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Auds hot for games, grapplers

'Millionaire,' 'Smackdown!' still strong

The networks scored big by flashing big bucks and flexing big biceps last week.

A second sesh of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” helped ABC to its third consecutive weeklong victory in adults 18-49 — a feat the Alphabet last accomplished in September 1995.

UPN’s Thursday-night WWF wrestling got off to a rousing start, giving the weblet record-breaking numbers, according to last week’s primetime Nielsens.

The netlet also saw a promising debut for its Monday rookie “Grown Ups.”

NBC’s summer slump continued: the Peacock dipped to third place in homes and adults 18-49, partly due to ABC’s “Millionaire.” Still, NBC is getting good news on Tuesdays, where its revamped schedule is outpacing the ABC lineup, even with “Millionaire’s” boost.

As expected (Daily Variety, Aug. 30), the Regis Philbin-hosted gamer dominated the week in terms of households, banking five of the week’s six highest slots. That bumped NBC’s sagging Thursday lineup completely out of the week’s top 10 in households.

ABC Research says “Millionaire” is the most successful summer series in U.S. TV history relative to its lead-in ratings, having built over 13 episodes by an average of 83% on its 18-49 lead-in.

In a big demo twist, mature-skewing CBS claimed the week’s highest teen rating, thanks to the Miss Teen USA Pageant on Wednesday.

Results of the Aug. 23-29 week for adults 18-49 were: ABC, a 4.2 rating, 13 share (up in rating by 17% vs. results for the same week last year); Fox, 3.5/11 (down 5%); NBC, 3.4/11 (down 21%); CBS, 2.7/8 (down 7%); UPN, 1.4/4 (up 56%); WB, 1.1/3 (down 15%); Pax TV, a 0.3 rating.

It was ABC’s biggest 18-49 margin of victory since last Dec. 21-27.

National primetime 18-49 averages for the top cable services were: HBO, 1.3/4 (up 18%); USA, 1.0/3 (up 25%); ESPN, 0.8/3 (even); TNT, 0.7/2 (down 13%); TBS, 0.6/2 (down 14%).

For the month of August, all basic cable services combined topped the total prime households rating of the Big Four (24.2 vs. 23.3).

Monday

On Aug. 30, ABC’s S.F.-Oakland football (9.1 rating, 16 share in homes, 5.4/17 in adults 18-49) sacked the competition, equaling last week’s Monday gridcast as the third-highest-rated pre-season NFL game in homes since 1996.

Things continue to look up for UPN on Mondays. As “Grown Ups” (2.9/5 in homes, 1.8/5 in adults 18-49) shifted to its regular 9 p.m. slot, the sitcom matched its strong premiere rating, as did the new 8:30 entry, “The Parkers,” which bowed with a 2.9/5 in homes and a 1.7/5 in adults 18-49.

UPN won the night in teens and kids and equaled its highest Monday homes average since April 20, 1998.

Sunday

ABC led in adults 18-49 as the summer finale of “Millionaire” earned the highest homes rating for any primetime telecast since the May sweeps. CBS won the night in homes with its best Sunday numbers since May.

Fox’s Denver-Dallas gridcast also scored, tallying that net’s best NFL pre-season Nielsens ever.

NBC tumbled with U.S. Gymnastics Championships. Its two nights of coverage hit lowest-yet primetime results, though the Nielsen judges took off just 3% vs. year-ago household results.

Saturday

The season premiere of Fox’s Saturday lineup led 8-10 p.m. among adults 18-49, despite a 15% drop vs. rerun results on the year-ago Saturday.

CBS was sacked by preemptions for local NFL coverage.

Friday

ABC got a bonus round with “Millionaire,” which gave the net its highest Friday rating since mid-May. At 10 p.m., “20/20” regained its footing vs. NBC’s extra “Dateline,” which helped send the ABC newsmag to its worst Friday rating ever a week earlier.

A two-hour “Influences” retrospec dug up CBS’ lowest homes rating in that slot since July 4, 1997.

Thursday

UPN flexed some Thursday muscle with the season premiere of “WWF Smackdown!” It was the netlet’s third-highest-rated night ever among teens and top-rated Thursday in homes to date. Wrestling won the night in kids, teens and men 18-34.

NBC’s Thursday vulnerability continues to grow, especially last week vs. ABC’s “Millionaire,” which dumped NBC’s “Jesse” to its worst-ever retention of the slot’s 18-49 leadin (74%). And with “Millionaire” boosting ABC’s “Best Commercials” spec, “Frasier” lost a Thursday slot in homes for just the second time since shifting to that night a year ago.

ABC passed NBC for the night in total viewers, for the Alphabet’s first Thursday win by that measure since May 12, 1994.

Wednesday

“Die Hard 3” rescued Fox on Wednesday, winning the night in homes and all key adult and male demos. It was Fox’s first Wednesday homes win since last fall’s World Series.

HBO’s “The Sopranos” impacted the 9-10 p.m. competition with a national 3.0/5 in households (a 9.9/14 in HBO homes).

Tuesday

ABC continues to trail NBC’s reconfigured and fortified lineup, despite the Alphabet’s big “Millionaire” boost. NBC’s Tuesday is up 24% in adults 18-49 after two tries for that revamped lineup.

CBS’ Miss Teen USA pageant attracted a 45% increase vs. last year in teens (with a 7.7 rating vs. a 5.3). It was CBS’ top Tuesday teen rating with entertainment fare since the Miss Teen telecast of 1995.

Monday

UPN’s Aug. 23 debut of “Grown Ups” took second for its half-hour in teens and kids with UPN’s best results in the slot in more than a year (Daily Variety, Aug. 25). Summer series “Katie Joplin” stumbled to the WB’s lowest-ever homes rating in that slot. ABC football dominated the night.

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.