Peacock holds slim sweeps lead, 'X-Files' tops big telepics

A million bucks and a magic carpet ride can take you only so far.

ABC’s Sunday programming strategy has helped it capture one of the first key nights of the May sweeps, although the net still finds itself trailing NBC in the rating period’s early stages, and will likely see at least one of its lengthy weekly winning streaks come to an end.

The Alphabet web’s reconfigured Sunday lineup — with “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” in the leadoff hour, followed by part one of “Arabian Nights” and drama “The Practice” — delivered winning nightly averages of 18 million viewers and 6.2/17 in adults 18-49, according to prelim results from Nielsen. It also helped blunt the opener of NBC’s heavily hyped mini “The ‘70s,” which did reasonably well in demos, but paled in comparison with the net’s blockbuster mini “The ‘60s” last season.

Still, NBC leads after four nights of the 28-day sweeps period. Through Sunday, estimated adults 18-49 averages are: NBC (5.5/16); ABC (4.4/13); Fox (4.0/12); and CBS (2.8/8).

NBC appears to have snapped ABC’s nine-week winning streak in adults 18-49. Based on preliminary results for the weekend, subject to revision today by Nielsen, the Peacock is projected to take the week of April 24-30 with a 5.1 in the demo, edging ABC’s 5.0. NBC last won in the demo during the February sweeps.

Close call

ABC’s 17-week streaks in homes and total viewers appear to be in less jeopardy, although the homes race is too close to call. The net is projected to win the week by one-tenth of a ratings point in homes (8.9 vs. 8.8) and by a slightly more comfortable margin in total viewers. A tie in homes or even an outright NBC victory can’t be counted out, since the Peacock net’s final averages may get a slight boost today when Nielsen adjusts the national numbers for Sunday’s NBA playoff action.

The nets figure to be in a tight battle for the adults 18-49 sweeps crown for the third time this season. ABC edged NBC in November and February.

Sunday’s early start for “Millionaire” helped provide a substantial lead-in for “Arabian” at 8 p.m., giving the ABC mini a head start on the 9 p.m. pics on CBS and NBC. It also allowed red-hot drama “The Practice” to air in its usual 10 p.m. slot.

The “Arabian”/”Practice” combo from 9-11 p.m. (prelim 6.5 in adults 18-49) proved just enough for ABC, as it topped part one of NBC’s “The ‘70s” (6.2) in the key advertiser demo. Both pics, though, lost out to Fox’s “The X-Files” (6.9) in the 9 p.m. hour.

‘Arabian’ stallion

“Arabian Nights” (prelim 17.9 million viewers, 6.4/16 in adults 18-49) grabbed the top numbers among the night’s three high-profile pics in both categories. CBS’ “Take Me Home: The John Denver Story” topped “Arabian” in homes (11.7 vs. 11.3 in prelims), with “Arabian” moving ahead in total viewers thanks to a stronger tune-in by kids.

“The ‘70s” (prelim 12.2 million, 6.2/15 in A18-49) finished well behind the opening night of NBC’s “The ‘60s” mini last season (11.5/26 in A18-49), but it did keep the Peacock competitive in young adults on a night in which it has struggled for most of the season. ABC’s 5-share advantage over NBC on the night was its smallest since Feb. 13, when the Alphabet topped the Peacock by 4 shares.

For the night, ABC won by 1 share in homes over CBS and by 2 shares in adults 18-49 over Fox.

‘Million’s’ early win

Despite the early start time, “Millionaire” was the night’s most-watched program, rolling to easy victories over second-place “60 Minutes” in viewers (19 million vs. 10.7 million) and Fox’s “King of the Hill” in young adults (6.1 vs. 3.8). (The newsmag’s final numbers may be adjusted slightly due to a 9-minute golf overrun.)

“The Practice” (prelim 16.8 million, 6.6/16 in A18-49) topped the second half of NBC’s “The ‘70s” in adults 18-49 (6.3), and edged the Eye net’s “Take Me Home” in homes and viewers.

Fox’s “The Simpsons” felt the effects of the early starting ABC pic, slipping to its lowest numbers of the season for a first-run episode (prelim 12.8 million, 6.3/18 in A18-49).

At 9 p.m., “The X-Files” (prelim 12.8 million, 6.9/16 in A18-49) rebounded for Fox, with an episode written and directed by David Duchovny delivering the show’s second largest aud since February. Without “Millionaire” to deal with, “X-Files” won the hour in adults 18-49 for just the second time since December.

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