Nets feeling cheery with Yule specs

Spirits raise CBS' ratings

The networks with strong strong Christmas specials in their primetime stockings are reaping the goodwill of the season.

Wednesday-through-Sunday Yule specs gave CBS nine hours of generally festive Nielsens, helping the web win the Nov. 29-Dec. 5 primetime Nielsens week in households.

ABC shot ahead of the pack in adults 18-49, due mostly to Sunday’s vidpic “Tuesdays With Morrie” and Saturday football, but also thanks to Sunday holiday specs with Rosie O’Donnell and Winnie the Pooh.

In addition, Wednesday’s seasonal specs brightened NBC’s otherwise glum week and gave the network its second-highest Wednesday viewer total with entertainment fare since Nov. 26, 1997.

TNT got in on the act Sunday with the Patrick Stewart starrer “A Christmas Carol,” hoarding cable’s third-highest rating of the week, a national 3.3 in adults 18-49.

Sister service TBS bypassed any holiday theme, but excelled with that night’s non-pay premiere of Clint Eastwood’s “Absolute Power” (a national 2.5).

“Carol” is basic cable’s fourth-highest rated made-for in homes this year; “Power” is No. 4 among theatrical pics.

It was a breakthrough night for cable, with ESPN’s football (a national 5.5 in adults 18-49) beating NBC and CBS head-to-head. Ad-supported cable earned a total 18.8 rating that night to edge broadcast’s seven-net 18.7.

The week also saw UPN gaining more strength, beating rival netlet WB in homes during an in-season week for the first time since Dec. 1-7, 1997. Keys included Thursday wrestling, Monday’s solid urban sitcoms and UPN’s best regular-sked Friday ever thanks to rerun vidpic “Primal Force.”

For the Nov. 29-Dec. 5 period, Sunday’s “Morrie” was the top-rated show, followed by “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” which proved to be the Christmas star in its 36th net run.

CBS was also well-represented on Tuesday with “JAG” and “Judging Amy,” the week’s two top-rated dramas in households.

Last week’s adults 18-49 averages were ABC, a 4.8 rating, 13 share (down in rating by 14% vs. last year); Fox, 4.4/12 (down 6%) tied with NBC, 4.4/12 (down 6%); CBS, 4.1/11 (even); UPN, 1.8/5 (up 50%); WB, 1.5/4 (even); Pax TV, 0.3/1 (even).

National primetime 18-49 averages for the top cable services were ESPN, 1.6/4 (up 33%); TBS, 1.3/4 (up 44%); TNT, 1.1/3 (up 22%); HBO, 1.1/3 (even); USA, 0.9/2 (even).

Monday

ABC blitzed the Dec. 6 competition with its highest-rated Monday football game in four weeks, a Minnesota-Tampa Bay gridcast that tackled a 14.3 rating, 24 share, in homes and a 9.0/24 in adults 18-49.

At 8 p.m., “20/20” (9.2/15 in homes, 4.2/12 in adults 18-49) piled on with its best Monday homes results since March 8 and ABC won the night by a hulking 8 shares.

With lots of reruns and Billy Graham preemptions, each of ABC’s Big Four competitors matched or hit their lowest Monday 18-49 averages in at least eight weeks.

Sunday

“Tuesdays With Morrie” slipped from its prelim results (Daily Variety, Dec. 7): In adults 18-49, the vidpic was demoted to the season’s third-highest-rated movie, behind “Annie” and “Men in Black.”

The WB’s drama lineup sagged to that netlet’s lowest regular-sked Sunday homes average since Super Bowl Sunday 1998.

Saturday

ABC led the night with college football, despite matching the lowest Southeastern Conference Championship homes rating to date.

NBC’s revamped lineup tied for first in adults 18-49, beating the Peacock’s regular-sked Saturday 18-49 season average by 12%.

HBO lured away viewers in nearly 3% of the country’s TV homes with its premiere of “You’ve Got Mail” (a 2.9 rating nationally).

Friday

CBS got a Yule-sped demo boost, as the 35th airing of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” beat slot regular “Kids Say the Darndest Things” by 88% in adults 18-49 (with a 4.5 rating vs. a 2.4). It was CBS’ best adults 18-34 rating in the slot with entertainment fare since the April 1997 “Dukes of Hazzard” reunion pic.

Thursday

“Action” confirmed that it’s dead on Thursdays, falling to sixth for the 9-10 p.m. hour in homes.

ABC’s “20/20 Downtown” flourished with no newsmag competition, reporting the Alphabet’s largest in-season news audience that hour since Dec. 11, 1997.

WB freshman “Popular” earned the week’s highest female-teen grades (8.8/26).

Pittsburgh-Jacksonville NFL football on ESPN intercepted a national 5.0 rating in homes for cable’s third-best score of the week.

Wednesday

CBS flew off with a rare Wednesday 18-49 win, as the Roma Downey vidpic “The Test of Love” and “Rudolph” soared (Daily Variety, Dec. 3).

Tuesday

Fox’s sizzling sophomore “That ’70s Show” led 8-9 p.m. in adults 18-49 and CBS’ high-flying “JAG” was a close second, as ABC and NBC’s comedies crashed to third and fourth, respectively, that hour.

“Just Shoot Me” was fourth at 8 p.m., though a rerun rose to first at 9:30. “That ’70s Show” is the first Fox series ever to win the Tuesday 8-8:30 half-hour in adults 18-49 during the regular season.

That left it to Barbara Walters’ “Fascinating People” spec at 10 p.m. to win the night for ABC in adults 18-49. CBS swept in households and pulled within 2 shares of the nightlong 18-49 lead.

Monday

ABC topped the Nov. 29 standings with Packers-49ers football (Daily Variety, Dec. 1). Fox’s “Ally McBeal” filed the week’s top 18-49 rating, a first for that series.

Each household rating point reps an estimated 1 million homes, or 1% of the country’s TV households. Each adults 18-49 rating point reps 1.24 million viewers, 1% of the U.S. total. The share is also a percentage, but measured against only the homes or viewers watching TV during the timeslot involved.

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