The Monday night ratings success enjoyed by “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” must have been written in the stars.
The first of four heavily hyped and anticipated celebrity “Millionaire” shows scored the monster skein’s highest numbers yet.
With David Duchovny, Kathie Lee Gifford and Dana Carvey playing for charity, “Millionaire” drew 35.87 million viewers — topping its previous high of 35.4 million viewers (on Jan. 25.)
In the second half-hour, “Millionaire” topped the combined CBS-NBC-Fox audience by more than 18 million viewers (39.5 vs. 21.2).
Helping boost ABC’s early May sweeps fortunes, the special edition was also a huge draw among younger viewers. In adults 18-49, the spec averaged an 11.8/32, edging the quizzer’s previous demo high in both rating and share (11.7/31), set Jan. 12.
“Millionaire’s” regularly skedded segs haven’t topped a 10 rating in adults 18-49 since March 21; the series had slipped to a season-low 18 share in the demo on Thursday.
The quizzer scored a slew of personal bests, including record numbers with women 18-49 (14.0/36), women 18-34 (14.0/38), adults 18-34 (11.1/32) and teens (9.0/27).
Show’s score in homes (22.5/35) also bests a previous high set Jan. 25 (22.0/32).
Time Warner factor
“Millionaire’s” perf was all the more amazing given that the ABC/Time Warner dispute kept ABC-owned station signals out of 3.5 million cable households.
To pacify Time Warner subscribers going through Regis withdrawal, some ABC-owned radio stations (including WABC-AM New York and KABC-AM Los Angeles) simulcast an audio feed of “Millionaire.”
With the Time Warner/ABC flap resolved for now, KABC-AM and WABC-AM returned to regular programming Tuesday.
Among the nation’s largest cities that are metered by Nielsen, Monday’s celeb “Millionaire” fared best in Philadelphia (29.0/43 in homes). In its second half-hour there, the quizzer topped second place “Ladies Man” on CBS by an astounding 33 shares.
It also topped the 40-share mark in Chicago (27.2/43), Minneapolis-St. Paul (22.8/44) and Seattle (25.2/41), among others.
In the major cities most affected by the Time Warner flap, “Millionaire” still managed to do boffo numbers, scoring a 25.3/36 in New York and a 22.0/31 in Los Angeles.
Industry insiders had estimated that New York viewership would drop as much as 20% and Los Angeles by 6% to 7%. It’s unclear what effect, if any, the Time Warner scenario had on “Millionaire’s” local and national figures.
Boosted by “Millionaire,” ABC soared to its best delivery with non-sports programming in the opening Monday hour in 15 years, since “Barbara Walters’ Pre-Oscars Special” on March 15, 1985.
The “Millionaire” results are encouraging for ABC, which figures to be battling to the wire with NBC for the May sweeps crown.
“Millionaire” sent everything in its path running for cover. The audience for CBS’ “King of Queens,” for example, plummeted by 36% compared with its season-to-date average (8.0 million vs. 13.1 million), while Fox’s “Titus” fell 41% off its adults 18-49 average (4.1 vs. 5.8).
Elsewhere on Monday, the Alphabet’s “Arabian Nights” (15.17 million, 5.6/14 in A18-49) struggled relative to its lead-in, surrendering more than half of the “Millionaire” audience at 9 p.m. and losing viewers with each half-hour. In total viewers and adults 18-49, it was down 18% and 14% respectively from its Sunday opener.
NBC’s “The ’70s” also lost viewers Sunday-to-Monday, although its conclusion picked up momentum throughout the night. Part two averaged 10.28 million viewers and a 4.9/12 in young adults, down 19% and 27% from Sunday.
For the two nights, “Arabian” (16.55 million, 6.0 in A18-49) topped ” ’70s” (11.26 million, 5.6) in both categories.
Fox’s “Ally McBeal” emerged as the No. 2 show of the night in adults 18-49 (6.5/16).
CBS rebounded in the post- “Millionaire” hours, winning from 9-11 p.m. in total viewers and placing second in most demos. “Becker” (5.7) retained 95% of its adults 18-49 lead-in from “Everybody Loves Raymond” (6.0) and was the most-watched program at 9:30, surpassing “Arabian” (16.8 million vs. 15.4).
‘Raymond’ still loved
In a stunning case of lead-in reversal at 9, “Raymond” built on its “Ladies Man” lead-in by more than 10 million viewers, while “Arabian” hemorrhaged about 21 million viewers from “Millionaire.”
And at 10, the Eye’s “Family Law” (13.40 million, 4.2/11 in A18-49) laid down its best marks in both categories since Dec. 8 — a big boost to the frosh skein as CBS execs begin to decide the net’s fall sked.
Another bubble show getting a lift: the WB’s “Roswell,” which at 9 p.m. notched its best adults 18-34 tally (1.9/5) since December.
ABC won the night by 9.5 million viewers over second-place CBS. In adults 18-49, the Alphabet web topped Fox by 7 shares.
(Josef Adalian contributed to this report.)