Longest-running special on network TV tops 'Millionaire'

Despite facing tougher competition this year, CBS perennial favorite “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” shined brightly Tuesday in key demos, topping both “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” on ABC and the “Billboard Music Awards” on Fox.

The 37th annual broadcast of “Rudolph” — the longest-running special on network television — delivered a winning 6.2/16 rating in adults 18-49, besting “Millionaire” (5.2/14) and the music kudocast (5.1/13). Although down from last year’s 7.2/19, when it aired on a Wednesday and didn’t face “Millionaire,” it’s the best score in Tuesday’s leadoff hour for CBS in the 34 months since the Winter Olympics in February 1998.

The Christmas classic averaged 15.70 million viewers, according to Nielsen, placing second to “Millionaire” (20.66m) from 8 to 9. It also won the hour for CBS in adults 25-54 (6.5/16) and kids (9.9/30).

The Billboard Music Awards were up a tick from last year in adults 18-49 and delivered Fox’s best ratings for a special since “Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire” in adults 18-34 (7.1/20) and total viewers (11.43m). In teens, its 8.9/25 is the best for a Fox special since last year’s kudocast.

Fox won the night in adults 18-49, 2 shares ahead of ABC, CBS and NBC. CBS won in total viewers.

The extra tough competition sent NBC’s “Michael Richards Show” to a lowest-yet 2.9/8 rating in adults 18-49, less than half of its premiere rating six weeks earlier (5.9/17).

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