Net takes 18-49, Fox starts strong, WB keeps on roll

HOLLYWOOD — NBC continued its strong early-season run in the key demo of adults 18-49 last week, but it was also a winning frame for both Fox and the WB, which delivered their best ratings of the calendar year.

According to Nielsen, the Peacock took the week of Oct. 23-29 in 18-49, claiming the week’s top five programs for the third straight week. Actually, this time it made it a sweep of the top six, with Tuesday’s “Frasier” joining the net’s five Thursday programs atop the charts.

While the Peacock still has some trouble spots on its sked — last week it pulled weak Monday comedies “Daddio” and “Tucker” — it figures to be tough to catch this season in the strategic demo, thanks to the strength of its core series. Last week, for example, it won Tuesday, Thursday and Friday in becoming the first net ever to win a week in 18-49 opposite three or more games of the World Series.

Fox, meanwhile, used strong Monday premieres for “Boston Public” and “Ally McBeal” and three World Series games to deliver its largest weekly audience (12.89 million) since January 1999 (Super Bowl), winning the week by that measure for the first time since September 1999 (Emmy Awards). It also was a close second in 18-49.

Net only won one night of the week in total viewers (Wednesday) but was consistent throughout, including competitive finishes on Saturday and Sunday with all-repeat lineups necessitated by a quick World Series finish.

And at the WB, the netlet’s early-season momentum continued in a big way, led by the resurgence of bellwether meller “Dawson’s Creek.” The Frog topped rival UPN in both total viewers and adults 18-49 for the first time since last November while matching its all-time weekly high in adults 18-34.

Net also points to its continued strong showing in the demo of persons 12-34 — off which it sells the majority of its ad time. Although ABC and CBS delivered 7 million-plus more viewers than the WB last week, the weblet scored more women 12-34 than both nets and more men 12-34 than CBS.

Good frame for nets

It was a good week overall for network television, with the six nets up 8% in both total viewers and adults 18-49 compared with the same week a year ago. Contributing to the gains were one additional World Series game (last year’s series was a four-game affair), a boffo season premiere for NBC’s “Frasier,” a strong preem for Fox’s “Boston Public” and four episodes of the still-winning “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” on ABC.

UPN and CBS were also up in their target demos of 18-34 and 25-54 respectively, leaving ABC alone on the outside looking in. The Alphabet net slipped to fourth in viewers for the first time in the “Millionaire” era — and that’s despite a 4% gain vs. the same week last year.

Monday

Fox’s “Boston Public” on Oct. 30 chalked up another victory among adults 18-49, down just 6% week-to-week to a 5.8/15. That and week-to-week gains for “Ally McBeal” lifted the net to a first-place tie in the demo with football-led ABC.

CBS continues to look strong from 8-9:30 p.m. but is losing momentum halfway through the night. At 9:30, “Becker” retained a lowest-yet 73% of its “Raymond” lead-in among adults 18-49, while 10 p.m. drama “Family Law” (4.3/11) fell back to third behind NBC’s “Third Watch” (4.5/12). Compared with last year’s like night, “Raymond” was up by 25% in the demo, “Becker” was flat and “Family Law” was down by 10%.

“Third Watch” continues to be NBC’s lone bright star on Monday, as even an improved lead-in from “Dateline” (8.68m, 3.3/8 in A18-49) couldn’t keep 9 p.m.’s rookie drama “Deadline” (6.82m, 2.6/6) from falling to its lowest-yet numbers.

Sunday

CBS won the night in viewers (16.29m) as “60 Minutes” (17.89m, 4.8/12 in A18-49) and “Touched by an Angel” (16.23m, 4.4/10), pushed back by 25 minutes by an NFL overrun, delivered their best ratings of the season.

ABC was tops among adults 18-49, led by winning scores from “Millionaire” (6.1/14) and “The Practice” (6.9/18).

NBC’s “Ed” slipped to its lowest numbers in four tries (12.25m, 4.8/11 in A18-49) but still won its hour in adults 25-54 and its second half-hour in 18-49 — impressive, given its weak “Dateline” lead-in (2.4/6 in A18-49).

Saturday

A four-episode repeat “Cops” marathon kept Fox in front in adults 18-49 (3.1/11), edging past NBC and its new movie night (3.0/10).

CBS beat NBC in viewers but fell to fourth in adults 18-49 (2.5/8).

Friday

It’s shaping up as a two-net race on Friday, with NBC edging CBS in both total viewers (11.95m to 11.85m) and adults 18-49 (3.8/12 to 3.6/12) and the nets tying in 25-54 (5.0/14).

The Eye has improved its standing on the night despite continued disappointing ratings for “The Fugitive” (8.83m, 2.5/9 in A18-49), which couldn’t improve week-to-week despite Fox’s benching of “Police Videos” for a political spec. “Fugitive” is helping to keep the lid on timeslot winner “Providence,” though, as the third-year drama posted its lowest firstrun 18-49 score to date (3.4/12).

Fox’s nonrated “You Decide” political spec at 8 seemed to benefit ABC’s comedies (including “Two Guys and a Girl,” which nearly caught “Providence” for the 18-49 lead) and UPN’s series premieres of “Freedom” and “Level Nine.” Male-skewing dramas averaged 3.34 million viewers and a 1.5/5 in adults 18-49 — the net’s best-ever showing on the night with regular programming and an improvement of 32% and 50% over its season averages of a year ago.

“Freedom,” an action drama from Joel Silver, was especially impressive, finishing just 2 shares out of the lead among men 18-34 at 8:30.

Thursday

NBC’s “Cursed” (17.85m, 9.5/25 in A18-49) became the first rookie series to win its timeslot in 18-49 opposite a game of the World Series since “Frasier” in 1993. Steven Weber laffer retained 81% of its demo lead-in from “Friends,” a bit better than what the net was seeing a year ago.

Fifth and final game of the Yankees-Mets World Series scored a series-best 13.1/21 homes rating, but that still left the Fall Classic with an all-time low average of 12.4/21.

ABC’s “Millionaire” posted its lowest ratings to date for a firstrun, regularly skedded Thursday episode (16.30m, 4.0/10 in A18-49) but did win the 9-10 p.m. hour in viewers for the first time this season.

At 10, ABC newsmag “Primetime Thursday” (8.65m, 2.6/6 in A18-49) is struggling — even without competition from CBS’ “48 Hours.” The Eye’s “Diagnosis Murder” (8.40m, 1.8/5) nearly caught it in total viewers, and actually pulled ahead in women 25-54.

Drama combo of “Gilmore Girls” and “Charmed” teamed for the WB’s best Thursday averages (5.2 million, 2.2/6 in A18-49) since premiere night three weeks earlier.

Wednesday

Game 4 of the World Series (17.61m, 7.4/21 in A18-49) gave Fox the night, but NBC was a strong No. 2 (13.78m, 5.5/14).

In their second battle of the season, NBC’s “West Wing” (6.4/15) moved ahead of ABC’s comedies (6.0/14 average) in adults 18-49. They’re appealing to different auds, though, with “Wing” prevailing by 35% in adults 25-54 (8.4 to 6.2) but “Drew Carey” and “Spin City” winning by 30% in 18-34 (5.7 to 4.4).

“Spin” (5.8/14), in its second outing with Charlie Sheen front and center, retained a strong 94% of its 18-49 lead-in from “Drew” (6.4/15).

NBC’s “Titans” shot back up week-to-week by 13% in viewers (to 7.57m) and by 30% in 18-49 (to 3.5/10) but still placed fourth.

CBS’ “Bette” won its half-hour in 18-49 (4.2/13) for a third straight week, while lead-out “Welcome to New York” (3.9/10) retained a best-yet 93% of “Bette’s” 18-49 aud.

The WB placed No. 1 on the night in its target demo of women 12-34 (4.7/14). “Dawson’s Creek” hit its best women 18-34 rating (5.4/16) since the drama’s 1998 season premiere.

Tuesday

“Frasier” had a huge premiere (Daily Variety, Oct. 26), edging “Monday Night Football” as the week’s top show in men 18-49 (10.6/26).

Monday

“Boston Public” bowed impressively (Daily Variety, Oct. 25), helping Fox win the night in adults 18-49.

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