Sans ‘Millionaire,’ ABC bets on ‘Morrie’

Oprah-presented telepic topples 'X-Files'

With heartwarming Sunday numbers from the Oprah Winfrey-presented vidpic “Tuesdays With Morrie,” ABC is poised to win the Nov. 29-Dec. 5 primetime Nielsens week in adults 18-49 — ABC’s first in-season victory without the help of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” since Oscar week in March.

The week will also see NBC slump to third in homes and possibly in the 18-49 demo as well. CBS may edge ABC in the households race, but the Alphabet will comfortably finish first in the adults 18-49 demographic. Fox will be tied with NBC for second or will be a tenth of a point ahead of the Peacock.

The week’s big surprise was Sunday’s “Morrie,” the Jack Lemmon-Hank Azaria telepic which surged to an average 23.33 million viewers and an 8.0 rating, 18 share, in adults 18-49 in preliminary Nielsens for Sunday.

That’s the highest 18-49 rating for any movie on any net this season, and more than 90% of “Millionaire’s” total-viewer average on Sundays in November.

“Morrie” was bumped from a tentative airdate during the November sweeps, in part to make room for “Millionaire.”

“Morrie” beat all 18-49 competition, even Fox’s firstrun “The X-Files” (a prelim 12.54 million, 6.8/15 in adults 18-49), while topping the combined results for rival pics “Daylight” (a prelim 9.56 million, 4.1/9 in adults 18-49) on NBC and “Santa and Pete” (a prelim 12.03 million, 3.5/8 in adults 18-49) on CBS.

If the prelim “X-Files” results don’t change significantly when updated by Nielsen today, it’ll be that series’ lowest homes rating (7.8) with a firstrun episode since April 1, 1994, during the show’s first season.

All network fare was affected Sunday by strong cable competition, including ESPN’s Dallas-New England football game and TNT’s Patrick Stewart starrer “A Christmas Carol.”

In addition to its “Morrie” boost, ABC was cheered last week by festive Sunday numbers from “A Rosie Christmas” (a prelim 17.49 million viewers, 5.4/12 in adults 18-49) and competitive college football stats Saturday (a 7.0/12 in metered-market household averages).

In fact, without such boosts, ABC will still need “Millionaire” if it’s to have any hope of respectable results in the second half of the season after “Monday Night Football” heads back to the locker room in early January.

But with last week’s Monday and Saturday football and Sunday’s “Morrie” on its side, ABC survived hefty early-week declines vs. week-earlier “Millionaire”-boosted results.

In averages that incorporate weekend prelim results, ABC leads the week’s 18-49 pack with a 4.9 rating, down 16% vs. the previous week’s “Millionaire”-assisted numbers and down 13% from year-ago results, which included stronger football scores.

Second place for the week is expected to go to Fox and its projected 4.5 (down 4% vs. last year), followed by NBC’s 4.4 (down 6%) and CBS’ 4.2 (up 2%), which reflects several strong Christmas specials. It’ll be ABC’s fifth-straight 18-49 win (including a tie), marking the Alphabet’s first five-week 18-49 winning streak since May 1994.

The week’s projected household averages are CBS, 8.8 (down 5%); ABC, 8.7 (down 9%); NBC, 8.1 (down 1%); Fox, 6.2 (down 2%). Either CBS or ABC could easily round up a tenth when Nielsen issues official Nov. 29-Dec. 5 results today.

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 viewers watching TV during the slot involved.

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