2nd straight sweep of key ratings for Alphabet

ABC finished the calendar year the way it started — topping its competition in primetime.

The Alphabet net, using repeat segs of celebrity “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” (featuring VH1’s Pop Up Video) as well as multiple nights of “Whose Line Is It Anyway,” posted easy ratings victories for the Dec. 25-31 week in total viewers and all adult demo measures, according to Nielsen.

It was the second straight sweep of the key ratings measurements for ABC, which had won only one of the season’s first 11 weeks. The Alphabet — which also figures to capture the current week thanks to three nights of big college football bowl games — has narrowed the gap with front-runner NBC in the seasonal race for adults 18-49 while building on its seasonal advantage in total viewers over the Peacock.

Last season, ABC began January on a ratings roll as “Millionaire” became a thrice-weekly series and the net cruised to victory for the season. While the quizzer has slowed this season and ABC will be hard-pressed to repeat as the seasonlong winner in the prized 18-49 demo, it nonetheless is the network with the most momentum heading into the New Year.

NBC, meanwhile, slipped to third in adults 18-49 for a second straight week, driven down in part by a low-rated NBA game on Saturday.

CBS was second in viewers (9.4 million) but a noncompetitive fourth in adults 18-49 (2.6/7) — its worst numbers of the season. The Eye net was off 25% in viewers and 35% in adults 18-49 compared with the same week a year ago, which included two strong movie perfs (“The Bodyguard” and “Beyond the Prairie”).

Although the Eye’s weekly highlights were minimal, the net pointed out that its comedy “Everybody Loves Raymond” has moved into the No. 2 slot for the season in total viewers, behind only “ER.”

Weblets the WB and UPN also posted their lowest ratings of the season.

Overall, each of the nets except Fox was down compared to a year ago — when the corresponding week did not include Christmas, and New Year’s Eve fell on a lesser-watched night (Friday vs. this year’s Sunday). Fox continues to show the biggest season-to-date gains of all the major nets in both viewers and demos.

ABC claimed five of the week’s seven most-watched programs (four editions of “Millionaire” and “Monday Night Football”) and 12 of the top 20 among adults 18-49, led by “MNF” at No. 2 (7.2/22). NBC’s Thursday series captured the other five spots among the week’s top six shows in the demo.

Key to ABC’s victory were repeat episodes of celeb “Millionaire” featuring VH1’s Pop Up Video and four additional hours of “Whose Line.”

The quizzer’s 18-49 average for its four hours (4.7/14) was 15% better than the repeat scores last September for the first edition of celeb “Millionaire,” while the Drew Carey-hosted improv show’s special repeats improved the net’s delivery in those time periods (on Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday) by 17% in adults 18-49 and by an even stronger 31% in men 18-49.

Monday

The Fiesta Bowl (Notre Dame-Oregon State) and overrun from the Rose Bowl (Washington-Purdue) lifted ABC to an easy victory on Jan. 1. The Fiesta Bowl (17.47m, 7.0/17 in A18-49) was up by 3% and 11%, respectively, vs. last year’s comparable post-Rose Bowl contest on ABC.

CBS fell flat with a special “Bette” (10.75m, 3.9/8 in A18-49) in the post-“Everybody Loves Raymond” slot, as the rookie laffer retained just 72% of its demo lead-in and 67% of its overall audience.

Sunday

Fox won the night in adults 18-49 (4.7/14), thanks to big numbers for the closing 14 minutes of the NFL playoff game between Tampa Bay and Philadelphia (24.70m, 10.4/32) and a 16-minute postgame show (16.2m, 7.4/23).

ABC dominated the final two hours of the night with the final installment of Pop Up “Millionaire” (13.75m, 4.7/15 in A18-49) and “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” (11.32m, 4.7/15),

Saturday

A repeat of feature film “Jack” and an hour of “Whose Line” helped ABC take the night in both viewers (11.4 million) and 18-49 (4.4/12).

The Robin Williams starrer “Jack,” which seemed to get a boost from the Alphabet’s early-evening coverage of an NFL playoff game (Rams-Saints), drew the largest aud (12.88m) and second highest 18-49 rating (4.7/13) for an ABC Saturday pic this season.

Friday

ABC won the night in adults 18-49 (3.4/10) for the first time since Nov. 17 (“Beatles Revolution”) despite a third-place finish in viewers. “Whose Line,” airing at 9, finished in a tie with a repeat of CBS’ “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” in adults 18-49 (3.7/11).

In a rarity, the night’s three 10 o’clock series each logged a 3.5/10 rating in adults 18-49, with NBC’s “Law & Order: SVU” winning in viewers (11.10m).

Thursday

NBC won the night as usual in both viewers (13.3 million) and 18-49 (6.6/18), although ABC’s “Millionaire” (14.56m, 4.9/13 in A18-49) won the 9 o’clock hour over repeats of the Peacock’s comedies.

CBS drew its second largest Thursday audience of the season (9.8 million) as “48 Hours” (10.04m), debuting in its new 10 p.m. timeslot, delivered the net’s largest in-season aud in the hour with regular programming since March 30.

Turns out it was a good week for Robin Williams movies, as a repeat of the durable “Jumanji” (9.33m, 3.6/9 in A18-49) gave Fox its second best Thursday numbers since October.

Wednesday

Fox won the night in all male demos and teens behind a special movie, “Dragonheart,” which delivered the best adults 18-49 rating (4.4/12) for any movie on the net this season.

The 23rd annual “Kennedy Center Honors” on CBS finished below last year’s spec by 17% in viewers (9.10m) and by 25% in adults 18-49 (2.1/5). A big part of the problem this time around was another weak showing for the net’s leadoff-hour comedies “Bette” and “Welcome to New York,” whose firstrun 18-49 rating (2.3 average) was 36% lower than what CBS scored a year ago with “Cosby” and a “King of Queens” repeat (3.6).

Tuesday

ABC took the night easily, winning each half-hour in both total viewers and adults 18-49. A repeat seg of celeb “Millionaire” (18.94m, 5.5/15 in A18-49) helped ABC win the night’s leadoff hour in the demo for just the second time this season; the other time was when a celeb episode of the quizzer aired in November.

Fox’s “That ’70s Show” again topped “Millionaire” in their head-to-head 18-49 battle at 8, though, and also won its timeslot in all male demos.

Monday

The season finale of “Monday Night Football” helped ABC easily win Christmas night in viewers (15.1) and adults 18-49 (5.9/19). The 31st season of the football series finished down slightly vs. a year ago in household ratings, but was up in the key demo of adults 18-34 (Daily Variety, Dec. 28).

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