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ABC’s year-end run

Y2K, football pump up Alphabet ratings

ABC’s new year is off to a festive start, with coverage of millennium celebrations Friday night and college bowl games Saturday and Sunday putting the Alphabet on course to garner its most dominant weeklong victory in adults 18-49 since the 1995 Super Bowl.

ABC is also expected to win the Dec. 27-Jan. 2 week in households to snap a five-week CBS winning streak, but the Eye will easily finish second in homes and has a shot at beating NBC for second place in adults 18-49.

It would be the first time in the “ER”-“Friends” era that CBS has topped NBC in that key demo in a non-Olympics week.

Tight races

NBC’s rough week may signal tighter season-to-date races in households and adults 18-49 through the remainder of the 1999-2000 season.

CBS was able to challenge NBC in last week’s 18-49 standings thanks mostly to the big Sunday pic “Beyond the Prairie: The True Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder,” the Eye’s top-rated film this season in adults 18-49 and 25-54.

In preliminary Nielsens for Sunday, “Beyond” harvested roughly 23.29 million viewers and a 7.4 rating, 17 share in adults 18-49, outscoring NBC’s competition, the theatrical pic “The Saint” (a prelim 10.37 million, 4.6/11 in adults 18-49) by nearly 13 million viewers and 6 shares in adults 18-49.

Unappetizing platter

NBC couldn’t excite viewers last week with its combo of reruns and special films. Saturday’s three-hour repeat of “Jurassic Park,” for example, remained third for the night in viewers (a prelim 10.18 million) and adults 18-49 (4.1/11), getting gobbled up by football and CBS’ rerun of “The Bodyguard” (a prelim 12.16 million, 4.6/12 in adults 18-49).

NBC’s downbeat week will apparently cut the Peacock’s season-to-date lead in households to a tenth of a point over CBS, down from the Peacock’s 0.5-rating-point edge just five weeks earlier.

18-49 gap narrows

A season-to-date 18-49 race could also be shaping up. NBC’s lead over second-place ABC in that demo could be sliced to as little as two-tenths of a rating point once Dec. 27-Jan. 2 results are factored in.

And with ABC likely to get about a 0.3- or 0.4-rating-point boost from the Super Bowl at the end of January, plus regular help from “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” starting this month, the Alphabet could be in position to pester NBC to season’s end in this demo. ABC’s biggest hurdle is the loss after this week of its strongest regular series, “Monday Night Football.”

ABC victories in the Dec. 27-Jan. 2 week appear certain, though exact averages are somewhat in doubt since preliminary Nielsens are unreliable for live events and the Alphabet aired live fare in primetime from Friday through Sunday.

ABC looks likely to win in homes by at least half a point over CBS and in adults 18-49 by about 1.5 rating points over CBS and/or NBC.

That 18-49 winning margin would be ABC’s fattest since Jan. 23-29, 1995, when the Super Bowl boosted the net to a colossal 5.1 edge.

Prelim nationals suggest ABC’s Friday millennium coverage will win that night by a commanding 11 shares in adults 18-49.

Rose-tinted evening

Overnight results for Saturday point toward another solid ABC win thanks to a Rose Bowl overrun (Wisconsin-Stanford) and Orange Bowl coverage (Michigan-Alabama), which combined for an 8-11 p.m. 11.0/17 in households in Nielsen’s metered markets, 3 shares ahead of CBS’ second-place “Bodyguard.”

ABC’s Sunday Fiesta Bowl (Nebraska-Tennessee) didn’t do as well, averaging an 8.6/12 in households according to Nielsen overnights, but that was still enough to beat ABC’s national results for the previous three Sundays.

Based on prelim Thursday-through-Sunday results, ABC is projected to finish the Dec. 27-Jan. 2 week with roughly a 5.5 rating in adults 18-49 (up 6% vs. the same week last year), followed by CBS’ 4.1 (up 2%) tied with NBC’s 4.1 (even) and Fox’s 3.7 (down 27%).

NBC could easily round down in this demo and would thus trail CBS for the week. The last time CBS beat NBC in the 18-49 demo without Olympic help was April 4-10, 1994, during the spring before “ER” and “Friends” premiered.

In households, ABC is expected to finish the week with roughly an 8.9 rating (up 5%), followed by CBS’ 8.4 (down 9%), NBC’s 6.9 (down 3%) and Fox’s 5.4 (down 24%).

Significant adjustments could be made to these projections when Nielsen issues official averages today, particularly due to ABC’s three nights of live telecasts.

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