ABC rides ‘Millionaire’ to big sweeps leads

Quizzer helps boost Alphabet 59% over last year

Star-studded stunting on ABC’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” has the other nets seeing stars of their own after the first week of May sweeps.

The Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday editions of celebrity “Millionaire” have dealt a near-knockout blow to the other nets just seven days into the four-week ratings period. In all, the Alphabet web used five editions of its quiz show for the week to bolt to a seemingly insurmountable lead in total viewers and a healthy but not-quite-comfortable-enough advantage among young adults.

According to Nielsen, ABC is up a whopping 59% in total viewers and 39% in adults 18-49, compared with the opening May week of 1999.

Wednesday’s seg, which featured Rosie O’Donnell winning $500,000 for charity, sent the quizzer to a new high in total viewers (36.05 million), while placing second only to Tuesday’s show in adults 18-49 (12.2/36). It also set best-yet marks among men 18-49 (10.5/33) and kids (8.7/33).

Wednesday’s dominating 8 p.m. hour delivered ABC’s largest non-sports audience in the more than 17 years since “The Thorn Birds” (March 30, 1983).

Tuesday’s installment averaged 35.64 million viewers and a best-yet adults 18-49 rating of 12.4/36. It also turned in its highest deliveries among adults 18-34 (11.6/36), men 18-34 (9.3/32) and women 18-49 (14.8/39).

Best of the rest

CBS has weathered the three-day tsunami the best among rival nets, placing second all three nights in total viewers and edging past NBC into second for the sweeps to date.

Through seven nights of the May sweeps, the adults 18-49 standings are ABC, 6.1 rating/17 share (up 39% in rating from a year ago); NBC, 5.1/15 (down 23%); Fox, 4.0/12 (down 9%); and CBS, 3.3/9 (down 8%).

In total viewers, it’s ABC, 16.77 million (up 59%); CBS, 11.92 (down 4%); NBC, 11.64 (down 26%); Fox 8.26 (down 9%).

“Millionaire” helped boost ABC’s 9 p.m. laffers on both Tuesday and Wednesday, but like Monday, the net’s numbers returned to Earth after that, which has helped the other nets point to some successes on the nights.

CBS’ Wednesday telecast of the Academy of Country Music Awards (9.7/16 in homes, 4.3/12 in A18-49) slipped to its lowest-ever marks but held up well considering, down just 3% in homes vs. a year ago (10.0/16). Its total audience jumped by 54%, from 8:30 to 9 (16.12 million vs. 10.48).

The Eye placed first from 9 to 11 p.m. in homes and total viewers. For the night, it tied NBC for second in both adults 18-49 (4.3) and adults 25-54 (5.3). ABC led on the night, averaging 22.33 million viewers and 8.6 in adults 18-49, with “Drew Carey” riding the “Millionaire” train to its largest aud (20.28 million) and young adults rating (8.9/23) since Jan. 13.

Vying for the youth vote

Also on Wednesday, Fox’s “Party of Five” (6.49 million, 3.9/10 in A18-49) ended its six-year run by hitting its best ratings marks since October. The net placed second for the night in adults 18-34 (5.4/16) with its best Wednesday score in the demo with regular programming since Oct. 27.

Weblet the WB perhaps held up best to “Millionaire” and ABC, as its “Dawson’s Creek”/”Felicity” combo topped the Alphabet for the night in female teens (6.0 vs. 5.9) — the only demo ABC lost.

Tuesday’s “Millionaire” led into the second-most-watched “Dharma & Greg” ever (20 million). And at 10, “NYPD Blue” booked its second-largest aud of the season (15.79 million) and third highest in adults 18-49 rating (6.8/18).

For the night, ABC topped second- place CBS by more than 9 million viewers (22.8 vs. 13.7) and NBC by 91% in adults 18-49 (8.8/24 vs. 4.6/12).

CBS was led by the largest aud for “60 Minutes II” (13.38 million) since March 14 and the best for “Judging Amy” (14.81 million) since Feb. 29.

NBC was led Tuesday by “Will & Grace,” which came within a hair of ABC’s “Dharma” in adults 18-34 (7.5/21 vs. 7.1/20) despite a 30-share lead-in disadvantage (37-7).

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