CBS wins week while WB, UPN make gains

UPN and the WB have joined CBS as primetime ratings winners during one of the most atypical premiere weeks ever.

The Eye’s rookie class passed debut week with high scores, enabling the net to post its first in-season victory in adults 18-49 without sports help since 1994 (Daily Variety, Oct. 10) and its first opening-week demo win since 1991.

The weblets, meanwhile, appeared to benefit most from the week’s disruptions — which included a total of six first-round baseball playoff games on NBC and Fox as well as presidential and vice presidential debates — but they also appear to have plugged some gaping holes in their lineups, positioning themselves for strong seasons with their core lineups.

UPN, for example, was up considerably with its Monday comedy block, and also saw gains Tuesday (its new movie night) and Wednesday (with a powerful “Star Trek: Voyager” premiere), while Thursday’s “WWF Smackdown!” keeps chugging along, also up vs. last year. Friday’s dramas have yet to premiere, but a movie on that night improved on what the net was doing a year ago, helping UPN’s weekly average even more.

The weblet’s 4.70 million viewers is its largest weekly aud since December 1997 while its 18-49 rating (2.2/6) is its best since September 1997.

The WB (4.61 million) came up short in its bid to draw more viewers than UPN for the first time in 10 months, but still had a very strong opening week. Netlet may also be growing up a bit as this season’s premiere week was down 8% in teens but up a whopping 50% in adults 18-34 (2.4 vs. 1.6) compared with the first week of last season (which did not include one of its top series, “Dawson’s Creek”).

Its adults 18-49 rating (2.0/5) is its strongest since last October, while its 2.4/7 in adults 18-34 matches its best ever.

Key to the Frog net’s turnaround were substantial 18-34 gains with each of its Monday-Thursday skeds, plus continued growth Friday.

As for CBS, the net finished ahead of second-place ABC by 12% in viewers, by 9% in adults 18-49 and by 17% in adults 25-54.

The net’s younger skew is evident in that while it grew vs. premiere week one year ago by 3% in total viewers, it was up 16% in 18-49 and by 17% in 25-54.

ABC remained within grasp of last year’s premiere-week numbers even though its two biggest premieres (“Gideon’s Crossing” and “The Geena Davis Show”) had yet to bow and “Monday Night Football” contributed one of its lowest ratings ever. Still, given that the net had four hours of “Millionaire” this week, its 6% year-to-year drop in 18-49 has to be a bit discouraging.

NBC had strong premieres for its new dramas as well as boffo numbers for the two-hour preem of “The West Wing.” That helped it remain competitive in a week that was full of preemptions, including on its two highest-rated nights in young adults last season (Thursday and Tuesday).

Fox eked out a tie with ABC for first in 18-34, thanks mainly to the huge two-hour premiere of Tuesday’s “Dark Angel.”

Monday

CBS continued to look strong on Oct. 9 with its comedies as “Becker” hit a new high in homes (12.1/18) and rookie “Yes, Dear” again built on the strong demos of lead-in “King of Queens” — by 7% in adults 18-49 and by 12% in adults 18-34.

At 10, though, “Family Law” drooped to a 3.9/10 in adults 18-49, 4 shares behind “Third Watch” (5.6/14).

NBC comedies “Daddio” and “Tucker” combined for a 2.9 in 18-49 (down from last week’s poor 3.1), while 9 p.m. drama “Deadline” (3.9) slid by 26%. Still, the Peacock was within one-tenth of its 18-49 rating for Week 2 last season (4.1 vs. 4.2).

ABC’s “Monday Night Football” rallied to match its best 18-49 rating of the season (9.7) with an exciting Tampa Bay/Minnesota game that topped CBS’ “Everybody Loves Raymond” head to head in the demo (8.2/20 to 7.6/17). “Raymond” has come a long way, though, losing to football a few times a year ago by 8 and 10 shares.

The WB’s “7th Heaven” (2.8/7) and “Roswell” (1.7/4) both improved vs. their season preems a week earlier in adults 18-49, with the latter posting its best mark in nearly a year.

Sunday

NBC’s “Ed” (6.8/16 18-49) looked even better when Nielsen finalized national numbers, winning its 8 p.m. hour by 5 shares.

“Personally Yours” delivered the best 18-49 score for a single-part CBS Sunday movie (5.0/12) since “Fail Safe” in April.

Even Fox’s deciding American League first-round game between the Oakland Athletics and New York Yankees could only muster a 6.6/12 in homes — the best of this postseason but still lower than any primetime baseball telecast prior to this year.

Saturday

ABC opened its movie night with big-name theatrical “Ransom” (albeit a third run) and took the night in viewers (9.68 million) and adults 18-49 (3.8/12).

CBS, with a strong bow from “The District,” won in adults 25-54 (4.6/12) with its best perf with series programming since April 1999.

Friday

CBS’ new lineup, led by surprising rookie “CSI,” delivered the net’s best 25-54 rating on a Friday with series (6.5/18) since July 1993.

ABC’s comedy block looks a bit wobbly, but leadoff “Two Guys and a Girl” looks solid, placing second in 18-49 (3.5/12) and 18-34 (3.1/13). And at 9:30, “Madigan Men” (3.6/11 in 18-49) got off to a good start.

The WB’s revamped lineup keeps improving, with “Sabrina” (1.5/5), “Grosse Pointe” (1.2/4) and “Popular” (1.1/3) posting their best 18-49 marks in three tries. “Popular” was up 56% week-to-week in 18-34 (1.4 vs. 0.9).

Thursday

Opposite the debate and baseball, UPN’s “Smackdown!” moved up to second in adults 18-34 (3.9/12) while also hitting a new high in adults 25-54 (3.0/7).

Wednesday

NBC’s “West Wing” became the first non-Thursday Peacock series to top the weekly rankings in adults 18-49 (9.4/23) since “Family Ties” in 1989. It was also the week’s most watched program (25.05 million).

Against strong competish, ABC’s “Drew Carey” still won out at 9 in men 18-34 (5.5/16).

Tuesday

Fox’s “Dark Angel” topped all series premieres in viewers (17.38 million), adults 18-49 (8.5/20) and adults 18-34 (8.3/22).

Monday

Even opposite big preems Oct. 3, UPN’s comedy block helped the netlet post year-to-year Monday gains of 21% in adults 18-49.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more