‘Millionaire’ makes ABC the winner

'Annie,' 'Practice' also help Alphabet take sweeps lead

The versatility and broad appeal of ABC’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” has made it the perfect sweeps-month weapon and lifted ABC into position to challenge for its first households sweeps-month victory in more than five years.

Sunday’s first “Millionaire” installment boosted and benefited from such diverse schedule-mates as the Disney kidpic “Annie” and the high femme-appeal drama “The Practice,” while Monday’s second “Millionaire” has likewise helped and been helped by a male-skewing Dallas-Minnesota gridcast, which scored the best “Monday Night Football” rating this season.

“Millionaire” is appealing to all age groups and both sexes. Sunday’s seg scored no worse than a 16 share in any significant demographic and peaked at a 27 among kids 2-11, thanks to its “Annie” lead-in. Monday’s second “Millionaire,” which preceded football in the East and followed it in the West, won its slot in every major demo, and slipped no lower than an 18 share in virtually all important measures.

With its across-the-board appeal, “Millionaire” is boosting ABC’s schedule wherever it runs, and it’ll be running every night from Nov. 7 through Nov. 21. That means ABC has its best shot of winning a sweeps month in years. The Alphabet hasn’t won a major sweep in homes since May 1994 and hasn’t triumphed in November since 1992.

ABC has taken a solid lead through the first five nights of the November sweeps, averaging a 5.8 rating in adults 18-49 (up 35% over year-ago figures), while all Big Four competition is down significantly: NBC, 5.5 (down 21%); Fox, 5.0 (down 18%); and CBS, 3.7 (down 12%; UPN, 1.7 (up 89%); WB, 1.5 (up 7%).

ABC is also leading the sweeps in homes with a 9.8 rating (up 24%), followed by NBC (9.2, down 15%), CBS (8.7, down 9%) and Fox (6.6, down 22%), UPN (3.0, up 76%) and WB (2.9, up 4%).

Last week ended up an ABC-NBC tie in adults 18-49, thanks to ABC’s Sunday combo of “Annie,” “Millionaire” and “The Practice.”

It’s the first time NBC has been matched in the 18-49 demo in 11 regular-season weeks.

With huge kid numbers Sunday, ABC also won the week in total viewers, snapping a three-week NBC winning streak. ABC stayed third in homes, behind winner CBS and runner-up NBC.

Adult 18-49 averages for the Nov. 1-7 week were: ABC, 5.3 rating, 14 share (up 13%) tied with NBC, 5.3/14 (down 10%); Fox, 4.8/13 (down 17%); CBS, 3.8/10 (down 3%); WB, 1.6/4 (down 16%); UPN, 1.5/4 (up 36%); Pax TV, 0.3/1 (even).

National primetime 18-49 averages for the top cable services were: ESPN, 1.3/4 (up 44%); HBO, 1.2/3 (down 8%); TBS, 1.0/3 (up 25%); USA, 0.8/2 (even); TNT, 0.7/2 (down 22%).


ABC’s Nov. 8 edition of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” pocketed a 14.6 rating, 24 share in homes and an 8.0/23 in adults 18-49, down from Sunday’s huge numbers but still enough to win its slot by a gigantic 11 shares in adults 18-49.

That led into ABC’s top Monday gridcast homes rating of the season (16.2/28 in homes, 10.0/28 in adults 18-49).

There was little ratings magic for NBC’s conclusion of “Leprechauns” (8.1/12 in homes, 4.8/11 in adults 18-49). The mini’s two-night average ranks below eight of last season’s 15 multiple-parters in adults 18-49, with less than half the rating of the previous Robert Halmi-Hallmark NBC two-parter, “Noah’s Ark.”

After sizzling numbers the previous two weeks, Fox’s “Ally McBeal” (9.5/13 in homes, 7.8/17 in adults 18-49) cooled in its third week of firstruns, down 20% vs. 18-49 results for the previous week’s racy episode.

Part of the problem was a wilting lead-in from “Time of Your Life” (a lowest-yet 4.0/6 in homes, 2.8/7 in adults 18-49), which fell to fifth in homes behind the WB’s “7th Heaven” 4.9/7 in homes, 2.3/6 in adults 18-49).

All told, it was Fox’s lowest-rated regular-sked firstrun Monday in homes since December 1997.


ABC cashed in its highest non-Oscar Sunday rating in two years (Daily Variety, Nov. 9). The Disney made-for “Annie” grabbed the season’s highest homes and 18-49 ratings for any movie.

Fox got back in the Sunday race with the firstrun return of “The X-Files,” but that arrival failed to invigorate “Futurama,” which retained just 84% of its 18-49 lead-in from “The Simpsons.”

TBS earned basic cable’s top movie demos of the week (a national 1.7 in adults 18-49) with the network premiere of “Batman & Robin.”


HBO, seen in only 31% of the country’s TV homes, tied for second for the night nationally in adults 18-49 with “Saving Private Ryan” (a national 3.2 rating in that demo). The week’s only higher-rated cablecast was ESPN’s Sunday night Tennessee-Miami NFL game (a national 4.4 rating in the 18-49 demo).

Fox won Saturday in adults 18-49 while CBS led in homes. NBC’s struggling “Freaks and Geeks” showed a little promise, building on its previous-week 18-49 grades by 14%.


Two rushed-in substitutes for failing rookie dramas provided Friday’s Nielsen highlights. Fox’s “Nutty Professor” rerun concocted a surprise nightlong victory in adults 18-49, while NBC’s rerun of “Law & Order” captured a 27% increase over the firstrun 18-49 average of canceled slot regular “Cold Feet.”

The wedding episode of “Boy Meets World” marched to ABC’s best 18-49 rating in that slot since October 1998.


“Greed” grabbed a 60% increase over Fox’s Thursday 18-49 non-sports average this season (with a 4.0 rating vs. a 2.5), but also fell 37% short of what Fox averaged on Thursdays last season with sweeps-month reality specs (4.0 vs. 6.3) (Daily Variety, Nov. 8).


ABC’s fading Wednesday edged NBC’s lineup in adults 18-49 despite a fourth-run seg of the Peacock’s “Law & Order,” which dominated 10-11 p.m. in the 18-49 demo.

The Joanna Kerns-Tim Matheson telefilm “At the Mercy of a Stranger” gave CBS its best regular-sked homes rating in that 9-11 p.m. slot since May 14, 1997.


The heavily promoted return of NBC’s Tuesday lineup, which had been preempted for four weeks of baseball, won the night in adults 18-49, NBC’s first with Tuesday regulars this season.

CBS swept the night’s half-hours in homes, as “JAG” winged to its second-best rating ever.

UPN’s first full-firstrun Tuesday stumbled, down a tenth from the netlet’s year-ago 0.8 rating in adults 18-49. “Dilbert” is proving incompatible with “Shasta McNasty,” retaining just 75% of its “Shasta” lead-in in adults 18-49.

The WB’s “Buffy”-“Angel” pair led the night in teens.


Seattle-Green Bay football led Nov. 1 for ABC, but Fox won its two-hour block in adults 18-49 with best-ever figures from “Ally McBeal.” CBS’ “Everybody Loves Raymond” reported series-record rerun ratings, even beating “McBeal” in homes.

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.