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‘Millionaire’s’ winning hand trumps NBC’s ’21’

No plans announced for additional sweeps episodes

In a head-to-head battle of gameshows Wednesday night, ABC effectively played its ace, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” to blunt NBC’s “Twenty One,” dealing the Peacock gamer its worst Nielsens hand yet.

Though a late add to the ABC schedule, “Millionaire” (28.39 million viewers, 9.8 rating/28 share in adults 18-49) dominated the 8 p.m. hour. The net made what it called a “competitive” move in skedding a special Wednesday edition of its monster gameshow opposite a much buzzed-about episode of “Twenty One” that featured the biggest single winner in gamer history — a law student from Massachusetts, who went home with $1,120,000.

Peacock draws 2nd place

“Twenty One” (8.38 million, 2.7/8 in adults 18-49) placed second in total viewers with less than half of its previous week’s rating. Head-to-head competition with “Millionaire” had also sent CBS’ “Winning Lines” and Fox’s “Greed” to season-low Nielsens in recent weeks.

For the second consecutive night, “Millionaire” easily topped the combined CBS-NBC-Fox competition from 8-9 p.m. in both total viewers and adults 18-49. With the help of “Millionaire,” TV viewing of the six broadcast networks from 8-9 p.m. Wednesday increased by 5 million viewers over the previous Wednesday night (57.2 million vs. 52.2 million).

Wednesday war

ABC’s addition of a Wednesday “Millionaire” also may have been aimed at curbing NBC’s Wednesday momentum heading into February sweeps, which began Thursday. The Peacock had been gaining Nielsen ground on ABC on recent Wednesdays, winning the night in adults 18-49 the last three times it aired original episodes of dramas “The West Wing” and “Law & Order.”

NBC will air 8 p.m. episodes of “Twenty One” on at least the first three Wednesdays of the February sweeps. ABC has not announced any plans for additional sweeps episodes of “Millionaire,” which regularly airs Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday.

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