‘Million’ taking ABC to endzone

Gameshow scores top Nielsens

Forget football. The ratings powerhouse that’s keeping ABC in firm control of the opening night of the Nielsen week is no longer ”Monday Night Football” but Monday night “Millionaire.”

Hosted by Regis Philbin, the hit gameshow ”Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” is, of course, pushing around the competition on every night of the week — enough to keep ABC dominant in both Nov. 15-21 primetime Nielsens and the November sweeps — but the show’s Monday seg is moving into an income bracket all its own.

This week’s Monday telecast set new ”Millionaire” records in households and total viewers, with a 17.3 rating, 28 share, in homes and 27.25 million viewers. The adults 18-49 rating, 9.2, was down 3% from the previous Monday’s record, but the 26 share tied the show’s best ever.

As ABC decides on its future use of ”Millionaire,” it’ll be tempting to keep the gamer on Mondays, where it’s performing best and ABC’s fortunes will plummet once football ends in early January.

With ”Millionaire’s” generous Nielsen donations, ABC dominated the Nov. 15-21 week with its highest homes rating since Oct. 27-Nov. 2, 1997.

ABC is also luxuriating as the overall leader during November sweeps, averaging (through 19 nights) a 6.1 rating, 16 share, in adults 18-49 (up 24% vs. year-ago figures) to top NBC (5.4/14, down 10%), Fox (5.0/13, down 15%), CBS (3.8/10, down 5%), UPN (1.6/4, up 45%) and WB (1.6/4, down 16%).

The Alphabet is also a full point ahead of NBC in households for the month, with a 10.2/17 vs. NBC’s 9.2/15.

Adults 18-49 averages for the Nov. 15-21 week were ABC, 6.2/16 (up 17%); NBC, 5.6/15 (even); Fox, 5.4/14 (down 7%); CBS, 3.7/10 (down 10%); WB, 1.7/4 (down 11%); UPN, 1.5/4 (up 25%); Pax TV, 0.3/1 (even). It was Fox’s top-rated week since February.

National primetime 18-49 averages for the top cable services were TBS, 1.2/3 (up 100%); HBO, 1.0/3 (even); ESPN, 1.0/3 (down 9%); USA, 0.8/2 (even); TNT, 0.6/2 (down 33%).

The WB won last week among female teens with seven of the nine highest-rated shows in that demo.


Despite its powerful ”Millionaire” lead-in, ABC’s Nov. 22 Oakland-Denver football (13.0/22 in homes, 7.5/20) failed to impress.

NBC ”Veronica’s Closet” (4.4/7 in homes, 2.7/7 in adults 18-49) and ”Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (7.6/11 in homes, 3.6/8 in adults 18-49) suffered lowest-yet firstrun homes ratings, as did Fox’s ”Time of Your Life” (3.6/5 in homes, 2.4/6 in adults 18-49).


Fox stood up best vs. ”Millionaire” and won the night by a commanding 6 shares in adults 18-49 with its best Sunday numbers since January’s Super Bowl (Daily Variety, Nov. 23). Each of Fox’s animated comedies achieved season-high 18-49 orbits and ”Futurama” was No. 1 for the week in teens.

CBS took the night in homes with its top Sunday-pic results since May courtesy of ”Sarah, Plain & Tall: Winter’s End.” ”Sarah” skewed decidedly older, though, logging just a 9 share with women 18-34 but a 41 among women 50 and older.

”Millionaire” faded slightly vs. previous Sundays in adults 18-49 but kept building in households.

”Y2K” bugged the competition with NBC’s top November-sweeps one-part-vidpic 18-49 rating since 1995. ”Y2K” was also the first regular program this season to beat ABC’s ”The Practice” in adults 18-49.

The two top-rated cablecasts of the week were TBS’ ”Wizard of Oz” (a national 3.8 rating in adults 18-49) and ESPN’s New Orleans-Jacksonville football (a national 3.6).


”Millionaire” deposited ABC’s biggest Saturday 8-9 p.m. nonsports homes rating since Sept. 20, 1986 (”Life With Lucy” and ”Ellen Burstyn”). From 9-11 p.m., ”One Fine Day” added ABC’s biggest Saturday-pic audience since Feb. 8, 1997 (”The Firm”).

”GoldenEye” spied NBC’s best nonsports Saturday homes rating since November 1998.


Friday fell to ABC as the first-ever million-dollar giveaway on ”Millionaire” snared the Alphabet’s biggest Friday 8:30-9 p.m. homes rating since Jan. 14, 1994 (Daily Variety, Nov. 22). At 10 p.m., an interview with Dudley Moore helped ABC’s ”20/20” to its largest audience since Jan. 8.

”Happy Gilmore” teed off the competition with Fox’s best Friday adults 18-34 score in three years.


NBC held onto Thursday, despite ”Millionaire” competition, though ABC took the night in teens, marking the first time UPN’s wrestling has been topped in that age group.

”Millionaire” helped ”Whose Line Is It Anyway” improvise ABC’s best regular-series Thursday 8-8:30 p.m. rating since Feb. 15, 1995.

The WB’s ”Popular” attracted its best-yet viewers 12-34 results, despite ”Millionaire” competition.


Another night, another win for ABC and its ”Millionaire,” which earned the net’s best Wednesday 8:30-9 p.m. 18-49 rating with ”regular programming” since May 17, 1995 (”Ellen”).

The Nielsen votes failed to materialize for a ”20/20” interview with George W. Bush, sending the newsmag to its second-lowest Wednesday 18-49 rating this season.

UPN’s ”Star Trek: Voyager” climbed to its highest 18-49 orbit since February.


A ”Millionaire” lead-in helped ”Dharma & Greg” tie its highest homes rating ever (Daily Variety, Nov. 18).

Fox’s ”That ’70s Show” grooved in a special 8 p.m. showing, attracting the net’s best women 18-49 demos with series fare in the slot since January 1994. That sent NBC’s ”Just Shoot Me” to its lowest regular-slot firstrun homes rating ever.

”Buffy” and ”Angel” got chased to the WB’s lowest Tuesday homes rating ever with firstrun regular fare.


”Millionaire” kept NBC in the money Nov. 15 despite soft N.Y. Jets-New England football (Daily Variety, Nov. 17).

Each household rating point represents an estimated 1 million homes, or 1% of the country’s TV households. Each adults 18-49 rating point reps 1.24 million viewers, 1% of the U.S. total. The share is also a percentage, but measured against only the homes or viewers watching TV during the timeslot involved.