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‘Law’ rules Nielsens

Guest star Roberts lifts show to top mark since '97

“Law & Order” has won a major Nielsen verdict based on the appeal of Julia Roberts, whose guest appearance Wednesday earned that series’ highest households rating for that day in more than three years.

The Roberts “Law” surge fortified NBC’s already solid May sweeps lead with just the second Wednesday adults 18-49 victory for the Peacock since last June’s NBA Finals. “Law” also boosted NBC into a tie for the night with CBS in households, despite the Eye’s coverage of the Academy of Country Music Awards.

Facing sweeps-month competition for the first time, the country kudocast fell 17% vs. its year-ago homes tally to lowest-ever figures.

Nielsen awarded “Law & Order” a 13.4 rating, 22 share in homes and a 7.9/21 in adults 18-49, the best results for any “Law” since a Thursday telecast March 20, 1997, and best for a Wednesday “Law” since Feb. 7, 1996.

CBS hit its highest Wednesday Nielsen note since the Grammys in February, as the country music awards warbled a 10.0/16 in homes and 5.1/14 in adults 18-49. It was still the lowest-rated ACM primetime network telecast ever, falling well short of the previous low of 11.6/19 set in 1995.

The night’s rugged competition sent ABC to its lowest Wednesday results ever with firstrun regular fare. Promising late-season tryouts “It’s Like, You Know …” (6.4/11 in homes, 4.5/14 in adults 18-49) and “The Norm Show” (7.4/11 in homes, 5.4/14 in adults 18-49) didn’t help their otherwise solid renewal chances with lowest-yet household results.

At 9 p.m., “The Drew Carey Show” (8.2/13 in homes, 6.3/18 in adults 18-49) settled for its lowest-ever firstrun regular-slot homes ratings.

These Wednesday Nielsen numbers wrap the first full week of the May sweeps, with NBC comfortably ahead despite big declines vs. year-ago figures.

The seven-night May averages in adults 18-49 are: NBC, a 6.6 rating, 19 share (down in rating by 20% vs. results for the same nights last year); ABC, 4.4/13 (down 2%) tied with Fox(down 17%); CBS, 3.7/11 (even); WB, 1.7/5 (even); UPN, 1.2/4 (down 20%).

In homes, it’s: NBC, 10.8/18 (down 11%); CBS, 8.7/15 (down 3%); ABC, 7.3/12 (down 6%); Fox, 6.2/11 (down 15%); WB, 3.2/5 (even); UPN, 2.3/4 (down 15%).

NBC won five of the week’s seven nights in adults 18-49, marking the first time in at least 12 years any web has taken that many nights in the opening week of a May sweep. The week’s eight highest-rated programs in adults 18-49 were also all on NBC, with “Law & Order” placing eighth on that list. The Julia Roberts episode, “Law’s” 200th, improved on that series’ 18-49 season average by 46% (with a 7.9 rating vs. a 5.4.)