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Grammys give Eye a ratings whammy

Despite its second-lowest rating ever, “The Grammy Awards” propelled CBS to a tie with NBC for the Feb. 24-March 2 primetime Nielsens crown. The Eye web remained third, behind NBC and Fox, among adults 18-49, but finished ahead of ABC by that measure for just the second time in three years.

It’s CBS’ first share of the weeklong households lead since Sept. 30-Oct. 6, when another Wednesday music-related kudocast, “The Country Music Assn. Awards,” led CBS to victory. Last week, CBS also edged out NBC in total viewers, 15.17 million to 15.05 million.

It was a week in which, by and large, the networks looked wise to have delayed many of their current schedule changes until after the sweeps, since few of the switches did much good, even against weaker post-sweeps competition. On Monday of this week, by contrast, CBS’ sitcom overhaul showed some promise of fortifying that lineup.

The Feb. 24-March 2 lowlight was Sunday’s part one of ABC’s “The Apocalypse Watch,” one of the lowest-rated Sunday films in TV history and lowest in that slot on any of the Big Three since August 1994. On Monday of this week, “Watch” wound down its two-night run with an average 5.1/8, making it, by far, the lowest-rated firstrun multiple-parter ever aired on the Big Three. The previous record low was set by November ’93’s “JFK: Reckless Youth” (8.7/14), also on ABC.

The “Watch” misfire led to what’s apparently ABC’s first-ever weeklong fourth-place finish among adults 18-49.

Last week’s averages in that demo were: NBC, a 6.6 rating, 18 share (equaling NBC’s results for the same week last year); Fox, 5.6/15 (up 6%); CBS, 5.2/14 (down 10%); ABC, 5.0/14 (down 6%); UPN, 1.7/4 (down 15%); WB, 1.2/3 (down 14%). It’s the first time CBS has beaten ABC by this measure in the 52 weeks since Grammy week 1996 and just the second time since Grammy week 1994.

Sunday

ABC made the night’s biggest news — bad news — with its first part of “The Apocalypse Watch,” which suffered the worst Sunday 9-11 p.m. rating for any of the Big Three (including summer reruns) since Christmas night 1994 (NBC’s basketball and “Earth 2” rerun) and the worst movie rating in that slot since Aug. 30, 1992 (ABC’s “Reds, Part 1” rerun, 4.4/8).

NBC’s “The Fugitive” scored the season’s third-highest 18-49 rating for a theatrical film, leading NBC to a dominating six-share win in adults 18-49 for the night. NBC led every half-hour in that demo, except the 8:30-9 p.m. slot, taken by the Fox hit “King of the Hill.”

“Dateline NBC,” featuring an interview with Howard Stern, reported its highest hourlong Sunday 18-49 rating to date. “Dateline” edged “60 Minutes” in adults 18-49, NBC’s target demo, while “Minutes” inched ahead in adults 25-54, CBS’ target demo. CBS won that hour and the night in homes, matching its second-best regular-sked Sunday of the season.

Saturday

CBS breezed in homes, but both ABC and NBC finished just one share back in adults 18-49.

ABC’s “Dangerous Minds” got below-average marks in its first Saturday try, equaling the lowest 18-49 rating of the slot’s last regular occupant, the long-ago scuttled “Second Noah.” The forecast is also bleak for NBC’s “Dark Skies,” which could only tie “Minds” in adults 18-49 with “Skies’ ” worst average to date. NBC still finished the night up 48% in adults 18-49 vs. the year-ago Saturday.

Fox was last for the night in that demo with “Skate International,” which merely equaled its year-ago marks from the 18-49 judges while amassing a 10% improvement in households — indicative of the rapid graying of skating’s demos this season.

Friday

ABC held on to the Friday win, though a 9-10 p.m. “Disney World” spec underperformed the slot’s regular sitcoms by 9% in adults 18-49 (while dominating the hour in teens and kids with 32 and 31 shares, respectively).

“Crisis Center” was admitted to the NBC lineup in fair condition, down 10% from the 18-49 season average of slot regular “Homicide.” The Peacock’s 8-10 p.m. “Soap Opera Digest Awards” held 95% of its year-ago rating, despite switching back to a Friday telecast from ’96’s Wednesday airing, though it still finished 1-1/2 rating points behind the most recent score of the rival “Daytime Emmys.”

CBS’ 9 p.m. “JAG” rose to second in its hour in both adults 18-49 and 25-54 for the first time.

Thursday

NBC dominated despite mixed results. “Suddenly Susan” retained a credible 91% of its rerun “Friends” 18-49 lead-in, compared to a 93% retention for “The Single Guy” Jan. 23, the one time this season a firstrun “Guy” has similarly followed a rerun “Friends.”

At 9:30, NBC’s fading “Naked Truth” held a skimpy 77% of its lead-in from a rerun “Seinfeld,” down from the 89% NBC has averaged over the past two years in that slot when airing a firstrun sitcom after a rerun “Seinfeld.” It was also NBC’s lowest firstrun 18-49 rating (non-sports, non-news) in that slot since Dec. 29, 1994 (“Madman of the People”).

ABC’s “Vital Signs” started strong, beating the 18-49 results of the last nine “Murder One” episodes in that slot — and that was despite CBS countering with a “World’s Most Dangerous Animals” spec that beat slot regular “Moloney’s” 25-54 average by a ferocious four shares.

Fox’s “Image Awards” walked off with an impressive 14% increase over its year-ago tally. It was, however, Fox’s second-lowest Thursday 18-49 rating in 21 weeks.

Wednesday

“The Grammy Awards” presented CBS with its first Wednesday win in adults 18-49 since Oct. 2, 1996 (“Country Music Assn. Awards”), and earned the highest households rating for a February sweeps entertainment spec. Though down 8% from its year-ago rating, the Grammycast did edge ABC’s rival “American Music Awards” (13.2/21, Jan. 27) in homes (while “AMA” prevailed in adults 18-49, 8.8/22 vs. the Grammys’ 8.2/21). CBS’ older-skewing “CMA Awards” is the highest-rated of those three music kudocasts in homes, but the lowest-rated in adults 18-49.

Surprisingly, young-skewing Fox wasn’t hurt by Wednesday’s Grammy competition. For the second week in a row, “Party of Five” celebrated a series record rating and “Beverly Hills 90210” zipped to its highest rating since February ’96. “Party” also topped the rating of lead-in “90210” for the first time ever.

WB did get thumped by the Grammys, staggering to a season-low firstrun Wednesday rating.

NBC’s 8-10 p.m. specs couldn’t quite match the recent 18-49 averages of the Peacock’s regular sitcoms, while ABC and Fox seemed to benefit from the lack of NBC comedy competition, showing gains despite the Grammy competition. A Vegas theme for that night’s ABC sitcoms paid off with a season-high “Coach” rating.

Tuesday

ABC narrowly edged out Fox’s rampaging reality spex to win the night in adults 18-49.

The Fox specials, somewhat maligned by the competition, particularly NBC’s Don Ohlmeyer, sped off with the highest non-sports Tuesday adults 18-49 rating in Fox history. At 8 p.m., “World’s Scariest Police Chases” (in rerun) set a Fox timeslot record in the 18-49 demo, even topping last fall’s World Series.

CBS ascended to its highest non-sports Tuesday rating since Feb. 28, 1995, thanks to a special “Touched by an Angel” at 8 p.m. Still, CBS remained fourth for the night in key demos. The Eye’s “Night Sins” finished its two-night run with an average 10.8/17, better than just two of seven multiple-parters aired on the Big Three this season.

Sweeps specials clobbered NBC’s “Something So Right,” which finished fourth in its slot among adults 18-49 with its lowest firstrun rating to date.

UPN equaled its Tuesday 18-49 average of the last 10 weeks with the broadcast premiere of “Carlito’s Way.”

Monday

Fox took Monday, Feb. 24, in adults 18-49 as ABC’s older-skewing specs led in homes but finished fourth in young adults (Daily Variety, Feb. 26). UPN rallied to its highest-rated Monday since Nov. 4 and finished second among kids for the 8-10 p.m. period.

Each rating point represents an estimated 970,000 households, or 1% of the country’s TV homes. The share is the same sort of percentage, except that it’s measured against only the households in which TV is being watched during the timeslot involved.

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