NBC hoisted to victory by 'ER,' 'Friends'

NBC scored a rather easy primetime victory among young adults last week, using a balanced attack to help compensate for its slightly less powerful Thursday lineup.

The Peacock’s Thursday, while down 28% vs. the same frame a year ago in the key demo of adults 18-49, still took the night handily, according to Nielsen estimates. “ER” (11.5/30) and “Friends” (8.6/27) were the week’s top two performers in the demo, joining four other NBC programs in the week’s top 10.

In addition to its Thursday win, NBC took Wednesday and Friday in posting its biggest weekly margin of victory (15% over second-place Fox) since mid-December.

Fox edged out ABC for second place in adults 18-49, boosted by a winning Monday and Sunday and solid second-place finishes on Tuesday and Saturday. Net also won for a seventh straight week in adults 18-34, capturing nine of the top 20 programs.

It was also a very good week for the WB, which was up year-to-year by more than 20% in key demos. Frog net drew its largest overall audience since February and matched its best adults 18-34 score since late November.

CBS, without a regular episode of “Survivor,” remained on top in total viewers despite slipping to fourth in adults 18-49 for the first time since mid-March. Still, it was the only major net to post year-to-year gains in adults 18-49.

Also, its sixth straight weekly victory in viewers has moved the Eye into a virtual tie with ABC for the seasonlong battle for largest overall audience, with just 10 nights still to be counted.

ABC placed third in both total viewers and adults 18-49 despite five episodes of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” (including four celeb editions). The star-studded installments were kept out of the week’s top 20 in adults 18-49 just one year after dominating by that measure.

This month’s five celeb segs averaged 15.92 million viewers and a 4.8/13 in adults 18-49 — declines vs. last May of 55% and 60% respectively; compared with last November’s celeb editions, it was off by 33% and 34%.

Sunday

Fox prevailed in adults 18-49 (5.9/18), with each of its programs winning its timeslot and posting year-to-year gains. Comedies “The Simpsons” (7.1/22) and “Malcolm in the Middle” (7.1/20) tied for the No. 6 ranking of the week among all programs in adults 18-49 and also finished atop the week’s rankings in teens.

ABC’s “The Practice” was the night’s No. 1 program by several measures, topping the second-place programming in the hour by more than 9 million viewers (21.02m vs. 11.76m for CBS’ “Blonde”) and by 78% in adults 18-49 (8.2/21 vs. 4.6/12 for NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” spec).

CBS’ Marilyn Monroe pic “Blonde” (11.44m, 3.6/9 in A18-49) managed less than half the ratings of last season’s May mini “Jesus” (24.10m, 8.2/20). ABC had better luck with “Child Star: The Shirley Temple Story,” which won its 7-9 p.m. block in total viewers (12.57m), women 18-49 (4.6/16) and kids (4.1/18).

Saturday

A measly 2.8 rating/10 share in adults 18-49 was enough for ABC, with the network preem of “Speed 2,” to capture the night — edging Fox’s 2.7/10. Fox actually won its 8-10 p.m. block in the demo before “Speed 2′s” strong showing at 10.

A “Dr. Quinn” movie (8.83m) did OK biz for CBS from 8-10, but it didn’t seem to make for a good match with “The District,” which fell to season lows for a firstrun hour (11.08m, 2.8/9 in A18-49).

Friday

The final night of celebrity “Millionaire” won the 8 p.m. hour for ABC (12.58m, 3.4/13 in A18-49), sending NBC’s “Providence” (9.90m, 2.9/12) to lowest-ever firstrun scores. The quizzer also won its hour in 18-34 (3.2/15), handing Fox’s “Police Videos” (2.8/13) a rare setback.

Neither of the night’s specs fared very well, with CBS’ “Miss Universe Pageant” (8.27m, 2.7/9 in A18-49) falling to new lows and ABC’s Paul McCartney pic “Wingspan” (7.75m, 3.4/13) falling 13% short of the demo rating for the net’s “Beatles Revolution” spec last November (3.9/12). “Miss Universe” did win its final hour in persons 12-34 (3.1/12).

NBC’s victory on the night in viewers and demos was led by a powerful perf at 10 for the season finale of “Law & Order: SVU” (15.06m, 4.8/15 in A18-49).

Thursday

NBC won each of the night’s half-hours in adults 18-49 to win by 7 shares over CBS. The Eye remained very competitive, with a “Survivor: Back from the Outback” spec winning its hour in total viewers (16.26m) and 25-54 (6.9/19) and ranking second to NBC’s “Friends” and “Weakest Link” spec in adults 18-49. Eye net’s “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” similarly took the 9 p.m. hour in viewers (18.90m) and adults 25-54 (8.8/20), while NBC’s comedies moved ahead in adults 18-49.

A repeat “CSI” (15.16m, 6.0/16 in A18-49) held up pretty well opposite an original “ER” (23.17mm, 11.5/30), sending the latter to its second weakest firstrun scores to date. While the medical drama still held a very wide 187% advantage in its strongest demo, women 18-34 (13.5/37 vs. 5.4/15), the gap was a tighter 74% in adults 25-54 (12.8/30 vs. 7.2/17) and just 38% in men 25-54 (9.1/23 vs. 6.6/16).

Other highlights on the night included ABC’s “Whose Line Is It Anyway” delivering its best 18-49 score in seven weeks (3.4/10), Fox’s “Surprise Wedding 2″ netting the net’s best Thursday rating since February (3.0/8), and the WB’s “Gilmore Girls” wrapping its initial season with strong marks (4.31m, 1.7/5 in A18-49), including a new high in female teens (6.3/21).

Wednesday

“The West Wing” (17.01m, 6.7/17 in A18-49) and “Law & Order” (18.82m, 7.8/20) dominated their hours in leading NBC to an easy victory.

The 36th annual “Academy of Country Music Awards” fell to an all-time low in total viewers (13.86m) but delivered year-to-year demo growth in some categories, including up 38% in women 18-34 (to a first-place 5.5/15).

ABC’s “My Wife and Kids” wrapped its season with a winning 3.9/13 in adults 18-49, while 9:30′s “Spin City” retained a strong 95% of its “Drew Carey” demo lead-in (4.0/10 vs. 4.2/11).

“Dawson’s Creek” and “Felicity” teamed to give the WB the night among females 12-34 (4.7/15), posting a year-to-year gain of 22%.

Penultimate episode of “Star Trek: Voyager” delivered strong numbers for UPN (5.45m, 2.8/7 in A18-49), including a second-place finish among men 35-49 (4.9/12) — topping Fox’s fading “Boot Camp” (3.3/8).

Tuesday

ABC won for a 10th straight week in total viewers (14.3m), led by the week’s most-watched celebrity edition of “Millionaire” (17.16m) and a third consecutive timeslot victory for “NYPD Blue” (14.68m). Net also prevailed in 18-49 (5.3/14), with “Blue” (6.3/16) logging its best score in five weeks.

Fox took adults 18-49 (4.6/13) in common time, with “Dark Angel” hitting an eight-week high (4.3/11), and also won the night by 2 shares in 18-34.

Monday

Fox won May 13 by all key measures except total viewers (which CBS won), led by timeslot victories for “Boston Public” (5.2/15 in A18-49) and “Ally McBeal” (6.0/15).

NBC’s “Weakest Link” rebounded with a strong showing (11.74m, 5.1/15 in A18-49), although the net’s conclusion of mini “The Judge” didn’t do much from 9-11 (10.84m, 3.1/8).

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