NBC atop ratings with outright win

With NBC’s “Providence” and Fox’s “The PJs” shaping up as the first two potential hits of primetime’s midseason, NBC has climbed back on top of the Nielsen standings for the Jan. 4-10 week, its first outright victory in households in nine weeks.

NBC also nipped ABC in adults 18-49 for its first win in three weeks by that measure, but the Alphabet moved ahead in total viewers, a category that’s particularly kind to primetime family-appeal and kid-appeal shows such as ABC’s “T.G.I.F.” and “Disney” fare.

Despite its “Providence” success, NBC is barely breaking even with its midseason schedule changes to date. “Working” has called in sick on Mondays and “Lateline” is struggling with a particularly daunting Wednesday assignment.

But “Providence” has more than made up for those disappointments, at least during the Jan. 4-10 week. The family drama’s premiere episode Jan. 8 propelled NBC to its top regular-sked Friday rating since Sept. 28, 1990, and granted the Peacock its best one-hour drama premiere numbers since “ER” joined the schedule Sept. 22, 1994.

“Providence” also delivered NBC’s top regular-series 18-49 rating in that slot since March 4, 1988 (“The Highwayman”).

Those big numbers helped NBC win just its second week in households since Nov. 2-8 and first over that span without tying for the lead.

Fox got a strong start of its own from Sunday’s preview of “The PJs,” which earned the second best premiere rating in Fox history, just a 10th of a ratings point behind the “Simpsons’ ” January 1990 debut.

As with all hot-starting new series, “PJs” and “Providence” could prove to be “one-week wonders.” “Providence” must still prove it’s truly hooked a large portion of its impressive premiere-night audience, and “PJs” must now shift to Fox’s struggling Tuesday lineup.

Last week’s adults 18-49 averages were: NBC, a 5.9 rating, 15 share (down 19% in rating vs. results for the same week last year); ABC, 5.8/15 (up 4%); Fox, 5.6/14 (down 8%); CBS, 4.2/11 (up 8%); the WB, 1.6/4 (up 7%); UPN, 1.0/3 (down 29%); Pax TV, a 0.3 rating.

National primetime 18-49 averages for the top cable services last week were: TNT, 1.5/4 (up 67%); HBO, 1.1/3 (down 8%); USA, 1.0/3 (up 11%); TBS, 0.8/2 (down 11%); Lifetime, 0.7/2 (up 40%).

In the week after the wrapup of its Sunday NFL package, ESPN plunged to a 0.4/1, down from its season average 1.1/3.

Monday

ABC won Monday, Jan. 11, but just barely, as “The American Music Awards” bowed to its lowest numbers ever — a 10.3 rating, 16 share in homes and a 6.9/17 in adults 18-49. The kudocast dropped 15% from last year’s 12.1/19, the previous lowest-ever “AMA” households tally, and won the night by just 1 share over Fox in adults 18-49 and by 1 share over CBS in homes.

NBC’s first Monday try with “Working” (4.2/6 in homes, 2.9/6 in adults 18-49) was a disaster, helping drag NBC down to fourth place for the night in both homes and adults 18-49. “Working” retained a lousy 74% of its 18-49 lead-in from the lowest-rated firstrun “Mad About You” ever (5.6/8 in homes, 3.9/9 in adults 18-49).

CBS’ Monday continues to gel, with best-yet numbers from “King of Queens” (10.5/15 in homes, 5.4/13 in adults 18-49), an adults 25-54 record (6.9) for ”Everybody Loves Raymond” (11.6/17 in homes, 5.9/13 in adults 18-49) and the top homes rating to date for “Becker” (10.5/15 in homes, 5.0/11 in adults 18-49).

Sunday

Hefty football numbers and a super preview for “The PJs” helped Fox slip past CBS for the night in homes, while the adults 18-49 race went to Fox by an electrifying 11 shares (Daily Variety, Jan. 12). The football-“PJs” combo also helped boost “Simpsons” and “X-Files” to season-high results.

CBS’ “People’s Choice Awards” walked off with CBS’ best women 18-34, men 18-49 and men 25-54 tallies in that slot this season, as well as a 14% increase vs. last year in adults 25-54 and a 29% jump in men 25-54.

ABC sailed to its highest regular-sked Sunday rating since Dec. 28, 1997. “New Swiss Family Robinson” netted the best made-for “Wonderful World of Disney” rating since Jan. 18, 1998 (“Ruby Bridges”) and “The Practice” sustained its best homes rating of the season.

Saturday

Fox led CBS by 3 shares in adults 18-49 while CBS led Fox by 2 shares in homes. Fox locked up its top non-sports Saturday 18-49 rating since Nov. 22, 1997, while CBS’ “Early Edition” published its most newsworthy numbers in 51 weeks.

Friday

Inspiring premiere numbers from “Providence” guided NBC to a heartening Friday win, while CBS’ second-season start for “The Magnificent Seven” rode off with a hefty 42% improvement vs. the adults 25-54 average of slot predecessor “Buddy Faro” (Daily Variety, Jan. 11).

CBS seemed undaunted by the intervention of “Providence,” with “Kids Say the Darndest Things” eliciting its top homes rating since Jan. 23, 1998, and “Candid Camera” focusing on the best figures of its current series run. It was CBS’ highest non-sports Friday rating since Nov. 28, 1997.

“Providence” led into the top-rated Friday “Dateline” since Sept. 5, 1997, and best “Homicide” since Nov. 14.

At UPN, “Love Boat” equaled its most buoyant homes rating of the season, despite a rerun episode.

Thursday

NBC reasserted its Thursday dominance after struggling through the holidays, winning Jan. 7 by 23 shares in adults 18-49 (Daily Variety, Jan. 11).

ABC’s “Cupid” joined the Thursday wars by equaling its Saturday average, but fell to a dismal fourth that hour in adults 18-49.

The top-rated “Fox Files” thus far helped the News Corp. net to its best regular-sked Thursday rating since Jan. 30, 1997. Meanwhile, the WB earned its highest Thursday average to date.

Wednesday

ABC got a record 18-49 rating from “Dharma & Greg” and season highs from the rest of its Wednesday comedies to dominate the night (Daily Variety, Jan. 8).

NBC’s “Lateline” started its second season slowly, down 11% from the firstrun households average of slot predecessor “3rd Rock from the Sun.” “Lateline” still managed to lead into the highest-rated Wednesday “Encore! Encore!” to date.

Tuesday

The top-rated “Home Improvement” since last March 10 kept ABC first on Tuesday, with ABC’s best 18-49 score in that slot in nearly two years (since “Roseanne” Jan. 14, 1997).

But ABC topped NBC by just 2 shares for the night in both homes and adults 18-49, as the NBC Tuesday team showed signs of reversing its sagging fortunes.

At 8 p.m., “3rd Rock from the Sun” rolled to NBC’s best non-sports rating in that slot since September, and at 9:30, NBC’s “Will & Grace” cleaned up with the Peacock’s highest 18-49 regular-sked rating there this season.

ABC’s “NYPD Blue” has apparently lost ratings momentum during a three-week layoff between firstrun episodes. “Blue” skidded Jan. 5 to its lowest firstrun rating this season, down 18% from the previous original installment.

UPN unleashed the two highest ratings to date for “America’s Greatest Pets.”

Monday

The Fiesta Bowl dominated with ABC’s strongest Monday rating since Oscar night last March (Daily Variety, Jan. 6). CBS responded with an eye-opening rating from “Sleepless in Seattle,” for that network’s best non-sports Monday since May 12, 1997.

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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