ABC rushes to victory with ‘MNF’

NFL game week's No. 1 program in adults, total viewers

HOLLYWOOD — The season opener of “Monday Night Football” helped ABC find its way to the primetime winner’s circle for the first time in six months.

According to Nielsen, the Alphabet net led primetime for the week of Sept. 9-15 in adults 18-49, topping second-place CBS by 6%. The Eye net won out in total viewers (9.59 million) and has now won by that measure for 10 of the past 13 weeks.

NBC, which had won the summer season among adults 18-49, fell to fourth for the first time in 19 months. Net’s transitional sked was hurt by the absence of summer reality hits “Dog Eat Dog” and “Meet My Folks” and the return of poor-repeating dramas “Third Watch” and “Providence.”

ABC doesn’t have much going for it right now series-wise, but the Patriots-Steelers game on Monday night combined with strong scores from its news division on Tuesday and Thursday to give the net its first weekly 18-49 victory since the week of the Academy Awards in late March. NFL contest was the week’s No. 1 program in both adults 18-49 (8.3/24) and total viewers (19.08 million).

Net also scored above its summer averages with pics on Thursday (“Liar Liar”) and Sunday (“Notting Hill”).

CBS was a strong second in adults 18-49 and edged out ABC for the lead in adults 25-54, boosted by best-yet numbers for “Big Brother 3,” two episodes of “CSI” and a substantial turnout for the encore telecast of its “9/11” documentary.

Fox ran third in adults 18-49 despite winning four nights (Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday). Net continued its strong recent run with theatrical repeats: “Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo” on Friday and a repeat of “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” on Sunday.

Sunday

Season preem of HBO’s “The Sopranos” overshadowed the night, but Fox (“The Lost World”) and ABC (“Notting Hill”) did pretty well with repeats of movies. CBS’ “Message in a Bottle,” on the other hand, was not retrieved by many.

Fox led the broadcasters in 18-49 (3.6/9).

Saturday

Fox won in adults 18-49 and total viewers with the season preems of “Cops” and “America’s Most Wanted,” but CBS’ “Big Brother 3” took the opening hour with its best Saturday numbers yet (7.34m, 2.8/10).

Crossover seg with “The District” boosted CBS’ “The Agency” (8.31m, 2.2/7 in 18-49) to its strongest Saturday scores of summer. CIA drama built on its “District” lead-in for the first time.

ABC won in male demos with its Nebraska-Penn State college football game (6.53m, 2.3/8 in 18-49).

Friday

Fox’s preem of “Deuce Bigalow” (6.42m, 3.0/11 in 18-49) was the highest-rated program of the night in adults 18-49 (tied with NBC’s “Law & Order: SVU”), adults 18-34 and teens.

“Providence” (1.1/4 in 18-49) returned to the NBC sked with a thud, placing fifth — behind even a repeat of the WB’s “Family Affair.” The Frog comedy impressively logged the same adults 18-34 rating (1.3) as its premiere the previous night.

Thursday

“Big Brother 3” hit a new high (10.62m, 5.1/15 in 18-49) with a two-hour seg as CBS cruised on the night. At 10, “CSI” (13.91m, 5.7/16) trounced an “ER” repeat (6.83m, 3.0/8).

ABC had its best Thursday since April behind “Liar Liar” (7.84m, 3.1/9) and the season premiere of “Primetime” (10.31m, 3.6/10).

Elsewhere, bow of “Family Affair” received solid sampling on the WB, and UPN’s “WWE Smackdown” pinned down its best numbers since April (Daily Variety, Sept. 16).

Wednesday

The major nets turned things over to news and specials commemorating the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

An average of 9.43 million viewers watched NBC’s two-hour “Concert for America” spec, which featured Aretha Franklin, Placido Domingo and Gloria Estefan. An hour earlier, Scott Pelley’s interview with President Bush on CBS’ “60 Minutes II” averaged 9.63 million.

Tuesday

Fox extended its Tuesday winning streak in adults 18-49 to 14 weeks — even without “American Idol.” Repeats of “That ’70s Show” (3.7/12) and “Grounded for Life” (3.4/10) each won their half-hours, and 9 o’clock spec “TV’s Funniest Game Shows” was a solid second (3.8/10).

NBC clicked with a 90-minute “Dateline” devoted to events leading up to 9/11. By the 10:30 half-hour, the newsmag soared to a 5.5/16 rating in adults 18-49 and 13.83 million viewers overall. And at 9, net’s “Frasier” hit a summer high (3.8/11 in 18-49).

ABC drew its largest 9-11 p.m. aud since the May sweep with spec “Report From Ground Zero” (8.86m), and laffer “According to Jim” grabbed the net’s best scores in the 8:30 half-hour (7.68m, 3.1/9 in A18-49) since March.

Monday

ABC cruised on Sept. 9 behind “Monday Night Football” (Daily Variety, Sept. 11), while CBS was a solid No. 2. Eye’s “CSI” repeat thumped NBC’s “Crossing Jordan” (5.0/13 to 1.8/5 in A18-49).

UPN’s comedy block delivered its largest aud (3.79m) since May, with “One on One” (4.18m) leading the way and posting its best score among adults 18-34 (1.9/6) since last November.

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