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Big Thursday widens NBC’s sweeps lead

'Mad' gets best rates in two years

NBC’s potent Thursday lineup has reinforced the Peacock’s May sweeps lead with the highest “ER” homes rating since February and the best numbers for “Mad About You” since its baby-comes-home episode in September 1997.

Those performances thrust the Peacock 12 shares ahead of Thursday’s households competition and 21 shares ahead of its closest pursuer in adults 18-49.

In projected sweeps averages through Saturday (with preliminary May 14-15 figures included), NBC is now 1.1 ratings points ahead of second-place CBS in homes and a virtually unassailable 1.8 ratings points ahead of runner-up Fox in adults 18-49.

NBC’s homes advantage over CBS ballooned from 0.9 to 1.3 ratings points when Thursday results were figured into the averages, but has slipped back to that 1.1 margin with Friday-Saturday prelims now in the mix.

Thursday’s “ER” sutured up an 18.9/31 in homes (its best outing since Feb. 25) and a 13.8/36 in adults 18-49. Aiding that “ER” rally was a special episode at 9:30 of “Mad About You” (13.8/22 in homes, 9.7/25 in adults 18-49), which attracted NBC’s best 18-49 rating in that slot in eight weeks; it was the top-rated “Mad” seg since Sept. 23, 1997.

NBC hopes the special Thursday exposure for “Mad” will bring extra viewers to that series’ last two firstrun episodes, airing tonight and May 24.

Despite its strong Thursday results, NBC was down a steep 35% in adults 18-49 vs. the same Thursday in last year’s May sweeps, when “Seinfeld” aired its penultimate episode.

And this week’s Thursday momentum did not carry over into prelim May 14-15 results, as NBC’s Friday regulars lost that night in adults 18-49 for the first time in eight weeks and Saturday’s lineup, with “The Pretender” sitting out a week, slipped to fourth in the key 18-49 demo.

With lowest-yet 18-49 results for a firstrun “Providence” (a prelim 9.0/18 in homes, 3.8/15 in adults 18-49), NBC’s Friday team was nipped by ABC in nightlong 18-49 results (a prelim 4.0/13 vs. 3.9/13). That order may change when Nielsen updates these figures today.

Saturday prelim nationals were led by CBS in homes and Fox in adults 18-49.

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.