.9/17), “Toy Story” (9.8/16) and “Ruby Bridges” (9.5/15) and tied with a “Sabrina” vidpic.

ABC fell out of the race after that, as a two-hour “Christopher Reeve” special settled for a 5.5/9. CBS’ “Long Way Home” earned that net’s best Sunday-pic rating since “Ellen Foster” scored a 16.5/25 11 weeks ago.

In a measure of how competitive the sweeps-month race for second in adults 18-49 has become, NBC unleashed its highest rated Sunday pic in that demo since November and still lost a portion of its margin over Fox. “The Simpsons” (8.7/21 in adults 18-49), “King of the Hill” (9.7/22) and “The X-Files” (11.4/25) led Fox to an easy nightlong win in the demo, leading their slots by hefty margins of 6-7 shares each.

NBC must hope Monday’s “Braveheart, Part 2” shows a bit more Nielsen muscle if it’s to convincingly repel Fox’s sweeps-month challenge for second place.

Through Friday, Feb. 27, the last night for which Nielsen had reported final nationals, Olympics-boosted CBS leads the 18-49 race with a 7.7 rating, followed by NBC’s 6.0, Fox’s 5.6 and ABC’s 4.6. In homes, it’s CBS’ 14.7 rating, 23 share, NBC’s 9.5/15, ABC’s 7.9/13 and Fox’s 7.7/12.

Fox has topped ABC in preliminary household results for Saturday and Sunday, meaning the upstart “fourth network” still has a shot at catching ABC and climbing out of fourth in homes for the first time in a major sweep.

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’s measured against only the homes or viewers watching TV during the timeslot involved.

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