'Practice' hits its second-best ratings ever

The scores of Sunday’s games continue to go ABC’s way.

One week after reaching the Nielsen end zone with boffo Super Bowl ratings, the Alphabet web has used solid numbers for the NFL’s Pro Bowl, another big “Practice” score and usually dominant numbers for its own Sunday gamer “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” to win a competitive night and punctuate another weekly victory.

Preliminary Nielsens for Sunday show ABC (7.4) topping Fox (6.3) in adults 18-49, with ABC and CBS in a close battle for homes. The results did little to change the nets’ early order in the February sweeps races, with NBC still leading ABC in both total viewers and adults 18-49 through four nights.

A wild Pro Bowl football all-star game, the final NFL game of the season, drew an estimated 13 million viewers and a 5.4 adults 18-49 rating from 7 p.m. to 9:10 p.m. “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and “The Practice” followed on ABC with dominant performances in adults 18-49. (Reliable Nielsens won’t be available until today due to the live sporting event’s late hour.)

Even given possible adjustments, “The Practice” apparently has notched its second-best ratings ever in both adults 18-49 and total viewers, trailing only the previous week’s post-Super Bowl results. Sunday’s “Practice” (an estimated 23 million viewers, 9.6 rating in adults 18-49) wrapped a two-parter that began with the post-Super Bowl episode. Those numbers represent dropoffs of less than 10% in both total viewers and adults 18-49, impressive achievements given the much larger lead-in that the Super Bowl provides.

“Practice” did get a sizable boost this week from “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” (an estimated 27 million viewers, 9.4 rating in adults 18-49), which began about 10 minutes late in most of the country because of the Pro Bowl.

CBS, which has gotten off to a sluggish sweeps start, picked it up on Sunday with solid performances from regulars “60 Minutes” (prelim 17.4 million, 3.8 in adults 18-49), “Touched by an Angel” (19.7 million, 5.3 in adults 18-49) and its movie, the Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation of “Missing Pieces” (16.1 million, 3.7 in adults 18-49).

Fox’s second-place finish in adults 18-49 on Sunday was paced by toons “The Simpsons” (prelim 16.4 million, 7.6 in adults 18-49) and “Malcolm in the Middle” (16.8 million, 7.8 in adults 18-49), both of which won their half-hours in adults 18-49. “Malcolm” has now built on its “Simpsons” adults 18-49 lead-in with each of its four original episodes.

NBC, which opened the sweeps with three consecutive victories in adults 18-49, fell to third for the night in that category, led by the broadcast premiere of “Face Off” (prelim 15.7 million, 5.2 in adults 18-49).

Based on weekend prelim results, ABC is expected to finish the Feb. 1-7 week with roughly a 5.9 rating in adults 18-49, followed by NBC (5.2), Fox (4.0) and CBS (3.5).

In households, the week’s estimated averages are: ABC, 10.2; CBS, 8.8; NBC, 8.7; Fox, 5.5.

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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