Net takes week despite show's ratings dip

ABC rolled out the red carpet last week as its telecast of the Academy Awards — despite slipping to some of the lowest marks ever — lifted the net to easy ratings victories.

According to Nielsen, the Alphabet net captured the week of March 19-25 by most key measures, including its first outright victory in adults 18-49 without football help this season. Its 18-49 and total-viewer tallies were the net’s second best of the season, behind only the week of college football’s championship series.

ABC placed six shows in the top 10 in total viewers and three in adults 18-49, while its “PrimeTime Thursday” and “20/20 Friday” were the week’s top two newsmags. Overall, though, net was again way down vs. a year ago, and that’s despite 3-1/2 hours of classic TV star “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” which performed well above the quizzer’s regular season averages.

Even with the big Sunday boost from Oscar, ABC was unable to move past Fox for the season in adults 18-49 (they remain tied at 4.6/12) and appears headed for a third-place finish one year after placing first. ABC does remain on top in total viewers, but it hasn’t been able to put away second-place CBS.

The Eye, boosted by year-to-year gains for the NCAA men’s basketball tourney and a “Survivor” highlights show, was second in total viewers, adults 18-49 (tied with Fox) and adults 25-54. Its 18-49 score (4.3/12) was its third best since premiere week — behind only the weeks of the Super Bowl and the Grammys.

Through two weeks, the basketball tournament is virtually flat vs. a year ago in households but up 15% in the key demo of men 18-34 (4.7 vs. 4.1).

Fox overcame the Oscars to eke out a victory in men 18-34 and prevailed in teens for an eighth straight week. Net, which had a strong weekend, also edged NBC for third in total viewers.

The Peacock net, saddled by fourth-place finishes on Saturday and Sunday, fell to fourth in total viewers and 18-49 for the first time this season. Its highlight was that each of its four 10 p.m. dramas won in adults 18-49.

UPN, like NBC victims of the ratings-challenged XFL, slipped to its lowest marks of the season (3.11 million viewers, 1.3/3 in adults 18-49), but still drew a larger aud than a rerun-heavy WB (3 million).

And Pax, boosted in part by continued strong ratings for midseason drama “Doc,” delivered its largest weekly audience (1.6 million) and adults 18-49 rating (0.5/1) of the season.

Monday

Three-hour Glenn Close starrer “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific” (15.83 million viewers) became the fifth-most-watched telepic of the season, giving ABC a first-place finish and its most-watched Monday since the “American Music Awards” on Jan. 8. The net settled for third in 18-49 (3.9/10) and fourth in 18-34 (1.9/5).

NBC’s “First Years,” sandwiched by repeats, looked even weaker in its second try (5.17m, 2.3/5 in A18-49). It was down 15% in the demo vs. its premiere a week earlier, slipping to the lowest series score in the 9 p.m. hour for NBC in at least two seasons. In many major markets (including New York), “First” was topped in households by a repeat of the WB’s “Gilmore Girls.”

CBS, second to Fox’s firstrun dramas in 18-49 and 25-54, was boosted by a special 10 p.m. “48 Hours” (first-place 4.5/12 in adults 18-49) and by an “Everybody Loves Raymond” repeat (17.02m, 6.9/16 in A18-49).

Sunday

The Academy Awards may be a big draw for most audiences, but not male teens. ABC’s Oscarcast ranked as the week’s No. 1 program in virtually every demo breakdown, but came in 12th among males 12-17 — behind nine Fox programs, CBS’ “Survivor” and UPN’s “WWF Smackdown.”

Overall, the kudocast was down year to year by 7% in both total viewers (42.94m vs. 46.33m) and adults 18-49 (17.8/40 vs. 19.1/47). It limited its drop to 2% in adults 18-34 (16.2/40 vs. 16.5/46) while improving by 7% in men 18-34 (14.2/35 vs. 13.3/39).

ABC fared better with its pre-shows, as the Barbara Walters interview special was down just 5% in adults 18-49 (to 6.1/16) and the 30-minute “Countdown to Oscars” spec was off by just 3% (to 11.5/28).

Fox was second across the board with a “True Lies” repeat (13.14m, 6.1/14 in A18-49), which ranks as the No. 2 theatrical and No. 3 movie overall this season in 18-49. Compared with Oscar night a year ago, Fox was up by 65% in viewers and the demo.

CBS delivered its best Sunday 18-49 average (4.2/10) since the Super Bowl eight weeks ago. Its NCAA basketball overrun won primetime’s first half-hour in both the demo (6.9/20) and total viewers (16.63m), edging out the Walters spec.

UPN’s XFL coverage fell to season-low marks (1.17m, 0.6/1 in A18-49), while an National Basketball Assn. game and a repeat “Homicide” movie sent NBC tumbling to fourth on the night.

Saturday

The final hour of the NCAA men’s basketball game between Duke and USC on CBS dominated the night’s first hour (12.30m, 5.2/18 in A18-49) but many viewers fled the Eye at that point for Fox’s “America’s Most Wanted,” which posted its second-best marks of the season (11.10m, 4.8/14).

The XFL on NBC again was a distant fourth on the night, but avoided another low by inching up to 2.52 million viewers and 1.0/3 in 18-49.

Friday

CBS’ college basketball won every half-hour in adults 18-34 and helped the net tie ABC in adults 18-49 (4.1/13).

By expanding “Millionaire” to 90 minutes, ABC attracted its largest Friday audience (13.9 million) in the 52 weeks since the series premiere of “Making the Band.” Newsmag “20/20″ also chipped in with its second-largest aud of the season (13.24m).

Fox’s “The Lone Gunmen” fell by 15% from its mild Friday premiere of a week earlier (2.3/7 vs. 2.7/8), while the WB’s “Popstars” (2.37m, 1.0/3 in A18-49) slipped to season-low marks.

Thursday

NBC won easily in adults 18-49 with a nearly all-repeat lineup, led by the week’s No. 1 comedy, “Friends” (8.5/24). ABC edged ahead in total viewers, boosted by “Primetime Thursday” (13.48m), which topped a repeat “ER” (12.45m).

The WB bested Fox in most demos, aided by a new high in persons 12-34 (2.7/8) for “Gilmore Girls” and another strong “Charmed” (2.5/6 in A18-49, 3.5/10 in women 18-34).

Wednesday

A “Survivor: The Australian Outback” clips show (22.93m, 9.7/26 in A18-49) was the week’s No. 1 series, but lead-out “Big Apple” (8.34m, 2.9/7) dropped to new lows. It retained a mere 30% of “Survivor’s” 18-49 aud, 24% in 18-34 and 19% in teens.

ABC’s “The Job” looked less like a hit in its second try, retaining 80% of its “The Drew Carey Show” lead-in among adults 18-49 (4.9/13 vs. 6.1/15) after matching the vet laffer’s demo rating a week earlier. Best retention for “The Job,” which placed second to a “West Wing” repeat in most categories, was an 88% hold among men 35-49 (4.9 vs. 5.6).

“Job” also seems an odd lead-in for “Once & Again,” which attracted its smallest aud of the season (6.72m).

Fox saw better ratings the second time around with spec “Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land on the Moon?” (8.90m, 4.2/11 in A18-49), which first aired on a Thursday during February.

Tuesday

Classic TV star “Millionaire” delivered the quizzer’s second-best Tuesday numbers this season (21.02m, 6.3/18), behind only a November celeb edition. Another strong performer was CBS’ “60 Minutes II,” which won its hour in total viewers (12.99m) with its second-largest aud since December.

NBC laffer “The Fighting Fitzgeralds” (9.86m, 3.9/10) again improved on its repeat “Frasier” lead-in.

Monday

A lineup of all originals helped CBS take March 19 in total viewers and 25-54, but Fox earned a tie in 18-49 despite a “Boston Public” repeat.

One week after posting best-since-premiere numbers for a crossover seg with “The Practice,” ABC’s “Gideon’s Crossing” was back to its struggling ways (6.79m, 2.8/8 in A18-49).

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