Alphabet web looks like a 'Million'

With momentum and “Millionaire” on its side, ABC appears to be the network to beat as the February sweeps enters its final week.

The Alphabet web has regained the lead from NBC in adults 18-49 with a string of four consecutive nightly victories over the Peacock web, including big ratings for Monday’s network premiere of “Ransom” and another titanic Tuesday anchored by “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”

And with four additional episodes of the dominating “Millionaire” added to its schedule over the sweeps’ final eight nights, ABC now appears poised to break open a close battle with NBC in adults 18-49 and move toward its second consecutive sweeps crown.

ABC won for the eighth straight week in total viewers — something it hadn’t done in five years — and holds comfortable leads in the sweeps races for households and total viewers.

NBC enjoyed a narrow demo lead for most of the sweeps behind the strength of its Wednesday, Thursday and Friday lineups and actually has won the last two weeks in adults 18-49. But any chance it appeared to have at eking out a victory in adults 18-49 appears to have gone out the window with the extra “Millionaire” episodes.

NBC does have six hours of the mega-mini “The 10th Kingdom” scheduled for three of the sweeps’ final four nights, but ABC has strategically placed extra episodes of “Millionaire” so that “Kingdom” now faces direct competition from “Millionaire” on each night it will air.

For the week of Feb. 14-20, NBC was paced by “ER” (39.38 million viewers), which was the most-watched program of the week for the second consecutive frame. “Millionaire” episodes on Sunday (30.49 million) and Tuesday (28.66 million) ranked second and third.

Among adults 18-49, “ER” (20.2/48) performed surgery on the competition with its best marks since May 1998. Fellow Thursday night sked mates “Friends” (13.7/35) and “Frasier” (10.7/26) followed in this category.

Fox had its strongest week of the sweeps, placing first in adults 18-34 and a close third in adults 18-49 behind strong scores from its Monday and Sunday lineups and controversial Tuesday spec “Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire.” Fox was the only Big-4 net to post increases in adults 18-49 compared with the same week a year ago.

CBS, which has kept primarily to its regular schedule, is having a lackluster sweep. Last week, a rare misfire for its Sunday movie (“Flowers for Algernon”) failed to give the web a boost heading into the homestretch. The Eye net figures to gain ground, though, with last night’s Grammy Awards and its two-part movie “Perfect Murder, Perfect Town,” which begins Sunday.

Meanwhile, the mob ruled on cable last week, with HBO’s “The Sopranos” (5.84 million) and its premiere of “Analyze This” (5.20 million) topping the rankings.

Through 20 days of the sweeps period, the adults 18-49 standings are ABC, 5.9 rating, 16 share (up 13% vs. a year ago); NBC, 5.8/15 (down 8%); Fox, 4.8/13 (down 9%); CBS, 3.7/10 (down 5%); UPN, 1.7/5 (up 42%); the WB, 1.5/4 (down 17%); and Pax, 0.3/1 (flat).

In households, it’s ABC, 10.1/16 (up 19%); NBC, 9.3/15 (down 6%); CBS, 8.9/14 (down 7%); Fox, 6.6/11 (down 6%); UPN, 2.9/5 (up 45%); the WB, 2.8/4 (down 15%); and Pax, 0.8/1 (up 14% ).

For the week of Feb. 14-20, the adults 18-49 standings are NBC, 5.8/16 (down 6% vs. the same week a year ago); ABC, 5.7/15 (down 2%); Fox, 5.3/14 (up 2%); CBS, 3.6/10 (down 5%); UPN, 1.6/4 (up 7%); the WB, 1.5/4 (down 21%); and Pax, 0.3/1.

In households, it’s ABC, 9.7/16 (up 5%); NBC, 9.6/16 (down 3%); CBS, 8.7/14 (down 8%); Fox, 7.3/12 (up 7%); the WB, 2.7/4 (down 27%) tied with UPN, 2.7/4 (up 17%); and Pax, 0.8/1.

National primetime 18-49 averages for the top cable services were: HBO, 1.0/3 (down 17%); USA, 0.9/3 (flat), tied with TBS (up 29%); TNT, 0.5/1 (down 38%), tied with Lifetime (flat), ESPN (up 25%) and Discovery (flat).

Tuesday

“Millionaire” (29.30 million, 9.7/26 in adults 18-49) lifted ABC to a 6-share victory in adults 18-49 over NBC on Feb. 22.

At 10 p.m., “Dateline” drew its third-largest adults 18-49 rating (6.7/18) of the season thanks to an interview with Rick Rockwell, the groom with a questioned past in Fox’s “Marry a Multimillionaire” special.

Monday

Fox’s “That ’70s Show” and “Ally McBeal” powered the net on Feb. 21 to its second straight Monday triumph in adults 18-49, edging past ABC and its broadcast premiere of “Ransom” (17.24 million, 7.0/17 in adults 18-49).

“That ’70s Show” logged its best adults 18-49 scores (5.7 with an original episode at 8 p.m. and 5.9 with a repeat at 8:30 p.m.) since moving to Mondays earlier this month, placing second to “Ransom” in each half-hour.

“Ransom” drew ABC’s largest Monday night audience with entertainment programming since February 3, 1997 (the premiere of “Clear and Present Danger”). Its adults 18-49 score was the net’s best with a Monday movie in exactly one year (Sonny and Cher biopic “And the Beat Goes On”).

“Ally McBeal” (15.11 million, 8.6/20 in adults 18-49) was the only show to top “Ransom” head-to-head in adults 18-49, while CBS’ “Everybody Loves Raymond” (17.92 million, 6.4/15 in adults 18-49) was the only show to best “Ransom” in viewers.

Sunday

“Millionaire” and “The Practice” helped ABC edge Fox in adults 18-49, while ABC was a more decisive victor in total viewers over second-place CBS (Daily Variety, Feb. 22).

“The Practice” (21.68 million, 8.6/22) notched its third-best ratings yet in adults 18-49 and total viewers, while “Millionaire” hit a season high in total viewers for a Sunday episode — impressive, considering that the holiday weekend dragged overall Sunday viewership down by 8% vs. last week.

From 7-9 p.m., “Jungle 2 Jungle” (15.72 million, 4.9/13 in adults 18-49) continued ABC’s strong run with theatricals, ranking second behind CBS in total viewers during its two hours.

Fox’s “Cops”-themed episode of “The X-Files” drew 16.56 million viewers, its largest audience since last November’s season premiere.

Saturday

The third ABC airing of the film “Phenomenon” boosted the net to victory among adults 18-49, while CBS placed first in total viewers for the first time on a Saturday with regular programming since December.

“Phenomenon” (11.3 million viewers), surprisingly, drew an audience 41% larger than its second run on ABC, last May (8.0 million).

Friday

A two-hour crossover teaming the casts of “Law & Order” and its spinoff, “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” helped NBC pull away from the competition with its largest Friday audience of the year. “Providence” (16.63 million, 5.3/17 in adults 18-49) got things going for the Peacock with its best scores of the season in both categories (Daily Variety, Feb. 22).

ABC’s rebroadcast of “Liar Liar” held up well just four days after its first airing, lifting the net to second place.

Thursday

NBC recorded the most dominant night of any network this sweeps period with a one-hour episode of “Friends” (25.89 million, 13.7/35 in adults 18-49) and the fifth-most-watched-episode-ever of “ER” (39.38 million, 20.2/48 in adults 18-49). The medical drama’s adults 18-49 audience was the largest for a regularly scheduled entertainment program since the night “Seinfeld” left the NBC airwaves in May 1998, and more than two full rating points (11%) bigger than the episode last February in which George Clooney exited the series.

ABC finished second for the night, but trailed NBC by a whopping 22 shares in adults 18-49 and by 11 shares in homes.

Wednesday

ABC edged NBC in adults 18-49 despite placing third in total viewers. The Alphabet web’s comedies each won their half-hour in adults 18-49, including “Norm,” which for the first time built on its adults 18-49 lead-in from “Two Guys and a Girl.”

CBS mini “Sally Hemings: An American Scandal” gave the Eye web its second-best adults 25-54 rating on a Wednesday since premiere week and emerged from the night as the most-watched multi-parter of the season.

Tuesday

Fox’s two-hour special “Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire” (16.02 million, 7.4/18 in adults 18-49) helped the net become the first to defeat ABC on a Tuesday in adults 18-49 since the Alphabet’s own “Millionaire” began as a series regular last month.

“JAG” (16.59 million, 5.0/13) logged its best adults 18-49 and adults 25-54 tallies in its four years on CBS (Daily Variety, Feb. 17).

Monday

Fox won Feb. 14 by 3 shares over ABC in adults 18-49, while CBS beat ABC by 1 share in homes (Daily Variety, Feb. 16).

Both of the weblets shined: UPN’s comedy block netted its best adults 18-34 rating (1.9/5) since last September, while at 8 p.m., the WB’s “7th Heaven” topped NBC’s “Twenty One” in adults 18-34 and women 18-49.

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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