XFL plunges to new low

NBC has proven that it can win even with woeful Saturday numbers, but it’s beginning to push its luck.

Last week, according to Nielsen, the Peacock net edged its rivals in the key demo of adults 18-49 despite posting a sub-1 demo rating on Saturday with the XFL. The league’s seventh game on the network also plunged to a new low in homes (1.6/5) — sending NBC to the lowest-rated night on record for one of the Big Four nets.

The XFL telecast is also zeroing in on the all-time lowest rating for a firstrun program on the Big Four. That dubious honor belongs to Fox’s “Mr. President,” which mustered up a meager 1.3 rating in February 1988.

NBC, which remains the season-to-date leader in adults 18-49, finished on top last week because nobody else stepped up to the plate during another quiet frame. The Peacock’s 4.1/11 in adults 18-49 edged both ABC and Fox (4.0/11 each) and CBS (3.9/11).

ABC won in total viewers, with three episodes of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and “The Practice” in the top 10.

CBS, whose week included three nights of NCAA men’s basketball tournament action, took the demo lead into Sunday but then collapsed to a fourth-place finish on that night. Net’s “Survivor: The Australian Outback,” in a special Wednesday telecast, was again the week’s No. 1 program in both total viewers (28.46 million) and adults 18-49 (12.0/33).

Fox continued its roll with teens and adults 18-34 — winning for a seventh straight week in each — but remains clueless on Thursday. Last week the net placed first in persons 12-34 on five nights, a close second on another but was sixth on Thursday.

ABC was the only net that avoided a disastrous night but was again way down vs. the same week a year ago, when a scorching “Millionaire” was carrying the web. Net did well on Sunday and with the series premiere of Denis Leary laffer “The Job” on Wednesday.

CBS and the WB were the only nets up vs. the same week a year ago in both total viewers and target demos. The Frog net, in addition to its usual No. 1 standing among female teens, was also up year-to-year by 20% in females 12-34.

UPN, also dragged down by the XFL, was off by double-digit percentages across the board vs. a year ago but finished second in male teens (2.5/8).

Monday

NBC’s “First Years” (6.94m, 2.8/7 in A18-49) flunked in its first outing in the tough 9 o’clock hour on March 19 opposite another legal-eagle series, Fox’s “Ally McBeal” (12.48m, 6.4/15). “First’s” numbers were about on par with the final couple of weeks of the net’s “Deadline,” which made a hasty exit from the same slot last November.

NBC Studios/USA Studios drama’s fourth-place finish in adults 18-49 was especially disappointing since NBC was a close second in the opening hour with a “Crocodile Hunter” spec (4.7/13) and first at 10 p.m. with “Third Watch” (4.4/12).

CBS’ “Family Law” nabbed its best 18-49 rating (4.2/11) since Jan. 8 even though its lead-in laffer, “Becker,” dropped to its lowest firstrun 18-49 rating of the season (5.4/13).

CBS took the night in total viewers and adults 25-54 with all original episodes and tied Fox in adults 18-49, even though the latter net aired a “Boston Public” repeat.

Sunday

ABC had a strong night, as “Wonderful World of Disney” original “Bailey’s Mistake” finished as the week’s most-watched movie (13 million) and a classic TV edition of “Millionaire” (21.30m, 6.4/15 in A18-49) and “The Practice” (19.72m, 7.2/18) each dominated their hours.

CBS’ struggles on the night continued as “Touched by an Angel” was off by 33% in adults 18-49 vs. a year ago (3.3/8 vs. 4.6/11) and movie “For Love of Olivia” was down by 53% compared with another Louis Gossett Jr. telepic last year, “Color of Love: Jacey’s Story” (2.1/6 vs. 4.5/11). “Olivia” is also the net’s least-watched original Sunday movie since October (9.51m).

Pax’s new series “Doc” delivered strong ratings in its second week, outdrawing both UPN and the WB in the 8 o’clock hour in total viewers (2.78m) and adults 25-54 (1.1/2). It was down only 11% in viewers compared with its two-hour movie premiere a week earlier.

Saturday

CBS’ college basketball contributed to the lowest marks yet for the XFL on NBC (2.16m, 0.9/3 in A18-49).

The Eye won the night in viewers and tied Fox in 18-49, with CBS’ 3.9/13 nightly rating in the demo its best on a Saturday since last year’s men’s basketball tourney semifinal on April 1.

Friday

NBC won each of the night’s hours in adults 18-49 for its 10th Friday demo victory in the past 11 weeks.

ABC’s “Millionaire” was the night’s most-watched show (15.66m), nearly tripling the audience of lead-in “Norm” (5.44m).

Thursday

Each of NBC’s shows won their time periods in 18-49, led by an original episode of “Friends,” which was the week’s No. 1 comedy (20.84m, 10.0/29 in A18-49). Lead-out laffer “The Weber Show,” back in the lineup after a six-week absence, retained a decent 78% of its “Friends” audience in 18-49 (7.8/21) — an improvement over the 72% hold it managed the last time it followed an original “Friends.”

What a difference a year makes: From 9 to 10, CBS’ basketball coverage tied “Millionaire” in adults 18-49 (4.1/10); a year ago, the quizzer won by 12 shares (8.7/21 to 3.6/9).

Wednesday

In its third try and airing on a special night, CBS’ “Big Apple” retained a puny 26% of its “Survivor” lead-in among adults 18-49 (3.1 vs. 12.0) and 29% in adults 25-54 (3.9 vs. 12.8).

The move to Wednesday had an interesting effect on some of “Survivor’s” demos, meanwhile. Show fell to a season-low rating in adults 25-54 (12.9), kids (6.1) and some male demos but matched in best-since-premiere rating in women 18-34 (14.4), surging to a 41 share.

The reality adventure series topped the other five networks combined from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. in total viewers (28.46m vs. 26.23m), adults 18-49 (12.0/33 vs. 10.9/30), 25-54 (12.9/32 vs. 11.5/28) and 18-34 (12.7/37 vs. 10.1/30).

ABC’s “The Job” had a strong premiere, retaining 96% of its “Drew Carey” lead-in audience overall (9.99m vs. 10.38m) and 100% in adults 18-49 (5.1/13) — the best retention for any comedy in the post-“Drew” 9:30 slot in two years.

“Job’s” audience apparently didn’t flow very well into 10 p.m.’s “Once and Again,” as the second-year drama posted its lowest marks of the season (6.98m, 3.3/10 in A18-49). NBC’s “Law & Order” (18.70m, 7.2/21) more than doubled its drama foe.

Tuesday

CBS’ “JAG” had its most competitive finish ever opposite “Millionaire,” winning the hour in 25-54 (5.3/13) and finishing just a tick behind the quizzer in 18-49 (3.9/11 to 4.0/11). “Millionaire” helped ABC win the night in total viewers by nabbing its time period (17.27m) but that’s its lowest ever for a firstrun Tuesday hour.

ABC’s “Dharma & Greg,” which perked up in demos behind “The Mole” in February, couldn’t overcome the soft lead-in from “Millionaire”: It slipped to its lowest 18-49 rating for a firstrun seg (4.7/12) since Halloween.

Fox’s “Titus” retained 91% of its “That ’70s Show” lead-in among adults 18-49 (5.2/14 vs. 5.7/16), helping the net to a nightly victory in the demo. The second-year comedy won its hour in 18-49, 18-34, teens and kids.

Monday

A “Columbo” movie and “Gideon’s Crossing” helped ABC win March 12 in total viewers, while CBS won in adults 18-49 (Daily Variety, March 14).

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