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ABC slots sweeps with ‘Millionaire’

'Snoops' in doghouse

ABC is bringing back its red-hot summer gameshow “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” as a 15-night November sweeps lifeline — but the way the skein has been skedded is raising eyebrows.

Alphabet announced Thursday that it will strip “Millionaire” in various timeslots from Nov. 7 through Nov. 21. The Regis Philbin-hosted show will air from 9-10 p.m. on Sundays, from 8-9 p.m. on Mondays and Saturdays, and from 8:30-9 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.

“We’ve captured lightning in a bottle with this show, and we intend to take full advantage of it,” ABC Entertainment Television Group co-chairman Stu Bloomberg said.

Skedding means producer David E. Kelley’s frosh drama “Snoops” will get bumped from its 9 p.m. Sunday slot three times during the sweeps — more than any other skein in the ABC lineup. The network insists “Snoops” will be completely preempted no more than two times during the ratings period, and likely will move into the 10 p.m. Sunday slot usually occupied by another Kelley drama, “The Practice,” for one week.

While networks usually prefer to maximize the number of episodes of hit shows during sweeps month, an ABC spokesman said the production schedule for “The Practice” necessitates resting the drama at least once during sweeps.

‘Snoop’ sweep-slot switch

A final decision on where “Snoops” will play in sweeps won’t be made until after the web reviews early ratings for the series, which bows Sunday.

The stripping of “Millionaire” will force ABC to do some juggling of some other shows in November. “20/20 Monday” will get bumped twice, and “It’s Like, You Know … ,” “Norm” and “Boy Meets World” will either be preempted or shuffled to other timeslots.

Cashing in

The good news for ABC is that “Millionaire” could significantly boost the net’s ratings during a crucial period while allowing the net to plug holes left by weaker shows.

It also means ABC will air just 6-1/2 hours of scripted entertainment series programming during two weeks of the November sweeps once “Monday Night Football,” movies, newsmags and the five weekly hours of “Millionaire” are considered.

“It’s a plus all around,” ABC sked guru Jeff Bader told Daily Variety, noting that the preemption of some programming in sweeps would allow ABC to air fewer repeats outside of the ratings period.

Easily the most talked-about TV event of the summer, “Millionaire” helped boost ABC’s timeslot performances among adults 18-49 by 95% vs. last year.