ABC ices win with Blaine, ‘Millionaire’

Alphabet edges Peacock, 14.00 mil to 13.88 mil

“Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and a special featuring magician David Blaine helped ABC ice the November sweep’s total-viewer crown Wednesday — a night on which the month’s top two networks really shined.

The quizzer delivered its largest audience for any non-celebrity edition this season (22.09 million) while the magic special attracted more viewers (prelim 15.88m) than anything ABC has aired in the 10 o’clock Wednesday hour since May. “David Blaine: Frozen in Time” lost out to NBC’s “Law & Order” (19.41m), but the big score in the hour was what ABC needed to clinch the victory.

The Alphabet, which is also this season’s most-watched network, edged the Peacock for the four-week ratings period, 14.00 million viewers to 13.88 million. NBC actually edged ahead in households, 9.3/15 to 9.2/15.

Although diminished by many as a “bragging rights” victory in today’s increasingly demo-driven industry, ABC will gladly take the mantle as primetime’s most-watched network.

The net won easily in both total viewers and prevailed in the key demo of adults 18-49 last November, but slipped this time around as “Millionaire” could not keep up with the scorching pace it set a year ago. Still, a victory in total viewers as well as recent signs of demo vitality by “Millionaire” has the net feeling better about things as it approaches midseason.

NBC, which had locked up this month’s demo crown long ago, finished with a strong Wednesday of its own and ended the month as the only major net to show year-to-year gains in both total viewers (up 3%) and 18-49 (up 6% to 5.7/14).

Leading the NBC charge was a season-best demo score for “Law & Order” at 10 (7.7/20) — despite facing “Frozen” (7.3/19) — and the most-watched and highest-rated one-hour episode ever for “The West Wing” (18.99m, 7.2/17 in A18-49).

While ABC and NBC were fighting for the top prizes during the November sweep, some of the most impressive perfs were turned in by the newest boys on the broadcast block.

Wednesday’s action also featured strong perfs from weblets the WB and UPN, which wrapped the month up by double-digit percentage increases in many demos. And it was also a surprisingly strong month for Fox, which was expected to struggle in a rebuilding year yet remained very competitive with the defending champs in 18-49 and finished in a virtual tie with NBC for the month in adults 18-34. (It would have won outright if its meager election night ratings were tossed out.)

For the WB, the second month of the season was a continuation of the first, which saw the weblet roll in its key demos.

In November, the Frog net scored its highest 18-34 sweeps rating ever (2.3/6) as well as its highest 18-49 rating for any November sweep (1.9/5). The WB was up in adults 18-34 vs. last year on all six nights it airs, and saw bigger gains than any other network in adults 18-34 (up 28%), adults 18-49 (up 19%) and men 18-34 (up 55%)

Monday’s “7th Heaven” delivered its best sweeps perf ever in most demos, while “Dawson’s Creek” and “Felicity” have helped the net claim Wednesdays among viewers 12-34.

And UPN’s sweep was its best since November 1997 in total viewers (4.2 million), adults 18-49 (1.8/5) and adults 25-54 (1.8/4). Net’s up in adults 18-34 by 13% year-to-year with gains coming on four of its five nights.

In a surprise to many, UPN’s wrestling program “WWF Smackdown!” is gaining in viewers and demos in its second season on the net and ranks fourth among all primetime programs in male teens.

Frosh faves for Fox

Fox’s strong month was highlighted by impressive perfs from first-year series “Dark Angel” and “Boston Public,” second-year standouts “Malcolm in the Middle” and “Titus” as well as its Saturday and Sunday staples. Biggest nightly improvements came on Tuesday, where the net is up 24% in adults 18-49, but “Boston Public” can claim the biggest time-period gain for any major net year-to-year — up 97% vs. what Fox was averaging Monday at 8 last November.

Net also claimed nine of the month’s top 20 programs among adults 18-34 and 10 of the top 20 among teens, another sign that it hasn’t lost its edge among the younger set.

As for Wednesday’s numbers, ABC won the night in viewers (17.4 million) and adults 18-49 (6.8/17) with its best showings of the season. Besides “Millionaire” and “Frozen,” “Drew Carey” eked out a demo victory over “West Wing” at 9 (7.0/17 to 6.8/16) and “Spin City” retained 96% of “Drew’s” audience, placing second to “West Wing” at 9:30 (6.7/16 to 7.6/18).

NBC got a boost at 8 with spec “Christmas in Rockefeller Center.” Although down considerably from last year, when it didn’t face “Millionaire,” “Christmas” delivered the net’s best numbers in the hour in seven weeks (11.12m, 3.6/10 in A18-49).

At CBS, “Bette” (8.32m, 3.2/9 in A18-49) topped its previous two weeks’ scores but still finished fourth in viewers and the demo. Preem of theatrical “A Perfect Murder” delivered the best 18-49 rating for the net’s Wednesday movie this season (4.2/10).

For the sweep, CBS finished tied with Fox for third place in its target demo of adults 25-54 (4.7/11). Rookie hit “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” showed the second-biggest time period improvement, up 60% in adults 18-49 compared with CBS’ averages in the Friday 9 p.m. hour last season.

Final sweeps standings in adults 18-49: NBC, a 5.7 rating/14 share (up in rating by 6% vs. a year ago); ABC, 5.1/13 (down 14%); Fox, 4.7/12 (down 4%); CBS, 3.8/10 (down 5%); the WB, 1.9/5 (up 19%); and UPN, 1.8/5 (up 13%).

In total viewers: ABC, 14.0 million (down 8%); NBC, 13.9m (up 3%); CBS, 12.1m (down 11%); Fox, 9.9m (down 2%); the WB, 4.5m (up 8%); and UPN, 4.2m (up 8%).

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