ABC, NBC tie in demos; 'Bette' strong again

Wide-open Wednesday never looked more so than this week. Each of the major nets had a reason to both crow and cry as viewing habits on the night begin to take shape.

On a night that’s crucial to the seasonlong fortunes of demo favorites NBC and ABC, the nets tied in adults 18-49 (5.4/15), according to Nielsen, with the Alphabet pulling ahead in total viewers (15 million to 13.8 million). CBS placed third in viewers (10.3 million) and tied Fox — the only net yet to premiere its regular lineup — for third in the key demo (3.2/9).

Night saw another winning performance for CBS’ “Bette” despite a moderate dropoff from its premiere, a strong start for ABC’s “Spin City,” and another powerful, though not overpowering, outing for NBC’s “West Wing.”

News wasn’t as good for the Peacock’s “Titans,” which faded for a second straight week after a solid start, or ABC’s “Gideon’s Crossing” in its regular timeslot, which looked shaky opposite NBC’s “Law & Order.”

Perhaps the most impressive performer of the night, though, was ABC vet “Drew Carey,” which built by 28% over its 18-49 lead-in from “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” (6.9/18 vs. 5.4/15) and, perhaps more importantly, reclaimed the demo lead opposite NBC’s “West Wing” (6.1/16 for the half-hour). “Drew” was up by 6% in the demo and by 14% in viewers vs. its season premiere two weeks earlier.

‘Wing’ lands

“Wing,” airing for the first time since its highly rated two-hour preem two weeks ago, came back down to earth. Its 6.3/16 rating in adults 18-49 this week is considerably lower than the 8.9/21 it managed in the 9 o’clock hour on Oct. 4, but is still better than every episode of its rookie season a year ago; and its 16.8 million viewers tops every seg but its series premiere in September 1999.

“Wing” will get some drama competish from Fox’s “The Street” in two weeks, but at least for now appears capable of challenging for the 18-49 lead in its hour on a consistent basis after losing with firstruns a year ago by an average of 5 shares.

The Emmy-winning drama didn’t get much help from its “Titans” lead-in this week (6.73m, 2.7/8 in A18-49), as the sudser dropped 27% from its Week 2 rating in adults 18-49 (3.7/10) and 44% below its premiere rating in the demo (4.8/13). Its 2.7 rating in 18-49 is better than only three Wednesday hours of “Dateline” last season.

Soap appeared to lose some young viewers to Fox, which went with the spec “When Cameras Cross the Line” (6.86m, 3.5/11 in A18-49) after airing baseball in the hour the previous two weeks.

The WB’s “Dawson’s Creek” is also hot on the tail of “Titans,” easily topping the NBC soap in adults 18-34 (3.6/12 to 2.2/7) and pulling to within a few ticks in adults 18-49 (2.4/7 vs. 2.7/8).

Winning ‘Bette’

CBS’ “Bette” won its half-hour in adults 18-49 (4.5/14) and adults 25-54 (5.6/16) despite losing about 18% of its audience in those demos from its strong premiere a week earlier. That dropoff is steeper than the net has seen with its strong-performing dramas this season but still about the average week-two slippage for a heavily promoted premiere.

At 8:30, “Welcome to New York” dipped by 16% in viewers (to 10.7m) and by 18% in adults 18-49 (to 4.1/12), again good enough for second to “Millionaire” in its slot.

For the hour, the Eye’s 4.3 rating in adults 18-49 is 30% better than the best score logged by a series last season (3.3 for “City of Angels”).

Despite the strong start on the night, CBS fell flat from 9-11 with older-skewing made-for “For All Time” (9.61m), whose 18-49 rating (2.7/7) is lower than all but one original CBS Wednesday movie a year ago.

For ABC, Sheen’s premiere on “Spin City” delivered the series’ best 18-49 rating (6.6/17) — excluding Michael J. Fox’s final two weeks — since Feb. 2. “Spin” won its half-hour hour in adults 18-49, retaining 96% of its “Drew” lead-in.

At 10, the timeslot premiere for “Gideon’s Crossing” (10.60m, 4.7/13 in A18-49) fell behind the first-month average for “20/20″ in the hour a year ago (12.0m, 5.1/15). Medical drama, starring Andre Braugher, also lost audience and demo shares in its second half-hour.

It might have fared better if it could have held onto more of its young male audience, losing 46% of its “Spin City” lead-in among that demo (3.1/10 from 5.7/17) while timeslot rival “Law & Order” picked up 26% more men 18-34 from its lead-in, “West Wing” (5.3/17 from 4.2/13).

“Law” (17.77m, 7.4/21 in A18-49) appeared unfazed by the drama competition, finishing just 3% behind its season premiere of a year ago.

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