'ER' tops 18-49 demo

Regis Philbin has helped ABC accomplish something that Marcus Welby, Fonzie and the Carringtons never could: win 15 straight weeks in the ratings.

With Philbin’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” leading the way, the Alphabet network captured the week of April 3-9 and has established its longest winning streak ever in households and total viewers. Its previous best streak of 14 weeks was set during the 1978-79 season.

The streak coincides with the debut of Philbin’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” as a thrice-weekly series in January. ABC had won just four of the season’s first 14 weeks.

According to Nielsen, “Millionaire” installments last week ranked second, third and fourth in total viewers, trailing only NBC’s “ER.”

Among adults 18-49, ABC topped NBC by 2 shares for its seventh straight victory in that category. The week’s top shows in the demo were “ER” (13.2/36), “Friends” (8.6/29) and Sunday’s “Millionaire” (8.6/20).

CBS was positioned to possibly end ABC’s streak in homes last week, but its chances were dashed early on when Monday’s NCAA men’s basketball championship slipped to lowest-ever primetime ratings and Tuesday’s launch of midseason mob series “Falcone” failed to draw much of a crowd. The Jason Gedrick-toplined hour also struggled against drama biggies “ER” and “Law & Order” but saw an uptick on Friday and Saturday.

CBS rode big male demo numbers from basketball and Sunday’s live drama “Fail Safe” to place third for the week in adults 25-54 and second in men 25-54 for the second straight week.

The Eye net has now topped Fox in adults 25-54 for seven straight weeks and is poised to place third in its target demo for the season after slipping behind Fox to fourth a year ago.

Adults 18-49 averages for the week of April 3-9: ABC, a 4.8 rating/14 share (up 37% vs. the same week a year ago); NBC, 4.1/12 (down 16%); Fox, 3.7/11 (down 21%), tied with CBS, 3.7/11 (up 9%); UPN, 1.3/4 (up 44%); the WB, 1.3/4 (down 7%); and Pax, 0.3/1 (even).

In households, it’s: ABC, 8.9/15 (up 39%); CBS, 8.2/14 (down 1%); NBC, 7.5/13 (down 9%); Fox, 5.1/9 (down 19%); UPN, 2.3/4 (up 35%); the WB, 2.3/4 (down 18%); and Pax, 0.9/2 (up 12%).

Adults 18-49 averages for the top cable services: HBO, 1.4/4 (even); USA, 0.9/2 (up 13%) and TNT, 0.7/2 (down 22%), tied with Lifetime, 0.7/2 (up 40%) and TBS, 0.7/2 (even).

Monday

ABC’s “Once and Again” (11.31 million, 5.0/13 in A18-49) won on April 10 in the three-way drama battle at 10 p.m., besting NBC’s “Third Watch” (10.86 million, 4.1/11). CBS’ “Falcone,” airing its seventh of nine episodes, lagged in both measures.

Fox’s “Titus” (4.7/13 in A18-49) improved by 12% in the demo over lead-in “That ’70s Show” (in repeat).

The WB’s shift of “Roswell” to Mondays looks promising: Airing behind an original “7th Heaven” (5.99 million, 2.1 in A18-49), the rookie sci-fi drama drew 3.79 million viewers and a 1.4 in adults 18-49. Its retention levels, the best for any series to follow “Heaven” this season, included 61% in total viewers, 67% of adults 18-49, 70% of adults 12-34 and 77% of adults 18-34. “Roswell” was also the No. 1 show in its slot in both male and female teens.

Sunday

CBS’ black-and-white broadcast of “Fail Safe,” the first full-length live drama to air on television in nearly 40 years, drew 15.65 million viewers, good enough for second behind ABC in each half-hour.

Its 5.7/14 in adults 18-49 is the best for a single-parter in the CBS Sunday pic timeslot since “Beyond the Prairie” on Jan. 2 (7.3/17), before “Millionaire” became a Sunday regular.

Fox tied ABC for the adults 18-49 lead, while ABC edged CBS in viewers. “Malcolm in the Middle” (15.19 million), Fox’s top program of the night, finished the week as the No. 1 show among teens and men 12-34.

Cable may have cut into the broadcast nets’ totals, as “The Sopranos” hit a very high ratings note with its season finale.

The WB’s “D.C.” held steady in week two (1.5 in homes vs. 1.6 for its premiere), but that’s the netlet’s lowest rating for originals in the Sunday 8-9 p.m. hour since Nov. 2, 1997 (“The Jamie Foxx Show” and “Tom Show”).

Saturday

A three-hour rebroadcast of “First Knight” (9.71 million, 3.7/12 in A18-49) powered ABC in total viewers, while Fox edged ahead in adults 18-49 (3.8 vs. 3.7) behind its reality series. “Knight” won its final hour by 5 shares in young adults.

Airing in the stronger “Walker, Texas Ranger” timeslot, “Falcone” drew its largest audience (9.42 million) and best demos (2.8/9 in A18-49) since its Tuesday premiere. It grew by 8% in adults 18-49 from its lead-in, a special 9 p.m. “Walker” (2.6/8).

Weak pro basketball ratings dragged NBC to its lowest Saturday homes rating on record (2.8).

Friday

ABC’s “Making the Band” (7.84 million, 3.3/10 in A18-49) made its case for renewal by topping its lead-in, a repeat “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch,” by 3% in adults 18-49 (3.3 vs. 3.2), by 6% in adults 18-34 (3.4 vs. 3.2) and by 13% in female teens (7.6 vs. 6.7).

NBC’s Geraldo Rivera news special, “LAPD Blues” (2.4/8 in A18-49), fell 38% below the timeslot average of “Dateline” (3.9/12).

CBS’ “Nash Bridges” stepped in at 9 p.m. for the first time this season and performed well, winning its hour in adults 25-54 by 2 shares. At 10 p.m., though, “Falcone” relinquished the net’s lead, placing third despite topping its Wednesday and Thursday scores.

ABC’s “20/20″ logged its second best adults 18-49 rating (4.5/14) in the last 13 weeks.

Thursday

NBC’s “ER” had no problem with the other two drama hopefuls in the 10 p.m. hour, topping ABC’s “Wonderland” and CBS’ “Falcone” by a combined 94% in total viewers (27.5 million vs. 14.2) and by 275% in adults 18-49 (13.2 vs. 4.8). Despite the huge lead-in provided by “Millionaire,” “Wonderland” slipped behind “Falcone” in total viewers in its second half-hour (6.7 million vs. 6.2).

Among adults 18-34, the new dramas held up much better in male demos: “Wonderland” (7) and “Fal-cone” (5) combined for a 12 share in men 18-34, a distant 15 shares behind “ER’s” 27; but among women 18-34, “Wonderland” (6) and “Falcone” (4) settled for a 10 share, a galaxy-like 39 shares behind “ER” (49).

Fox’s “NAACP Image Awards” (2.7/4 in homes) slipped to lowest-yet marks, down 34% from last year’s 4.1/16.

Wednesday

ABC held tough in demos, trailing NBC’s all-original lineup by just 1 share in adults 18-49. “20/20″ played a key role, logging its largest audience in 11 weeks (12.74 million) and closing to within 5 shares of NBC’s “Law & Order” in adults 18-49.

The Alphabet’s leadoff hour struggled despite winning in adults 18-49, with “Two Guys and a Girl” posting its smallest audience (8.19 million) and 18-49 rating (3.6/12) to date. At 8:30, rookie romantic comedy “Then Came You” built on its lead-in in adults 18-49 (3.8/11).

That helped NBC’s “Dateline” pull within 1 share of ABC in adults 18-49.

The WB’s rejiggered Wednesday lineup brought timeslot gains in most categories, although “Felicity” at 9 p.m. (3.08 million, 1.5/4 in A18-49) lost about one-quarter of its “Dawson’s Creek” lead-in in several key demos.

In its first Wednesday try, “Felicity” improved slightly on its Sunday average this season (2.96 million, 1.3/3 in A18-49); and its 3.0/8 in women 18-34 is the netlet’s best score in the timeslot since November. “Dawson’s Creek” withstood daylight-saving time well, posting its best women 18-49 rating (2.5/7) in 20 weeks.

Tuesday

Despite airing on the heels of heavy promotion during the NCAA men’s basketball tourney, “Falcone” failed to bring male demo gains for CBS. At 10 p.m., its 2.7 rating in men 18-49 was less than the original-episode ratings average (2.8) for the slot’s regular occupant, “Judging Amy.”

“Millionaire” helped ABC win its 14th straight Tuesday in total viewers (Daily Variety, April 6).

Monday

The NCAA men’s basketball title game on April 3 slipped to its lowest-ever primetime marks in all key categories. The Florida-Michigan State contest (14.1/23 in homes) was down 18% in homes from the previous low-water mark, set a year earlier, and its 8.2/21 in adults 18-49 was 25% off the 1999 pace (11.0/27).

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