ABC quizzer helps net top 'Must See' Thursday

ABC’s strong Thursday, anchored by the final night of celebrity “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” has helped the net maintain a still-healthy advantage among young adults through 10 days of May sweeps.

The Alphabet rode the final night of the “Millionaire” celeb steamroller to its best demo score on a Thursday with entertainment programming (7.8/21) since “Stephen King’s The Stand” in May 1994. ABC still placed second on the night to NBC in the key advertiser demo, but it did top the Peacock in total viewers — something no net has accomplished in May sweeps during the “Must See TV” era.

It’s also the first time since May 1994 that ABC drew a larger audience than NBC on a Thursday night during any sweeps period.

According to Nielsen, ABC won Thursday by 2.1 million viewers (22.47 vs. 20.37), while NBC held a 7-share demo edge (28 vs. 21). That’s quite a reversal from the previous Thursday, when NBC won by nearly 7 million viewers and by 15 shares in adults 18-49.

NBC holds ground

Still, ABC’s gains were not necessarily at NBC’s expense. The Peacock slipped in adults 18-49 by just 1 share and in total viewers by less than half a million.

NBC took Friday in young adults, although season finales for ABC’s comedies made it close (4.0/13 vs. 3.7/12). Fox edged ABC on Saturday in young adults (3.2/12 vs. 3.0/11) while CBS won in viewers.

NBC, which entered Thursday trailing ABC in the sweep by 1.0 ratings points in adults 18-49, shaved that margin to 0.4 through Saturday, based on prelim Nielsens results for Friday and Saturday.

The projected sweeps adults 18-49 averages through Saturday are: ABC 5.7/16, NBC 5.3/15, Fox 3.6/10, CBS 3.1/9. Total-viewer projections: ABC 15.8 million, NBC 12.1, CBS 11.0, Fox 7.5.

Thursday’s celebrity “Millionaire” (34.67 million viewers, 11.4/28 in adults 18-49) ran 8 minutes into the 10 p.m. hour, where it faced “ER” for the first time. ABC topped the NBC drama in total viewers for the first half-hour (27.34 million vs. 24.61) although “ER” still won for the whole hour in viewers (26.26 vs. 22.16) and adults 18-49 (12.9 vs. 7.6).

Riding coattails

“20/20 Downtown,” which ran from 10:08 to 11, had its best night ever in total viewers (19.31 million) and adults 18-49 (6.6/17). It was ABC’s best tally in the hour with news programming since “Primetime Live” on April 14, 1994.

“ER” was down just 4% compared with the previous week in viewers (26.25 million vs. 27.38) and 1% in young adults (13.1 vs. 12.9).

“Millionaire” topped the 9 p.m. “Frasier” (16.75 million, 8.3/22 in A18-49) by 91% in total viewers and by 25% in adults 18-49 — its largest victory margins ever over a firstrun “Frasier.” A week earlier, “Frasier” topped a regular seg of “Millionaire” by a season-best 60% in young adults.

In the 9 p.m. half-hour, “Millionaire” grew by 60% compared with a week ago in adults 18-49 (10.4 vs. 6.5) while “Frasier” fell by 20% (8.3 vs. 10.4).

Perhaps in anticipation of “Millionaire,” the 8:30 “Whose Line Is It Anyway” jumped by 22% vs. last week in adults 18-49 (5.6 vs. 4.6). It was the best demo score for ABC’s improv show since March 16.

Weekend farewells

Friday was highlighted by the one-hour swan song for “Boy Meets World” (prelim 10.1 million, 4.0/15 in A18-49), which delivered ABC’s best demo score in the hour with comedies this season. It’s the only time this season that ABC comedies have topped a firstrun episode of NBC’s “Providence” (3.4/13) in the demo.

And at 9, “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” (10.3 million, 3.8/13 in A18-49) ended its ABC run by edging NBC’s “Dateline” (3.7/12) with its best demo tally since Jan. 28.

CBS’ renewal hopeful “Now and Again” (prelim 8.8 million, 3.0/10) wrapped its season with its best numbers in two months and topped Fox’s “Greed” in both viewers and demos for the first time since Jan. 14.

NBC’s “Law & Order: SVU” posted its highest adults 18-49 rating (4.6/14) since Feb. 25.

On Saturday, ABC’s 25th-anniversary presentation of “Jaws” (prelim 7.8 million, 3.0/11 in A18-49) did OK, placing the net second for the night in both viewers and demos.

CBS took the night in viewers while Fox edged ABC in adults 18-49 (3.2 vs. 3.0) despite its lowest Saturday score in the demo since Christmas.

NBC placed a close third in young adults (2.9) but actually moved to the lead among adults 25-54 (3.8/11).

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