Reruns, midseason shows drag overall ratings down

The networks officially entered the traditional between-sweep doldrums last week with each web except ABC getting socked in the ratings amid lineups heavy on repeats and sprinkled with marginal midseason perfs.

The Alphabet web, which featured the most original programming during the March 6-12 frame, had little trouble extending its winning streak in total viewers to 11 weeks. Three episodes of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and strong ratings for new episodes of its top dramas also helped the net cruise in the advertiser-coveted demo of adults 18 to 49.

According to Nielsen, ABC was up 24% in homes compared with the same week a year ago, while NBC hit a season low and was off by 19% and Fox was down 11%. CBS withstood the beginning of repeat season a little better, dipping just 6%.

Original episodes of TV’s top series will appear only intermittently in the weeks leading up to May, as the nets stockpile fresh product for the sweeps period that marks the end of the season.

Netlet the WB, for example, last week aired only one original program — Sunday’s “Jack and Jill.”

New series that bowed during the frame — NBC’s “God, the Devil and Bob” and UPN’s “Secret Agent Man” — joined the relaunch of Fox’s animated laffer “Family Guy” in posting ratings that were respectable but not spectacular.

Even ABC’s “Millionaire” had a lackluster week, with its Thursday and Sunday installments slipping to their lowest total-viewer marks on those nights since the gamer became a series in January.

Still, even a slight slippage kept “Millionaire” dominant for the week. The program’s Tuesday, Sunday and Thursday episodes ranked as the week’s three most watched programs, respectively.

“Friends,” the only NBC big gun to air a new episode last week, placed No. 1 for the frame among adults 18-49. It was followed by “Millionaire” episodes Tuesday and Sunday.

With NBC hurting from a rerun-heavy lineup and its worst Sunday in at least 13 years, Fox was able to edge ahead of the Peacock web into second place for the week in adults 18-49.

The net’s reality fare held up very well over the weekend. Even with Friday’s “World’s Wildest Police Videos” and Saturday’s “Cops” in repeats, Fox won both nights in adults 18-49. And its gamer “Greed” remains a potent player, usually challenging for the demo lead in its Friday slot and when called into duty on other nights, as it has been over the last couple weeks.

Fox’s “The X-Files,” though, fell to a season low for an original episode in both total viewers (11.91 million) and adults 18-49 (6.5/14).

Last week’s primetime adults 18-49 averages were: ABC, a 5.4 rating/15 share (up 23% vs. the same week a year ago); Fox, 4.1/11 (down 16%); NBC, 4.0/11 (down 22%); CBS, 3.4/9 (down 13%); UPN, 1.6/4 (up 45%); the WB, 1.3/3 (down 24%); and Pax, 0.3/1 (even).

In households, the averages were: ABC, 9.3/16 (up 24%); CBS, 8.3/14 (down 6%); NBC, 6.8/11 (down 19%); Fox, 5.7/9 (down 11%); UPN, 2.6/4 (up 30%); the WB, 2.2/3 (down 29%); and Pax, 0.9/1 (up 11%).

Monday

A special “Malcolm in the Middle” (9.82 million, 4.9/15 in adults 18-49) swept in at 8:30 and won among adults 18-49, allowing Fox (4.6/14) to capture March 13 in young adults with an all-repeat schedule. ABC and CBS tied for second (4.4/13).

The return of “Freaks & Geeks” (6.57 million, 2.8/8 in 18-49) and gamer “Twenty One” (10.99 million, 3.4/10) couldn’t lift NBC to a better finish than fourth in 18-49.

CBS, with all but “Grapevine” (10.07 million, 3.6/11 in 18-49) in repeats, took the night in homes.

Sunday

CBS won in homes behind a strong “60 Minutes” (20.95 million, 5.4/16 in A18-49), which featured interviews with Timothy McVeigh and Trevor Rees-Jones, the sole survivor of the car accident that took the lives of Princess Diana and her boyfriend, Dodi Al Fayed. The program logged its best adults 18-49 rating since Jan. 16, when it received a big boost from a National Football League playoff game.

With Fox’s “X-Files” down for the week and movies on CBS and NBC failing to attract many young viewers, ABC’s tandem of “Millionaire” (28.22 million, 9.8/21 in adults 18-49) and “The Practice” (21.15 million, 9.1/23) dominated the night’s final two hours in young adults. “Millionaire” won in adults 18-49 by 7 shares, while “The Practice” topped the 10 p.m. hour by 14 shares, delivering its fourth-largest audience ever and its third best in adults 18-49.

NBC’s airing of theatrical “Donnie Brasco” (5.66 million, 2.4/6 in adults 18-49) drew the smallest audience for the net’s Sunday pic since at least the advent of people meters in 1987. Weak National Basketball Assn. ratings opened the night for NBC, contributing also to its worst Sunday overall since at least 1987.

Saturday

CBS won for the fourth straight Saturday in total viewers although “Early Edition” and “Martial Law” are digging a demo hole for the net. Original episodes of each placed fourth for their hour in adults 18-49, making it tough for vet “Walker, Texas Ranger,” which still managed to kick-box its way to within 1 share of the lead at 10 p.m. with a repeat episode.

NBC’s timeslot switch of dramas “The Others” and “Profiler” didn’t have much effect on the net’s overall score for the night. This week, the Peacock averaged a 3.3/10 in adults 18-49, on par with the 3.4/11 it averaged two weeks ago with all original episodes of its “thrillogy.”

Friday

Viewers didn’t get in much of a lather for NBC’s “Soap Opera Digest Awards” (10.46 million, 3.8/11 in 18-49), which fell to lowest-ever ratings. This year’s kudocast, which did win its two-hour block in adults 18-49, fell 10% off the pace of last year, when it aired during the February sweeps.

NBC won the night in homes and adults 25-54, while Fox edged ahead in adults 18-49 (3.8 vs. 3.7).

Thursday

ABC took its second straight post-sweeps Thursday in total viewers and trailed NBC’s all-comedy lineup by just 2 shares in adults 18-49.

“God, the Devil and Bob” (14.42 million, 7.2/19 in adults 18-49) won in all key demos in a special post-“Friends” preview airing. At 9:30, though, “Stark Raving Mad” (8.1/13 in homes) logged NBC’s lowest-ever rating in the timeslot with original entertainment programming.

“Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” (26.71 million, 9.1/23 in 18-49) won its hour by 6 shares in adults 18-49.Wednesday

ABC won the night by 1 share over NBC in adults 18-49 despite a third-place finish in homes.

Fox’s “Get Real” (5.12 million, 2.6/7 in adults 18-49) sputtered in its return to the lineup after a five-week absence. The drama retained just 66% of the women 18-34 audience provided by lead-in “Beverly Hills, 90210.” Last week, a special episode of gamer “Greed” retained 84%.

A rebroadcast of “First Wives Club” gave CBS its second best single-part Wednesday pic rating of the season in adults 18-49 (4.3/12).

Tuesday

On a night full of preemptions and interruptions on the Big 3 nets due to election coverage, Fox’s relaunch of “Family Guy” (7.33 million, 3.5/9 in adults 18-49) and UPN’s bow of “Secret Agent Man” (2.68 million, 1.1/3 in adults 18-49) did OK but failed to generate much heat. “Family” fared best among teens (6.3 rating), beating all competish including “Millionaire” (5.5). Top score for “Secret Agent” came from the net’s target aud of men 18-34 (1.5).

“Millionaire” took its 8:30 half-hour by 21 shares in homes and by 20 shares in adults 18-49 (Daily Variety, March 9).

Monday

CBS won a rerun-heavy night in homes March 6 while ABC took adults 18-49 behind the best score from “Once and Again” since it moved to Mondays in January and a first-place demo finish from 8-10 p.m. with a repeat airing of the feature “Broken Arrow” (Daily Variety, March 8).

Each household rating point represents 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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