‘Dateline’: a 5-night affair?

Wednesday night ratings portend extra slot

NEW YORK — If ratings for Wednesday night are any indication, Peacock newsmag “Dateline” may be headed for a five-night-a-week gig by summer.

Rumors have been circulating for months that NBC honchos were kicking around the extra night, but ratings info available Thursday could have sealed the deal on making Wednesday the fifth night.

With a 12.1 rating and 21 share, “Dateline” soared past ABC’s “PrimeTime Live,” which grabbed a 9.0/16, and CBS’ 10 p.m. offering, “Chicago Hope,” at 8.4/15.

“Dateline” also beat out NBC’s regularly skedded “Law & Order,” which has a season-to-date average of 10.8/19 for that time period.

And the topper? This “Dateline” Wednesday also beat out season-to-date averages for all four regular “Dateline” nights.

An NBC spokesman called any discussion of “Dateline’s” expansion “very premature,” and added that the newsmag has run in the Wednesday slot on other occasions, “when programming decisions or breaking news warranted it.”

Last night’s run can’t be put into the breaking news category — with a previously run consumer alert report about traveling con artists and an update on the JFK auction — and sources intimated that the network would do well to position a fifth night of “Dateline” against “PrimeTime Live.”

“Any possible changes are a way off,” spokesman Cory Shields told Daily Variety. “We won’t announce the full schedule until May.”

Last year, “Dateline” Monday premiered in June, and insiders are speculating that “Dateline” Wednesday may be ready for a bow by June as well.

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