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‘Arc’ de triomphe

Eye's 'Joan' conquers Peacock's 'Train'

“Joan of Arc” has led CBS to victory in its big sweeps showdown Sunday vs. NBC’s “Atomic Train” and ABC’s “Double Platinum.”

CBS’ triumph in one of the pivotal battles of the May sweeps keeps alive the Eye’s hope of catching NBC in the monthlong households race, while likely ending any chance NBC had of overtaking CBS for the seasonlong homes crown.

With Sunday’s first seg of the two-part Leelee Sobieski starrer “Joan” in its column, CBS is expected to win the May 10-16 primetime Nielsens week in households when Nielsen issues those results today, beating NBC by a 0.3 ratings-point margin.

CBS will win five of the week’s seven nights in homes, the first time it’s managed that feat without Olympic help in two years. The Peacock will easily win the week in adults 18-49 and is virtually assured of sweeps-month and seasonlong wins in that key demo.

On Sunday, though, “Joan” triumphed over “Train” and “Platinum” in the 18-49 demographic, usually a CBS vulnerability. Fox’s “The X-Files,” however, remained the dominant program among young adults from 9-10 p.m.

Gradual erosion

The only negative in “Joan’s” heroic Sunday performance was a gradual erosion in its rating over the telecast’s two hours vs. impressive builds for “Train” and “Platinum.” The pattern suggests that today’s Part 2 of “Joan” may decline more than Monday’s second “Train” seg.

Nevertheless, “Joan” clearly conquered the Sunday competition, marching to a 15.1 rating, 23 share in homes and a 7.9/18 in adults 18-49, according to preliminary national Nielsens. That homes rating ties results for “The ’60s” as second-best for a net multiparter first episode this season, behind only “Noah’s Ark, Part 1” (20.9/32).

In adults 18-49, “Joan” ranks fifth among 14 multiple-parters aired so far this season. It was CBS’ top-rated Sunday pic in that 18-49 demo in nearly 18 months, since “Borrowed Hearts” on Nov. 30, 1997.

‘Train’ on track

NBC managed to stay on track with decent numbers from “Atomic Train, Part 1” (a prelim 11.3/17 in homes, 6.9/16 in adults 18-49), and ABC hit a slightly off-key note with the Diana Ross-Brandy vidpic “Double Platinum” (a prelim 10.0/15 in homes, 5.9/14 in adults 18-49).

Against that powerful competition, Fox’s “The X-Files” (9.4/14 in homes, 9.0/21 in adults 18-49) settled for its third-lowest homes rating of the season, but still won its hour by 4 shares in the 18-49 demo.

“Train’s” first episode tied for eighth in homes among the season’s 14 multiple-parter opening episodes, and ranked sixth in adults 18-49.

“Platinum” managed ABC’s best 18-49 rating in that slot in three weeks and second best since the Academy Awards eight weeks ago. Its 14 share, though, was just half the 28 earned by the Brandy-starring “Cinderella” Disney pic in November 1997.

“Platinum” still won its slot handily among teens with a 7.3/22, followed by “X-Files’ ” 6.0/17, “Joan’s” 4.7/14 and “Train’s” 3.5/10.

Spurred on by “Joan of Arc,” CBS sliced NBC’s sweeps-to-date households lead from 1.1 ratings points to 0.8 in one night. Similar results from today’s “Joan, Part 2” could bring the Eye within about half a point of NBC’s sweeps lead with more than a week left to count.

Uphill battle

It’ll still be an uphill battle for CBS, though, since the Eye’s stretch run probably won’t include any more ratings attractions as formidable as “Joan.”

Estimated sweeps household averages (incorporating weekend prelim results) through 18 nights are NBC, a 9.8 rating (down 12% vs. results for the same nights last year); CBS, 9.0 (up 2%); ABC, 7.2 (down 6%); and Fox, 6.1 (down 13%). In adults 18-49, it’s NBC, 6.0 (down 18%); Fox, 4.3 (down 14%); ABC, 4.2 (down 2%); CBS, 3.8 (up 3%).

Each household rating point represents an estimated 994,000 homes, or 1% of the country’s TV households. Each adults 18-49 rating point reps 1.239 million viewers, 1% of the U.S. total. A share is the same sort of percentage, except it’s measured against only the homes or viewers watching TV during the timeslot involved.