World Series goes to bat for Peacock
After one of its roughest weeks ever, Fox may have started the process of turning around its foundering primetime ship thanks to buoyant season-premiere numbers for “Ally McBeal.” But yet another first-year Fox series, “Time of Your Life,” has launched into fairly choppy Nielsen waters.Meanwhile, NBC has struck out the Oct. 18-24 primetime Nielsens competition with a pair of weekend N.Y. Yankees-Atlanta Braves World Series telecasts that apparently played a lot better in Middle America than did last year’s Yankees-San Diego Padres bi-coastal affair. While this year’s first two Yankees-Braves games improved by an OK 6% in the 46 large markets metered by Nielsen, the year-to-year increase shot up to 17% in national results, with an average 14.6 rating, 25 share, in households vs. last year’s two-game 12.5/21. It’s the strongest World Series start in three years, but also the third-weakest ever. Results for Monday show Fox’s third-season debut of “Ally McBeal” coming to the rescue of that beleaguered network, filing a convincing 9.1 rating, 21 share, in adults 18-49. That’s up 10% vs. last year’s Sept. 14 season premiere and good enough to win the hour over “Monday Night Football” for just the fourth time ever. But the News Corp. net has another slow-starting rookie in Monday’s “Time of Your Life,” which arrived Oct. 25 with a 3.9/11 in adults 18-49, third for the hour and down 24% from the 5.1 there with “Melrose Place” on the year-ago Monday. “Time” did tick off a slot victory in adults 18-34, a vital demo to Fox, and built solidly its second half-hour, possibly a sign of growth to come. Those mixed Monday results follow a week of almost all bad results, as Fox faded to netlet-level numbers on Thursday, Friday and half of Wednesday. The network’s 3.5 rating in adults 18-49 for Oct. 18-24 equals its lowest for an in-season week in its six-year history as a seven-night-a-week service. Last week’s adults 18-49 averages were NBC, a 6.5 rating, 18 share (up 41% in rating vs. last year); ABC, 4.4/12 (down 6%); CBS, 3.9/11 (even); Fox, 3.5/10 (down 39% vs. year-ago World Series-inflated results); WB, 1.7/5 (down 15%); UPN, 1.6/4 (up 33%); Pax TV, 0.3/1. National primetime 18-49 averages for the top cable services were HBO, 1.0/3 (even); TBS, 1.0/3 (up 11%); USA, 0.8/2 (even); ESPN, 0.8/2 (down 11%); TNT, 0.7/2 (down 22%) National primetime 18-49 averages for the top cable services were HBO, 1.0/3 (even); TBS, 1.0/3 (up 11%); USA, 0.8/2 (even); ESPN, 0.8/2 (down 11%); TNT, 0.7/2 (down 22%). While down by some broader measures, the WB is flourishing in target demos, including female teens, where it boasts seven of the season’s 10 highest-rated shows. The male-teen list is headed by Fox, with five of 10 top-rated programs. Monday Fox’s premieres sacked ABC’s Atlanta-Pittsburgh football (12.5 rating, 21 share, in homes, 7.7/21 in adults 18-49) to win the night in adults 18-49. Football fumbled 14% of its year-ago homes rating from last year’s N.Y. Jets-New England matchup. “Ally McBeal’s” arrival also overruled NBC’s promising slot rival “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (a lowest-yet 9.2/13 in homes, 4.7/11 in adults 18-49). NBC did its best to sabotage Fox’s “Time of Your Life” premiere by airing a special “Friends” rerun (7.1/11 in homes, 4.4/12 in adults 18-49) at 8 p.m., generating the Peacock’s best 18-49 rating that half-hour since March 15. CBS’ “Becker” (11.2/16 in homes, 5.5/12 in adults 18-49) matched its top homes rating to date. Sunday NBC’s World Series rallied 19% ahead of last year’s Sunday game two, though it still tied as the second-lowest-rated Sunday telecast in Series history (Daily Variety, Oct. 26). Despite a wilting lead-in from “Snoops,” ABC’s “The Practice” is winning a landmark decision at 10 p.m., last week equaling its second-best homes rating ever. Two weeks of preemptions and this week’s baseball competition sent “The Simpsons” to its lowest firstrun regular-slot homes rating ever. CBS didn’t mind baseball, collecting its best Sunday-pic 18-49 rating since last May’s “Joan of Arc” with “The Soul Collector.” The WB’s “Jack & Jill” held a best-yet 93% of its 18-49 lead-in from “Felicity.” In homes, “Felicity” faded to its lowest-yet firstrun rating. Cable’s TBS countered baseball with a “Pretty Woman” rerun that walked off with basic cable’s best figures of the week, a national 4.7 homes rating. Saturday An exciting Yankees-Braves game touched home with the highest Saturday homes rating for any net since the 1998 Winter Olympics. Friday Fox fell to its lowest-rated firstrun Friday ever with the canceled pair of “Ryan Caulfield” and “Harsh Realm” (Daily Variety, Oct. 25). “Ryan” was Fox’s lowest-rated telecast ever in that slot, including summer reruns. CBS’ “Love & Money” and NBC’s “Cold Feet” are also in Nielsen hot water. “Cold” shivered to NBC’s worst-ever homes rating in that hour with regular firstrun fare, but NBC still led the night thanks to the top “Providence” tally since Feb. 12. ABC also stumbled to its lowest-ever firstrun Friday homes average, as three of four “TGIF” sitcoms hit worst-ever firstrun scores The one successful Friday freshman is CBS’ “Now and Again,” which again led its hour in the 18-49 demo. Thursday ABC’s “Wasteland” and Fox’s “Action” hit rock bottom — fifth and sixth, respectively, from 9-10 p.m. in both homes and adults 18-49 (Daily Variety, Oct. 25). CBS’ rejuvenated “Chicago Hope” beat the combined “Wasteland”-”Action” 18-49 score that hour. UPN’s wrestling rose to second for the night in adults 18-34, while the WB took second in women 18-34 for a fourth-straight Thursday. NBC’s dominant Thursday lineup has a problem at 8:30, where sagging sophomore “Jesse” held just 73% of its 18-49 lead-in, the Peacock’s worst retention ever in that post-”Friends” slot. Wednesday ABC reasserted its Wednesday 18-49 leadership, in part because NBC’s tough “Law & Order” went into rerun. “Law” still won its slot in homes, topping year-ago firstrun results. ABC rookie “Oh Grow Up” retained a best-yet 85% of its 18-49 lead-in from “Drew Carey.” UPN’s “7 Days” counted up its best homes rating since last Nov. 4. Tuesday NBC whiffed the Tuesday competition with baseball’s top league-championship-series rating since 1993 (Daily Variety, Oct. 21). Monday ABC’s Oct. 18 Dallas-N.Y. Giants football outscored Fox’s N.Y. Yankees-Boston Red Sox baseball (Daily Variety, Oct. 20). It was still Fox’s highest-rated league-championship series telecast ever. Each household rating point represents an estimated 1 million homes, or 1% of the country’s total. The share is also a percentage, but measured against only homes in which TV is being watched during the timeslot involved.