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‘Ark’ floats NBC’s boat

Peacock tailing CBS season-to-date in homes

NBC deluged the April 26-May 2 primetime Nielsens competition with a torrent of ”Noah’s Ark” viewers, buoying NBC to an early May sweeps lead of epic proportions.

On its second night, ”Noah” foundered a bit, losing 23% of its Sunday adults 18-49 audience. That was still good enough to keep NBC 6 shares ahead of Monday’s 18-49 competition, but the Peacock is now trailing its year-ago “Merlin”-boosted sweeps pace by 23%.

Five nights into the key ratings period, NBC is averaging a 7.0 rating, 21 share in adults 18-49, down sharply from its year-ago 9.1/25, but still far ahead of this year’s motley pack: Fox, 4.4/13 (down 12%); ABC, 4.1/12 (up 2%); CBS, 3.4/10 (down 11%); WB, 1.5/4 (up 15%); UPN, 1.2/4 (down 14%).

In homes, the sweeps order is: NBC, 11.2/19 (down 15%); CBS, 8.3/14 (down 9%); ABC, 6.9/12 (down 7%); Fox, 6.2/11 (down 11%); WB, 2.9/5 (up 12%); UPN, 2.3/4 (down 18%).

With its hefty April 26-May 2 victory, NBC now trails CBS in season-to-date household averages by just a 0.1 rating-point margin, but in unrounded numbers, NBC’s deficit remains close to two-tenths, meaning there’s still plenty of ground for the Peacock to make up if it is to catch CBS in that season-long race.

Last week’s adults 18-49 averages were: NBC, 5.7/17 (down 21%); Fox, 4.6/14 (down 12%); ABC, 4.2/12 (down 9%); CBS, 3.3/10 (down 8%); WB, 1.6/5 (down 6%); UPN, 1.3/4 (down 13%). NBC’s 24% margin of victory over Fox is the Peacock’s biggest since premiere week.

Monday

”Noah, Part 2” (17.1/26 in homes, 10.8/26 in adults 18-49) dominated May 3 results, despite sinking 18% below Sunday’s households tally.

That’s slightly better than the 19% Sunday-to-Monday shrinkage three years ago for ”Gulliver’s Travels,” but poorer than last year’s 5% decline for ”Merlin” and the 3% drop in 1997 for ”The Odyssey.”

”Noah, Part 2” trailed the year-ago ”Merlin, Part 2” by 23% in kids (6.9/34 vs. 9.0/38), 53% in teens (6.6/19 vs. 13.9/40) and 29% in adults 18-49 (10.8/26 vs. 15.3/36), but still dominated its slot in all those demos. ”Noah” and ”Merlin” are the two top-rated multiple-parters of the past two seasons.

ABC’s three-hour broadcast debut of ”The Rock” (8.6/14 in homes, 5.3/14 in adults 18-49) rolled to the net’s best Monday results since the Sonny & Cher biopic Feb. 22.

CBS’ ”L.A. Doctors” (7.3/11 in homes, 3.4/8 in adults 18-49) was unable to improve its slim renewal hopes vs. ”Noah” and ”Rock.”

Serious trouble is already developing for UPN’s ”Home Movies” (1.0/2 in homes, 0.6/2 in adults 18-49). Now for a second time, the animated rookie managed just a paltry 1 share in UPN’s target male 18-34 audience despite a 5 share lead-in from ”Dilbert” (2.0/4 in homes, 1.3/4 in adults 18-49).

Sunday

”Noah, Part 1” floated NBC to an easy nightlong win with this season’s best longform numbers (Daily Variety, May 4). Leading into the epic multi, ”Dateline NBC” revealed its highest Sunday numbers since Nov. 22.

Though ”Noah” skewed old by NBC standards, its biggest impact seemed to be on Fox’s young-skewing ”The X-Files,” which sank to its worst firstrun homes rating since May 1994. That dropped Fox to its lowest-rated Sunday in homes with firstrun regular fare since September 1996.

Saturday

ABC rose to the top of the Saturday 18-49 leader board with the Adam Sandler rerun ”Happy Gilmore,” while NBC faded to fourth with the Sandler firstrun ”Bulletproof” (Daily Variety, May 4). ABC also embarrassed the 18-49 competition with its first ”Bloopers” spec.

At 8 p.m., both CBS’ ”Early Edition,” trying to shore up its renewal chances, and NBC’s ”The Pretender,” a lock for this fall, suffered lowest-ever firstrun ratings.

Friday

NBC led the night, despite the softest firstrun numbers yet for ”Providence.” ABC was a competitive second as a ”Home Improvement” rerun hammered out the Alphabet’s best 18-49 rating in that 8-8:30 half-hour in seven weeks. It was still ”Home’s” lowest-rated ABC telecast ever in households.

For a second straight week, both Fox Friday regulars hit lowest-ever firstrun homes ratings.

Thursday

UPN’s ”WWF Smackdown” ruled all four of its half-hours in teens and male teens while ranking third for the night in adults 18-34. It was the top-rated UPN Thursday ever, in homes, kids, teens, adults 18-34 and young-male demos.

In total viewers, UPN’s grapplers (5.55 million) couldn’t match the 6.94 million and 6.54 million of USA Network’s two Monday wrestling shows, but otherwise ”Smackdown” topped all primetime cablecasts, wrestling and non-wrestling, for the April 26-May 2 week.

”Smackdown” also more-than-doubled UPN’s Thursday season average in homes (4.0/6 vs. 1.8/3), more-than-tripled the 18-34 figure (2.7/8 vs. 0.8/3), did more than four times the kid average (2.8/11 vs. 0.6/3) and multiplied UPN’s Thursday teen average by seven (6.3/22 vs. 0.9/3).

Results suggest wrestling will soon get a weekly slot on the UPN slate.

NBC started the sweeps with its lowest-rated firstrun Thursday in nearly five years (Daily Variety, May 3). ABC countered with the second-lowest-rated, in-season, Big Three multiple-parter ever, and CBS tossed in the lowest-rated firstrun ”Diagnosis Murder” ever.

Fox’s reality specs beat that net’s Thursday 18-49 season average by 22%, and that was with weather postponing Robbie Knievel’s Grand Canyon motorcycle jump.

Wednesday

For a second week in a row, newsmags won every Wednesday half-hour in homes. NBC prevailed by a share in homes and ABC by 2 shares in adults 18-49.

ABC’s late-season try-outs ”It’s Like, You Know …” and ”The Norm Show” continued to perform solidly relative to their lead-ins, but CBS’ ”Payne” shows only slight glimmers of promise in its impossible slot.

Both WB Wednesday regulars hit their lowest-yet firstrun homes ratings.

Tuesday

”Sports Night” provided the highlights of ABC’s Tuesday victory, scoring its first slot win in homes and its first build on that slot’s 18-49 lead-in (Daily Variety, April 29).

Fox’s animation was a solid second in adults 18-49, with ”Futurama” winning its half-hour by that measure for a third week in a row. ”The PJs” also buttoned up its best current-slot numbers.

Monday

Fox swept the April 26 half-hours in adults 18-49 but CBS inched ahead for the night in homes (Daily Variety, April 28).

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 measures only the homes or viewers watching TV during the timeslot involved.