Baseball throws out typical ratings fare

A strong Sunday, capped by hefty week-to-week ratings gains for “The Practice,” has helped ABC clinch the second week of the season in total viewers, although NBC will prevail among adults 18-49.

When Nielsen issues the final averages today, the Peacock is projected to edge past the Alphabet in 18-49 despite seeing significant week-two ratings dropoffs for three of its rookie dramas, including Sunday’s “Ed.” The quirky drama was squeezed out by heavy-duty sports competition on the night and was also hampered by a late start in most of the country — making an accurate assessment of its ratings strength difficult after just two outings.

With NBC’s coverage of baseball’s American League Championship Series (New York Yankees-Seattle Mariners) running well into primetime Sunday, it made for another atypical night in an early season disrupted on an almost nightly basis by baseball and debates.

Sporting alternatives

Night also included a 20-minute National Football League overrun on Fox (7-7:20 p.m.), the same net’s coverage of the National League Championship Series in baseball (N.Y. Mets-St. Louis Cardinals) from 8-11:15 p.m. ET, as well as an attractive, big-city NFL matchup on ESPN (Minnesota Vikings-Chicago Bears) beginning at 8:30 ET.

The A.L. game’s 8:28 p.m. ET finish meant that “Ed” (prelim 10.5 million, 4.7/11 in 18-49) was pushed back about 30 minutes in about 80% of the country. It competed, at least for a half-hour, against the season preem of CBS’ “Touched by an Angel” (15.1 million, 4.0/9 in A18-49), which had been preempted a week earlier due to an NFL overrun.

“Ed” fell by 33% in viewers and by 28% in adults 18-49 compared with its boffo debut one week earlier in fast nationals (15.7 million, 6.5). “Angel” was down by 18% in viewers and by 15% in 18-49 vs. its September 1999 season premiere.

NBC notes that “Ed” averaged a 9.7 rating in Nielsen’s metered markets in the West, where the series aired on time and with fewer sports distractions, compared with a 7.2 in the rest of the country.

Perhaps a better indication of how the “Ed”/”Angel” showdown will play out comes this week. Both will have to face Game 2 of the World Series on Fox, but at least they will start on time and don’t appear to be in danger of being preempted.

ABC won Sunday by 2 shares over CBS in homes (about 3.1 million viewers) and by 4 shares over CBS in adults 18-49.

At 10, “The Practice” gained by 21% in viewers (to a prelim 19.8 million) vs. its premiere a week earlier and by 19% in adults 18-49 (to a 7.4/18).

Getting in on ‘Act’

The drama got a nice boost from its lead-ins, as the fifth airing of “Sister Act 2″ delivered the largest audience for the “Wonderful World of Disney” since May (13.3 million) and its best 18-49 rating (4.6/12) since February. And at 9, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” posted its best Sunday ratings (21.3 million, 6.4/15) since August.

The WB’s first-year Sunday comedies “Hype” and “Nikki” combined for a 3.8 rating in overnights, down from the previous week’s 4.5. Each of the netlet’s other four comedies on the night were up, though.

Fox’s primetime baseball game Sunday averaged a 7.9/12 in overnights, down 12% from last year’s comparable contest, on the heels of an 8.1/14 in overnights for NBC’s Saturday game (down 9% from a year ago).

Projections for the week have ABC prevailing in homes with roughly a 10.1, well ahead of CBS (9.0), NBC (8.5), Fox (6.1), the WB (2.9) and UPN (2.8). In adults 18-49, NBC’s 5.3 will top ABC (5.1), CBS (3.9), Fox (3.8), UPN (1.9) and the WB (1.8).

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