'ER' has highest numbers for any program this season

ABC shot everything it could out of the cannon last week, but it was not enough to slow down NBC in the ratings battle for young adults.

In perhaps the most striking example yet of how dominant NBC’s Thursday lineup is this season, ABC finished behind the Peacock for the week of Nov. 13-19 despite topping NBC on six of seven nights.

According to Nielsen, NBC won its sixth straight week in adults 18-49 by rolling up a commanding 19-share advantage Thursday and then holding on over the weekend. The Peacock, whose demo lead in the November sweep is virtually unassailable at this point, averaged a season-best 5.7/14 rating, two ticks better than ABC’s 5.5/14 — also a season high.

NBC won Thursday in the demo and Fox took Sunday, but ABC captured the week’s other five nights.

ABC (15.05 million) and NBC (13.74 million) also logged their highest overall viewer totals of the season. For the Alphabet, it’s the best showing since the week of the first edition of celebrity “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” in early May.

It’s perhaps disheartening to ABC — the defending November sweep and season champ in adults 18-49 — to come up short when it appeared in position for its first victory of the season behind: four editions of celebrity “Millionaire,” a two-hour Beatles spec, one of the highest-rated Disney movies of the past year, another thrilling “Monday Night Football” game and a college football game pitting two of the nation’s top teams.

But NBC’s Thursday again claimed the week’s top five programs in adults 18-49, led by “ER,” whose 16.1/40 is the best score by a November sweep program on any net in three years. NBC stayed close to ABC during the rest of the week, including strong second-place finishes on the key nights of Tuesday and Wednesday.

The quizzer performed better than it has this season, but it’s clearly not the steamroller it was six months ago. Its five-night averages for the celeb editions (23.79 million viewers and 7.3/17 in adults 18-49) are off by 33% and 39% respectively vs. the four-night averages for May’s star-studded segs.

In the Nov. 13-19 frame, “Millionaire” placed only one of its four celeb editions among the top 10 in adults 18-49 (Tuesday’s 7.5/19 was 10th), but in total viewers it claimed four of the week’s top seven spots, led by second-ranked Wednesday (24.72 million).

Correct prescription

“ER” was the week’s top program in the 18-49 rating and total audience (31.03 million) — the best numbers for any program this season.

It was another good week for the netlets, which continue to eat away at the major nets’ share of the adults 18-34 pie. The WB and UPN were up in the demo vs. last season by 33% and 20% respectively, while ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox were all down.

Through 19 nights of the four-week November sweep, NBC leads in adults 18-49 with a 5.7 rating/14 share (up 6% vs. a year ago), followed by ABC (5.1/13, down 16%), Fox (4.7/12, down 8%), CBS (3.7/9, down 3%), the WB (2.0/5, up 25%) and UPN (1.8/5, up 13%).

ABC has taken the lead in total viewers, and appears headed for a close battle with NBC down the stretch. The standings: ABC, 14.0 million (down 12%); NBC (13.7m, down 6%); CBS (11.9m, down 8%); Fox (9.9m, down 3%); the WB (4.6m, up 10%) and UPN (4.4m, up 10%).

Monday

Rams-Redskins NFL matchup on Nov. 20 scored the fourth-best ratings of the season for “Monday Night Football” (20.29m, 8.6/23 in A18-49), leading ABC to victory on the night.

CBS again settled for a third-place finish in adults 18-49 (5.6/13) despite placing first from 8 to 10 with its comedies. “Becker” delivered its best numbers ever (17.98 million, 6.5/14 in A18-49) and “Everybody Loves Raymond” drew its second-largest aud to date (21.36m), but “Family Law” fell to third at 10 p.m., posting its second-lowest numbers of the season (12.27m, 4.1/10).

A Dixie Chicks concert chimed in with NBC’s largest in-season audience in the hour (11.96m) since April 17 and the net’s best in-season showing in adults 18-49 (4.9/12) since May 1999.

Fox’s “Boston Public” (11.82m, 4.9/12 in A18-49) rebounded from its week-earlier perf (opposite a big “7th Heaven”), but the net’s “Ally McBeal” (12.34m, 6.3/19) fell to season lows.

Sunday

Fox won for a third straight week in adults 18-49 (6.7/15), but each of its series slipped to their lowest ratings in three tries this season.

ABC won the night in viewers as Disney pic “Santa Who?” won its two-hour block (16.53 million) and was second to Fox in adults 18-49 (5.2/12).

Saturday

Much-anticipated college football game between two of the top four teams in the country (Florida State and Florida) delivered winning numbers for ABC on the night (12.6 million, 4.7/14 in A18-49). Compared with a November sweep Saturday game last season (a less significant Notre Dame-Stanford contest), ABC was up 110% in viewers and 147% in 18-49.

NBC placed a strong second behind a repeat of “Twister,” which whipped up the net’s best Saturday ratings of the season and second-highest score in adults 18-49 (4.2/12) since May 1998.

Friday

Fox’s “Police Videos” is taking a stranglehold on the leadoff hour by dominating among young men. Perhaps boosted by heavy promotion during a two-hour “Cops” spec the night before, “Videos” surged to the best men 18-34 rating in the hour for Fox (5.9/22) in more than six years.

Spec “Beatles Revolution” (8.69m, 3.9/12 in A18-49) and a Barbara Walters interview with Macaulay Culkin on “20/20″ (11.94m, 4.5/13) lifted ABC to its first Friday victory in 18-49 since March 24.

NBC edged CBS to win the night in total viewers, although the Eye’s “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” (15.74m) was the night’s No. 1 show.

The WB set many network records on the night, including adults 18-34 (1.9/7), teens (3.5/14) and total viewers (4.3 million). “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” topped CBS’ “The Fugitive” in adults 18-34 and nearly caught up with it in men 18-34.

Thursday

NBC cruised in adults 18-49 (12.7/31) and viewers (24.4 million), but ABC had some good news at 8:30 with “Whose Line Is It Anyway.” Improv show, with a guest spot by Robin Williams, logged its best Thursday ratings ever (17.16m, 7.5/19).

In an upset, “Whose Line” also topped UPN’s “WWF Smackdown” in teens (7.4/21 to 6.2/17).

“ER” is having a great year, but it’s also not getting much of a fight from a pair of demo lightweights on ABC (“PrimeTime Thursday”) and CBS (“Diagnosis Murder”). The medical drama topped the combined ABC-CBS score in the hour by 256% in adults 18-49 (16.1/40 to 4.6/11) and by 373% in 18-34 (14.2/40 to 3.0/8).

“Just Shoot Me,” (20.20m, 11.0/25 in A18-49) did a good job of keeping viewers from turning over to celeb “Millionaire” at 9:30. “Shoot” retained 91% of “Will & Grace’s” 18-49 aud and 93% of its 18-34 crowd.

Wednesday

ABC enjoyed its best Wednesday since early May, with each of its series, including rookie “Gideon’s Crossing” (10.97, 5.0/13 in A18-49), posting its best numbers on the night this season.

“Millionaire” (24.72m, 7.3/20 in A18-49) made things tough for other shows in the opening hour, sending three — CBS’ “Bette” and “Welcome to New York,” and Fox’s “Normal, Ohio” — to season-low marks.

Tuesday

Celeb “Millionaire” helped ABC win the night in both viewers (14.8 million) and 18-49 (5.7/14), although NBC placed a close second in 18-49 thanks to “Frasier” (7.6/18), and CBS was a competitive runner-up in viewers behind “Judging Amy” (15.54 million).

In its first outing, NBC laffer “DAG” (6.5/15) retained a fairly strong 83% of its 18-49 lead-in from “Frasier.”

Monday

ABC won Nov. 13 behind “Monday Night Football,” while the WB’s “7th Heaven” said good-bye to Jessica Biel’s character with big ratings (Daily Variety, Nov. 15).

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