Weak ‘90210’ pushes Fox to Wednesday win

'Beverly' ratings could signal tough upcoming season

Fox won the Wednesday, Sept. 16 primetime Nielsens in adults 18-49 and 8-10 p.m. in households, despite the lowest-rated ”Beverly Hills, 90210” premiere in eight years. That ”90210” drop may signal a tough season ahead, as the venerable drama prepares to battle WB hit ”Dawson’s Creek” for the slot’s young-female audience starting Oct. 7.

Wednesday’s Nielsens also featured a solid season debut for Fox’s ”Party of Five” — though like ”90210,” ”Party” was down from last year — plus a newsworthy start for the new Sam Donaldson-Diane Sawyer edition of ”20/20” and drowsy numbers for Conan O’Brien’s first primetime spec.

The ”90210” season premiere earned an 8.0 rating, 14 share in homes and a 6.6/20 in adults 18-49, down 18% in homes from last year’s two-hour debut and down 11% in adults 18-49.

While the numbers suggest a decline in audience interest, Fox notes that overall TV usage for the night was down vs. last year, especially in ”90210’s” target young-female audience. The Aaron Spelling soap won its hour Wednesday in every key demo and beat its 1997-98 season average by 5% in adults 18-49.

”Party of Five” (8.1/13 in homes, 6.6/17 in adults 18-49) slipped 10% below its year-ago premiere in homes, but is a healthy 17% ahead of where it started the season two years ago.

At 10 p.m., ABC’s latest ”20/20” edition debuted with a 12.3/21 in homes and a 6.4/19 in adults 18-49. That homes rating is the best in the slot for ABC since last April 8 (and the highest for any ”20/20” broadcast since Jan. 9.)

That same hour, NBC’s fifth-anniversary ”Late Night With Conan O’Brien” spec settled for a 5.3/9 in homes and a 3.7/11 in adults 18-49. In homes, it was NBC’s weakest rating that hour since Aug. 28, 1996, during the Democratic National Convention (and lowest ever not including political broadcasts).

”Conan” still benefited from a healthy dose of viewership sampling relative to what it gets in its usual 12:35 a.m. time period. The regular-slot ”Conan” record is a 4.1/19 in homes and a 2.8 rating in adults 18-49, earned the night of the ”Seinfeld” finale last May 14.

Fox led Wednesday primetime averages in adults 18-49, beating ABC’s mostly rerun lineup by 3 shares (6.6/19 vs. 5.7/16). Fox had the top 8-10 p.m. homes average (8.1/13), but ABC’s 8-11 p.m. score (9.1/15) was higher.

Each household rating point represents an estimated 994,000 homes, or 1% of the country’s TV households. Each adults 18-49 rating point reps 1.239 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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