Peacock’s plucked

CBS, ABC inch closer to NBC in season races

The new year has brought new life to the rival networks chasing NBC for the 1999-2000 primetime Nielsen crowns.

ABC’s three nights of football and one night of millennium coverage last week produced that net’s most dominant weeklong win in adults 18-49 since the week of the 1995 Super Bowl, boosting that net within a 0.2-rating-point margin of NBC in the season-long 18-49 race.

And with NBC’s Dec. 27-Jan. 2 households average equaling the second-lowest in-season score in Peacock history, NBC’s seasonlong households advantage over CBS has dwindled to just a tenth of a point.

With CBS having now beaten NBC in homes six weeks in a row, the Eye will be tough to beat through the rest of the season, but ABC would need a lot of breaks to catch NBC for the season’s 18-49 title.

‘MNF’ game over

ABC’s biggest handicap is facing Mondays the rest of the season without “Monday Night Football,” its top-rated series. “MNF” retired for the season with a Jan. 3 telecast that limped to the 30-year-old series’ second-lowest homes rating ever.

Now ABC must hope its three weekly installments of the hit game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and a Monday movie package can compensate for the loss of football. If so, ABC would likely take the season-long 18-49 lead from NBC with the Alphabet’s Jan. 30 telecast of the Super Bowl.

For the second year in a row, NBC got hammered over the holidays, as viewers showed more interest in football and millennium activities than the warmed-over series and films that filled most of NBC’s schedule.

CBS tied NBC in adults 18-49 in a non-Olympics week for the first time in a year and just the second time since before “ER” and “Friends” premiered in fall 1994.

It was also a depressing holiday at the WB, whose dramas are rerunning poorly. Last week, the netlet equaled its lowest in-season homes rating in three years while rival UPN stormed ahead for the fourth time in five weeks.

Dec. 27-Jan. 2 adults 18-49 averages were: ABC, a 5.5 rating, 15 share (up 6% in rating vs. the same week last year); CBS, 4.0/11 (down 2%), tied with NBC, 4.0/11 (down 2%); Fox, 3.5/9 (down 31%); UPN, 1.5/4 (up 88%); WB, 1.2/3 (down 33%); Pax TV, 0.3/1 (even).

Monday

“Monday Night Football” wrapped an otherwise strong season Jan. 3 with its second-lowest-rated contest ever in homes (10.0 rating, 17 share), a meaningless matchup between year-earlier powers San Francisco and Atlanta.

For the season, “MNF” was up 1% vs. last year in adults 18-49 (8.4/23 vs. 8.3/22) and down 1% in homes (a lowest-ever 13.7/23 vs. 13.9/22).

With football fumbling this week, CBS pounced. “Everybody Loves Raymond” (11.6/17 in homes, 6.2/15 in adults 18-49) scooped up its best rerun adults 18-49 and 25-54 results ever and “Becker” (11.1/17 in homes, 5.7/13 in adults 18-49) snared its highest 25-54 and total-viewer tallies ever, despite a rerun episode.

Sunday

CBS’ “Beyond the Prairie” vidpic dominated the night with the week’s third-best 18-49 rating. It’s the first time a non-sports CBS telecast has cracked that top three in at least five years. CBS also got season-high Nielsens from “60 Minutes” and “Touched by an Angel.”

An extra “Simpsons” rerun showed “Futurama” and “Family Guy” how it’s done, building on the slot’s 18-49 lead-in by 13%. That’s a solid improvement on the average 12% falloff for slot regular “Futurama,” and the 8% drop for a special “Family Guy” the previous Sunday.

Saturday

ABC’s football swept to that net’s biggest Saturday audience since Oct. 21, 1995 (game one of that year’s World Series), while “The Bodyguard” safely delivered CBS to second place for the night with the Eye’s best Saturday 18-49 numbers since March.

Friday

ABC’s millennium coverage roughly doubled the closest competition, earning ABC’s largest primetime audience on a New Year’s Eve in nine years. It was also ABC’s top-rated non-sports Friday in homes since March 14, 1997.

Among cable news services covering the arrival of 2000, CNN led the way with a 2.2 homes rating in its universe from 11 p.m. through 1 a.m., followed by Fox News Channel’s 1.2 and MSNBC’s 1.0. CNN’s round-the-clock coverage peaked from 7-8 p.m. with a 2.9.

MTV’s 7 p.m.-1 a.m. “MTV 2 Large” celebrated with a 1.6/3 in homes (up 45% vs. year-ago fare) and topped all cablers among viewers 12-34 with a 1.9/7 (up 37%).

Thursday

NBC’s chances for a strong week took a nose-dive when the net’s dominant Thursday team sagged to season-low numbers and won the night by just 6 shares in adults 18-49 (vs. a season-average 17 shares).

Wednesday

CBS led 9-11 p.m. averages in households despite the second-lowest tally ever for “The Kennedy Center Honors,” down 17% from last year’s strong results (though up 34% vs. the record low of two years ago).

At 8 p.m., a tribute to Madeline Kahn earned best-yet Wednesday results for “Cosby” and a surprise second-place finish for that half-hour in adults 18-49, despite just a 91% clearance. The surge came with “Cosby’s” last Wednesday seg before switching to Fridays.

The WB’s “Dawson’s Creek” evaporated to its lowest homes rating ever.

Tuesday

Ocean predators and UFOs abducted UPN’s largest Tuesday adults 18-49 audience since a Mariah Carey spec Dec. 15, 1998, helping UPN beat rival netlet WB in homes for the first time ever on an in-season Tuesday.

“Dateline NBC” slid to its lowest Tuesday homes rating since Christmas Eve 1996.

Monday

ABC’s N.Y. Jets-Miami football blitzed the Dec. 27 competition (Daily Variety, Dec. 29).

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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