'ER' leads Peacock to weekly demo win

ABC may have the momentum and the No. 1 ranking in the season-to-date ratings races, but when it comes to sweeps periods, don’t count out NBC just yet.

The Peacock, winner of the past four seasons in adults 18-49 and winner of 18 of 19 sweeps in that category prior to ABC’s triumph last November, has edged the Alphabet in adults 18-49 for the week of Feb. 7-13 and maintains a slight advantage in that category after 12 days of the February sweeps.

ABC captured the week in viewers — its seventh straight in that category — and has now built solid leads in virtually ever major season-to-date Nielsen category, including total viewers, adults 18-49, adults 25-54, teens and kids. This week it also moved into the season lead for the first time in adults 18-34 (tying NBC and Fox).

NBC’s triumph in adults 18-49 came courtesy of consecutive victories on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and a strong second-place Tuesday finish with its best numbers on that night since last March. The victory also points to the ability of the Peacock, which often appears vulnerable in weeks when any of its dramas air in repeats, to string together highly promotable segments of its strong entertainment series to post big sweep numbers.

Even NBC may be vulnerable later this month, though, as ABC last week added three episodes of gameshow phenom “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” to its sweeps schedule to boost its chances. The gameshow will now air on six of the sweep’s final 10 nights.

A season-to-date battle is also brewing among the weblets, as UPN has edged ahead of the WB in total viewers and adults 18-49, with gains of 36% and 45%, respectively, over last year in those categories.

UPN, which was led for the week by the largest audience yet for Thursday’s “WWF Smackdown!” (8.36 million viewers), also matched its highest ratings of the season in adults 18-34 (1.9/6).

NBC’s “ER” topped the week’s list of most-watched programs, nudging ABC’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” out of the spot it has dominated since becoming a series regular in January. “ER” drew 31.33 million viewers (most since its premiere last September), edging the Tuesday installment of “Millionaire” (30.73 million). The three episodes of “Millionaire” last week placed second, third and fourth in that category.

“ER” (15.6/39), “Friends” (12.1/33) and “Millionaire-Sunday” (11.0/23) were the top three shows for the week among adults 18-49.

With 12 nights of the four-week sweeps period concluded, the adults 18-49 rankings are: NBC, 5.7/15 (down 11% vs. same week a year ago); ABC, 5.6/15 (up 17%); Fox, 4.7/12 (down 13%); CBS, 3.7/10 (down 7%); UPN, 1.8/5; WB, 1.5/4; and Pax, 0.3.

In households, it’s ABC, 9.8/16 (up 24%); NBC, 9.3/15 (down 8%); CBS, 8.8/14 (down 8%); Fox, 6.4/10 (down 9%); UPN, 3.0/5; WB, 2.7/4; and Pax, 0.8/1.

Last week’s adults 18-49 averages were: NBC, 5.7/15 (down 10%); ABC, 5.6/15 (up 19%); Fox, 4.6/12 (down 12%); UPN, 1.6/4 (up 33%); WB, 1.5/4 (down 32%); and Pax 0.3/1 (same).

National primetime 18-49 averages for the top cable services were: HBO, 1.1/3 (up 10%); USA 0.9/2 (down 10%); TNT 0.8/2 (down 11%); TBS 0.7/2 (down 13%); Lifetime 0.5/1 (same); and Discovery Channel 0.5/1 (same).

Monday

Fox may have found the right home for “That ’70s Show.” On Feb. 14, an original episode at 8 p.m. (prelim 9.35 million, 4.7/14) trailed only CBS’ “King of Queens” (13.7 million, 5.2/15 in adults 18-49) in adults 18-49, while at 8:30 p.m., a repeat topped all competition despite placing fourth in homes.

CBS won the night in total viewers, while ABC placed second in adults 18-49 thanks to strong numbers for the broadcast premiere of “Liar Liar” (13.2 million, 5.2/13 in adults 18-49) and an adults 18-49 victory at 10 p.m. for drama “Once and Again” (10.5 million, 5.2/14 in adults 18-49).

Sunday

CBS won the night in homes behind “Sally Hemings: An American Scandal,” the week’s No. 1 movie in both total viewers (19.4 million) and adults 18-49 (5.8/13). “60 Minutes” contributed with its best household ratings in 51 weeks.

ABC’s “Millionaire,” which featured Rosie O’Donnell as one contestant’s “phone-a-friend,” notched its best adults 18-49 score yet for a Sunday episode — impressive given the sweeps competition. And at 10 p.m., ABC’s “The Practice” continued to build on its post-Super Bowl outing, recording its third-best ratings ever in both total viewers and adults 18-49.

Prior to “60 Minutes” in most of the country, CBS Sports’ final-round coverage of the Buick Invitational, in which Phil Mickelson held off Tiger Woods — ending Woods’ string of six consecutive victories — earned a local overnight household rating of 8.0/17, up 25% from last year (6.4/14), and the highest since the final round of the 1987 Bob Hope Classic earned an 8.2 rating.

On the other end of the sports ratings spectrum, NBC suffered through the lowest-rated NBA All-Star Game ever.

Saturday

Fox’s veteran lineup of “Cops” and “America’s Most Wanted” took the night in adults 18-49, edging past NBC, whose “The Others” won its 10 p.m. timeslot in the demo in its second week (Daily Variety, Feb. 14).

Friday

On a hotly contested night, NBC won in adults 18-49, topping both CBS and Fox by 1 share. At 10 p.m., CBS’ “Nash Bridges” equaled the adults 18-49 rating for timeslot newcomer “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” for the first time.

Typical of the night’s competitiveness in key demos: NBC’s “Dateline,” which placed third in its hour in adults 18-49, actually won the hour in adults 25-54.

Thursday

NBC logged its most dominant night since “Millionaire” joined the Thursday lineup, winning by 14 shares in adults 18-49. “ER” scrubbed to its best numbers since premiere week last September (Daily Variety, Feb. 14).

Wednesday

Each of ABC’s 8-10 p.m. comedies won its timeslot in adults 18-49, but NBC captured the night behind a dominant showing from “Law & Order” (18.38 million, 7.7/21 in adults 18-49), which won the 10 p.m. hour by 9 shares in adults 18-49.

Tuesday

ABC took the night thanks to “Millionaire,” whose 28 share in adults 18-49 was the Tuesday installment’s second best this season. Opposite the gamer, CBS’ “JAG” hit a season-high in adults 18-49 (4.8/13).

A pair of “Will & Grace” episodes gave the 9 p.m. hour to NBC, which then capped off the night strongly with the highest-rated adults 18-49 score for “Dateline” (7.0/19) since last March (Daily Variety, Feb. 11).

Monday

The “Mary & Rhoda” reunion telepic helped ABC win Feb. 7 in total viewers while “That ’70s Show,” airing on this night for the first time, and “Ally McBeal” combined to give Fox the victory in adults 18-49 (Daily Variety, Feb. 9).

UPN’s comedies drew the netlet’s largest Monday audience since the “Love Boat” premiere in April 1998.

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.

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