Nets feeling the effects of Spring

And on the seventh day, Regis rested. But Moses picked up the slack quite nicely.

Even with ABC quizzer “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” taking Sunday off and airing just twice in a week for the first time since it became a series regular in January, the Alphabet net won handily in total viewers for the April 10-16 frame — its 16th straight win by that measure.

Regis Philbin and his massive “Millionaire” gave way Sunday to the net’s 20th airing of “The Ten Commandments,” which drew its largest aud in four years and also clinched for ABC another easy victory in adults 18-49. The net has now won eight straight weeks in the key advertiser demo, its best stretch since the 1993-94 season.

Overall, the nets felt the effects of daylight saving time and better weather in much of the country. Typical of a pre-sweeps April week, many shows sunk to, or near, season lows.

CBS, hampered by weak perfs from the final three segs of “Falcone” and by heavy affiliate preemptions on Thursday and Friday for a Billy Graham special, slipped to its lowest weekly homes rating (6.8) of the season. Fox fell to its third lowest (5.0).

The week’s most-watched programs were “Millionaire” installments Tuesday (28.07 million) and Thursday (26.46), followed by NBC’s “ER” (26.02).

In adults 18-49, the top shows were “ER” (12.2/33), “Friends” (9.6/31) and Tuesday’s “Millionaire” (8.2/24).

Network adults 18-49 averages for the week of April 10-16: ABC, 5.0 rating/15 share (up 28% vs. a year ago); NBC, 4.0/12 (down 9%); Fox, 3.5/10 (down 22%); CBS, 2.7/8 (down 21%); UPN, 1.4/4 (up 17%); the WB, 1.3/4 (even); Pax, 0.3/1 (even).

In households, it was: ABC, 9.0/15 (up 32%); NBC, 7.5/13 (down 3%); CBS, 6.8/12 (down 18%); Fox, 5.0/8 (down 17%); UPN, 2.5/4 (up 19%); the WB, 2.3/4 (down 15%); and Pax, 0.9/2 (even).

Adults 18-49 averages for the top cable services: HBO, 1.2/4 (down 8%); Discovery Channel, 1.0/3 (up 100%); USA, 0.9/3 (down 10%), tied with TBS, 0.9/3 (down 33%); Lifetime, 0.7/2 (up 17%).

Monday

Fox won April 17 in adults 18-49 despite the lowest demo score since December for an original “Ally McBeal” (7.1/18).

ABC was fogged in by the telepic “Trapped in a Purple Haze” (7.96 million, 2.9/8 in A18-49), its lowest-rated Monday movie of the season.

At 10, NBC’s “Third Watch” (12.19 million, 4.8/13 in A18-49) edged ABC’s “Once and Again” (9.93, 4.7/12) for the demo lead. Also, above-average scores for “Dateline” (12.34 million) and “Twenty One” (12.29) helped the Peacock post its most-watched Monday of the season.

CBS’ “Ladies Man” (12.24 million, 4.3/12 in A18-49) returned to the Eye lineup for the first time in eight weeks and improved its renewal chances by winning its half-hour in total viewers and finishing 2 shares behind adults 18-49 leader “Titus” on Fox.

Sunday

The combination of Discovery Channel’s “Walking With Dinosaurs” and the four-hour-plus “Ten Commandments” (17.42 million, 6.6/18 in A18-49) sent the other nets reeling.

The 1956 epic “Commandments” won each half-hour in adults 18-49 and showed steady increases in audience share throughout the night, taking the 10:30 half-hour by 9 shares in homes and by 11 shares in adults 18-49. Of note, the pic saw a sharp 14% increase at 9 p.m., when many “Millionaire” fans may have tuned in expecting to see the quizzer.

CBS’ “60 Minutes” (15.09 million, 3.0/10 in A18-49), which featured an interview with Elian Gonzalez’s father, slipped well below its week-ago averages. And it was no ratings “Picnic” for the net’s Sunday pic (11.38 million, 2.9/7), which slipped to its lowest made-for marks for the season in both categories.

Even Fox’s “Malcolm in the Middle” played second fiddle to “Commandments.” The rookie laffer joined lead-in “The Simpsons” in logging season-low firstrun numbers in total viewers and demos. And at 9, the net’s “The X-Files,” whose status for next season has yet to be resolved, slipped to its lowest firstrun Sunday adults 18-49 rating ever (5.8).

NBC, which has had problems on Sundays this season, got more low scores from pro basketball but rebounded with the premiere of “The Chamber,” which nabbed the net’s largest Sunday pic aud (9.74 million) in five weeks.

Saturday

Ice skating on CBS and pro basketball on NBC proved a weak combination in attracting young viewers to the nets. At 9 o’clock, for example, the four major networks combined for a mere 35 share in adults 18-49 — the lowest on a Saturday this season, excepting Christmas. The season average at 9 p.m. on Saturday this season is a 41.

ABC and Fox fared best, with Fox winning in total viewers and young adults and the Alphabet web a close second with its rebroadcast of “Tin Cup.” Without Fox to contend with at 10, “Tin” won the hour by 5 shares in adults 18-49 over second-place CBS.

Friday

NBC won the night by 6 shares in homes and by 3 in adults 18-49 despite the second-least-watched firstrun “Providence” (12.92 million) of the season. The drama still won its hour in adults 18-49, as did the net’s “Dateline” and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”

CBS rookie drama “Now & Again,” one of the net’s on-the-bubble shows for fall, continues to outperform its lead-in. The Eye web was 13 shares out of the 25-54 lead at 8:30 p.m. with “Cosby” but pulled to within 2 shares of first by 9:30 with “Now.” (“Cosby” was cleared in just 86% of the country due to Billy Graham preemptions.)

ABC’s “Making the Band” lost viewers from its “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” lead-in, but the reality series hit a bull’s eye in its target demo of young women. In women 18-34, “Band” (3.8/13) placed first in its slot, improving by 12% over “Sabrina” (3.2/12).

Fox’s “Greed” dropped to its lowest adults 18-49 rating to date (2.7/9).

Thursday

NBC’s “Daddio” slipped to its lowest “Friends” retention levels in total viewers (84%) and adults 18-49 (81%). It held 100% of its kids lead-in but just 59% among teens (4.6 vs. 2.7).

Even though it faced a repeat “Frasier” and the now-departed “Battery Park,” ABC’s “Millionaire” slipped to its lowest adults 18-49 rating (8.1) for any of its regularly scheduled segs this season.

It’s difficult to gauge what effect James Garner’s addition to “Chicago Hope” had on the ratings. The medical series logged below-average marks of 8.36 million viewers and 2.0/5 in adults 18-49, but it got little help from its “Diagnosis Murder” lead-in, a repeat that was limited to 89% clearance due to Graham preemptions.

“ER” (26.01 million) slipped to its least-watched firstrun episode of the season.

Wednesday

It was a good night for newsmags: A special 9 p.m. “48 Hours” on CBS placed second for the hour in adults 18-49 (3.8/11) and won its second half-hour in viewers (12.39 million). And at 10, ABC’s “20/20” (5.3/16) won in young adults for the first time since Jan. 20, topping a repeat of NBC’s “Law & Order” (4.6/14).

The WB’s “Felicity” (3.29 million, 1.6/5 in A18-49) looked good in its second Wednesday outing. Despite a repeat “Dawson’s Creek” as a lead-in, “Felicity” ranked third for its hour in women 18-34 (3.1/9) and showed gains over the February sweeps average of previous slot occupant “Roswell” in adults 18-49 (1.6/5 vs. 1.3/3) and adults 18-34 (2.1/7 vs. 1.6/4).

The “AFI Tribute to Harrison Ford” on CBS drew the spec’s best homes rating (6.4/11) since 1996, when Clint Eastwood was honored (9.8/17).

Tuesday

ABC’s “Dharma & Greg” and “NYPD Blue” both hit seven-week highs in total viewers as the net won for the 15th straight Tuesday by that measure. At 9:30, the debut of Touchstone comedy “Talk to Me” (12.91 million, 5.8/15 in A18-49) registered only slight gains for the net (Daily Variety, April 13).

“Millionaire” (28.07 million, 8.2/24 in A18-49) again topped its combined CBS-NBC-Fox competition in viewers, but daylight saving time appears to be keeping more young adults away from the Tuesday seg. The quizzer’s 8.2/24 in adults 18-49 matched its previous low for a Tuesday seg (set a weak earlier), although its total-viewer count increased by more than 1 million from a week ago (26.83). This reflects that viewers younger than 18 and older than 49 are sticking with the show more than those who comprise the key demo.

Monday

ABC’s “Once and Again” (11.31 million) delivered its most-watched episode since October on April 10, lifting the net to a victory in total viewers and a second-place finish to Fox in adults 18-49 (Daily Variety, April 12).

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