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‘Mole’ not enough to boost ABC

Tie with CBS to be likely outcome

ABC’s “The Mole” won its hour among young adults Tuesday but failed to get any real ratings bounce out of its penultimate episode, leaving the net vulnerable to a possible fourth-place demo finish heading into the final night of the February sweep.

According to Nielsen, Tuesday’s episode of the reality saboteur skein — the first of a two-night series finale — averaged 13.24 million viewers and a timeslot-winning 5.4/14 in adults 18-49 and a 5.9/17 in adults 18-34. While the overall audience was the show’s largest since its premiere seven weeks ago, its 18-49 rating merely matched its third best score in eight tries — and was flat vs. the previous week.

Driving up the total-viewer tally on Tuesday was the best showing to date among teens (4.3/13) and kids (3.6/13).

CBS, in third place in adults 18-49 for the sweep, led ABC by one-tenth of a rating point prior to Wednesday’s closing night (4.5/12 to 4.4/11). ABC was expected to defeat CBS fairly handily in the demo on Wednesday, making a tie the most likely outcome.

What’s at stake

A battle for third place isn’t usually a big deal, but it’s significant in this case for both nets: ABC is looking to avoid a fourth-place finish one year after placing first, while CBS wants out of the demo cellar in a major sweep for the first time (except for Olympics months) since November 1994.

The night was an abbreviated one in terms of ratings for the major nets, which aired coverage of President George W. Bush’s address to Congress from 9 p.m. to nearly 10:30 p.m. in the East. That meant that only 90 minutes of the night (8 to 9 and 10:30 to 11) are factored into the ratings for ABC, CBS and NBC and only 60 minutes (8 to 9) for Fox.

ABC (5.1/14) and Fox (5.1/13) tied on the night in adults 18-49, followed by NBC (4.2/11) and CBS (3.5/10).

Watching the prez

The president’s address was seen by an average of 39.8 million viewers on the four broadcast nets and three cable outlets, according to Nielsen. Compared with President Clinton’s eight such speeches to Congress, only last year’s (31.5 million) drew a smaller crowd.

For the sweep, NBC led Fox in adults 18-49, with one night to be counted (5.3/14 to 5.1/13). CBS remained well ahead in total viewers (about 13.9 million), but it was a photo finish for second between ABC (12.6m) and NBC (12.5m).

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