'Millionaire' may be sweeps final answer
It’s true that a dollar doesn’t go as far as it used to, but ABC, at least, is finding that a “Millionaire” can still go a long way.With gameshow phenomenon “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” stripped as a thrice-weekly series regular for the first time in a sweeps period, ABC is off to a strong start in the February race. For the week of Feb. 1-7, a bonus Wednesday episode of “Millionaire” plus continued dominant performances by Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday episodes lifted the Alphabet to victory in total viewers and adults 18-49. It’s ABC’s seventh consecutive weekly victory in adults 18-49, something it hasn’t done since the 1993-94 season. A strong showing on Monday of this week by the “Mary & Rhoda” reunion telepic has also put ABC ahead of NBC for the February sweeps lead in total viewers and households; the two nets are in a virtual tie in adults 18-49 after five days. “Millionaire” finished in the top four places of the weekly total viewers tally, and the series’ separate installments also rate Nos. 1, 2 and 3 for the season in that category. NBC’s “E.R.” and “Friends” are the top two- ranked shows for the season among adults 18-49, with “Millionaire” ranking third through fifth in that category. If there’s one negative for ABC with all of its “Millionaire” success, it’s that it’s relying less and less on entertainment series to reach the ratings winning circle. Last week, for example, ABC aired just five hours of entertainment series (dramas and sitcoms), compared with NBC’s 14 hours and CBS’ 10. Contributing to the net’s victories in adults 18-49 and total viewers were a trio of rebroadcast theatricals and the National Football League’s Pro Bowl. NBC’s “Frasier” continues to give the Regis Philbin-hosted gameshow the biggest run for its money, last week topping “Millionaire” by 7% in adults 18-49. “Millionaire” handily defeated “Frasier” in total viewers, though, reflecting the gamer’s edge among viewers both younger than 18 and older than 49. With five nights of the four-week sweeps period concluded, the adults 18-49 rankings are: ABC, a 5.7 rating/16 share (up 33%); NBC, 5.7/15 (down 23%); Fox, 4.7/13 (down 18%); and CBS, 3.5/9 (down 8%). In households, it’s: ABC, a 10.1/17 (up 36%); NBC, 9.1/15 (down 17%); CBS, 8.7/14 (down 9%); and Fox, 6.4/10 (down 14%). Last week’s adult 18-49 averages were: ABC, 6.1/17 (up 27%); NBC, 5.3/14 (down 16%); Fox, 4.0/11 (down 25%); CBS, 3.4/9 (down 11%); UPN, 1.7/5 (up 31%); WB, 1.4/4 (down 22%); and Pax, 0.3/1 (even). National primetime 18-49 averages for the top cable services were: USA, 1.2/3 (up 33%); HBO, 1.1/3 (up 10%); TBS, 0.8/2 (down 27%); TNT, 0.6/2 (down 33%); Lifetime, 0.5/1 (down 17%); Discovery Channel, 0.5/1 (up 25%); and the Learning Channel, 0.5/1 (up 25%). Monday Fox took Feb. 7 in adults 18-49, thanks to strong performances from a pair of “That ’70s Show” episodes and “Ally McBeal” (14.70 million viewers, 8.6 rating in adults 18-49). “Mary & Rhoda” (17.75 million viewers, 5.7 rating in adults 18-49) logged ABC’s best Monday movie numbers since last season’s “Sonny & Cher” biopic. Ironically, the ABC reunion pic of the classic CBS series appears to have hit the Eye the hardest, as loyal CBS viewers may have been torn between the net’s current comedies and a reunion special of one of its all-time greats. CBS comedy anchors “The King of Queens” and “Everybody Loves Raymond” were down compared with recent weeks. At 10 p.m., the dramas on the Big 3 nets continue to cannibalize each other, with none able to break ahead by any considerable margins in any key ratings category. Sunday Final Nielsens confirm that the second part of a two-part episode of “The Practice” has delivered that series’ second-best results ever in total viewers (22.8 million) and adults 18-49 (9.6/24). The post-Super Bowl episode the previous week had established the record. Through its first four original episodes, Fox’s midseason hit “Malcolm in the Middle” has gained an average of 14% in both adults 18-49 and total viewers, the best any series has fared after “The Simpsons” after that many episodes. “Malcolm” also ranked No. 1 for the week in teens (“Simpsons” was second) and third in men 18-34. ABC’s coverage of the NFL’s Pro Bowl drew its best total viewers tally since 1997 (13.2 million) and its best adults 18-49 mark (5.2/16) since 1996. Saturday NBC’s new schedule delivered the net’s largest audience in adults 18-49 with regularly scheduled series since Nov. 8, 1997. The Peacock’s nightly victory in adults 18-49 was highlighted by the solid debut at 10 p.m. of “The Others,” which topped NBC’s season-to-date average in the timeslot with regular programming by 38% in adults 18-49 and by 32% in total viewers. Friday NBC won the night in adults 18-49 (4.9/15) and total viewers (14.6 million), led by time-winning performances from all three of its shows. At 10 p.m., rookie drama “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” continues to shine brightest for the Peacock, delivering the network’s highest adults 18-49 rating in the Friday 10 p.m. hour since Nov. 14, 1997. The series has showed gains among adults 18-49 with each of its four airings since moving to its new timeslot last month. Fox is making significant strides of its own on this night with new Friday entry “World’s Wildest Police Videos” at 8 p.m. Since its January debut, “Videos” has improved on Fox’s season average in the slot by 61% in adults 18-49 (4.5 vs. 2.8) and 38% in total viewers (10.5 million vs. 7.6 million). Thursday CBS’ “Diagnosis Murder” turned up its best households rating (10.5) and adults 18-49 rating (2.9) since January 1999. “Chicago Hope” followed with its best adults 18-49 rating (3.0) since it began facing “Millionaire” in the 9 p.m. timeslot four weeks ago. Teens continue to flock to the netlets Thursday night, with results split along gender lines. The WB’s “Charmed” set a series record among female teens (9.1 rating, 25 share), while UPN’s “WWF Smackdown!” pinned down a similar proportion of male teens (9.0/24). Wednesday ABC successfully stunted “Millionaire” at 8 p.m. to lure away viewers from NBC’s heavily promoted episode of “Twenty One,” which featured a contestant winning a gameshow-record $1,120,000 (Daily Variety, Feb. 4). Tuesday The second-best Tuesday numbers yet for “Millionaire” (30.5 million viewers, 9.7/26 in adults 18-49) and a strong showing at 10 p.m. by “NYPD Blue” (17.7 million, 7.5/20 in adults 18-49) powered ABC to an easy victory for the night. Monday CBS and ABC tied for the Jan. 31 lead in adults 18-49 (5.1/13), with the Eye’s special “48 Hours” at 10 p.m. scoring the newsmag’s best homes rating (11.2) since Dec. 7, 1994 (Daily Variety, Feb. 1). The WB’s “7th Heaven” hit a season high in adults 18-49 (3.0/8) and rose to third in its hour in total viewers. 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.