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ABC adds to riches: more ‘Million’ airs

'X-Files' wins 18-49 demo, but Alphabet still leads

ABC is giving its competitors a “Million” more reasons to worry about the outcome of the November sweeps.

As expected, the Alphabet web has decided to extend by three nights the previously announced 15-night run of its whammo gameshow “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” (Daily Variety, Nov. 16). Move makes it all the more likely ABC will pull out a victory for the crucial ratings period, something that hasn’t happened since 1994.

Scheduled to wrap Sunday night, the Regis Philbin-hosted “Millionaire” will now air hourlong segs from 8-9 p.m. on Nov. 22, 23 and 24. The Monday edition will preempt “20/20,” while the Nov. 24 finale will bump an original “Two Guys and a Girl” and a repeat “Whose Line is it Anyway.”

On Tuesday, ABC will move an 8 p.m. original seg of “Spin City” to 9:30. Repeats of “Dharma & Greg” and “Spin City,” skedded respectively for 8:30 and 9:30 p.m., will be dumped.

“Viewer response to the show has been overwhelming, so we’ve decided to give them an early holiday present,” said ABC Entertainment Television Group co-chairman Stu Bloomberg.

Exec producer Michael Davies said he initially told ABC there was no way the show could tape additional episodes.

“I still wasn’t thrilled until yesterday, when I worked out a way to do it,” Davies said.

“Millionaire” will tape three episodes on Sunday, Nov. 21, to meet the demand. The producers had to schedule a marathon session since much of the show’s crew had already committed to other projects the following day.

Davies isn’t the only one who’ll be feeling the pressure of three more days of “Millionaires.” Competing webs, already reeling from the damage the show has done to their respective sweeps strategies, will now have to deal with three more nights of pain.

Fox had hoped to do some damage with an extra installment of its “Millionaire” rip-off “Greed,” skedding a seg for 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 24. Facing off against the finale of “Millionaire,” however, “Greed” no longer looks so good.

The network with the most to lose, however, is NBC. The web currently trails ABC in both homes and adults 18-49, and another three nights of “Millionaire” will make it tougher for the Peacock to mount a comeback.

Still, the other nets so far have done a decent job of staying relatively close to ABC in the sweeps competish.

The rival nets are hanging in partly because the show’s Nielsen riches are not coming completely out of the broadcast competition. On average, an extra 8.1 million viewers are showing up in the TV audience whenever “Millionaire” has aired this month, according to ABC.

Through 12 nights of the four-week November sweeps, ABC is leading the 18-49 race with a 6.0 rating, 16 share, up 25% vs. last year.

Only NBC (5.4/14, down 11%) appears to have a chance of catching ABC in this race, as Fox (4.9/13, down 18%), CBS (3.9/10, down 3%), UPN (1.7/4, up 55%) and the WB (1.6/4 (down 11%) trail.

The month’s households race could still turn into a three-net affair, with ABC (10.1/16, up 22%) currently in command over NBC (9.1/15, down 6%) and CBS (8.8/14, down 7%).

Last week, “Millionaire” won ABC its top-rated non-Oscar week in adults 18-49 in two years. That was good enough to deal NBC its first in-season 18-49 loss since April 12-18, breaking the Peacock’s 12-week unbeaten streak.

Those adults 18-49 averages for the week were ABC, 6.3/17 (up 19%); NBC, 5.3/14 (down 10%); Fox, 4.8/12 (down 17%); CBS, 4.0/10 (up 3%); UPN, 1.7/4 (up 42%); WB, 1.7/4 (down 19%); Pax TV, 0.3/1 (up 50%).

Monday

“Millionaire” set series records Nov. 15, attracting 26.79 million viewers, a 16.7 rating, 27 share, in homes and a 9.5/26 in adults 18-49, all best yet for the smash gamer. That was despite ho-hum results for the night’s N.Y. Jets-New England gridcast (18.96 million viewers, 8.1/22 in adults 18-49).

Sunday

Though “Millionaire” topped its big previous-week homes rating, the net competition also strengthened (Daily Variety, Nov. 16).

“Aftershock, Part 1” shook loose CBS’ best Sunday-pic 18-49 score since “Joan of Arc,” while “Mary, Mother of God” delivered NBC’s top Sunday regular-fare 18-49 average since March.

“The X-Files” topped “Millionaire” in adults 18-49 for a second straight week, giving “X-Files” two of the only three slot wins over “Millionaire” in that demo so far this month (“Friends” earned the other last Thursday). It was Fox’s top Sunday in adults 18-49 since January.

The WB’s “Safe Harbor” may have found a home in the usual 7-8 p.m. “7th Heaven” repeat slot, matching as it did the latter’s 18-49 season average there.

Saturday

“Millionaire” bagged ABC’s best Saturday 8-9 p.m. 18-49 nonsports rating since “Encino Man” aired on Feb. 4, 1995 (Daily Variety, Nov. 15).

Friday

With “Millionaire” boosting the “TGIF” team, “Boy Meets World” became the first series in ABC’s Friday 8-8:30 p.m. slot to beat a firstrun “Providence” head to head in adults 18-49.

“Courage the Cowardly Dog” fetched a record original-series premiere rating for the Cartoon Network, a 2.4 in the 60.5 million homes receiving that cable service.

Thursday

ABC’s “Millionaire” stunned NBC’s powerhouse lineup, scoring as the first ABC regular to beat a Peacock firstrun comedy among adults 18-49 in the Thursday 9-9:30 half-hour in more than 16 years (Daily Variety, Nov. 15). The last time an ABC spec accomplished the same feat was May 12, 1994, when “The Stand” topped “Seinfeld.”‘

Wednesday

“Millionaire” minted season-high ratings for each of its ABC skedmates (Daily Variety, Nov. 12).

UPN topped the WB’s new Wednesday lineup in total viewers for the first time.

Tuesday

“Millionaire” couldn’t slow CBS, Tuesday’s households winner, or boost ABC’s fading “Once and Again,”‘ which fell to third in the 10-11 p.m. hour among adults 18-49 (Daily Variety, Nov. 11).

Monday

With “Millionaire” more than doubling ABC’s slot averages, the Alphabet dominated Nov. 8 with its best Monday results since Jan. 4 (Daily Variety, Nov. 10).

Each household rating point represents an estimated 1 million homes, or 1% of the country’s TV households. Each adults 18-49 rating point reps 1.24 million viewers, 1% of the U.S. total. The share is also a percentage, but measured against only the homes or viewers watching TV during the timeslot involved.

(Josef Adalian contributed to this report.)

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