‘Millionaire’ no panacea

ABC back to earth on Sunday

For all the rewards “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” is delivering to ABC, the phenomenally successful gameshow can’t solve all of the Alphabet web’s problems. And the huge gap between what “Millionaire” is doing for ABC and how the shows it’s preempting will perform once they return to the lineup became apparent to ABC Sunday night.

The Alphabet shifted ”Millionaire” to a timeslot one hour earlier to give rookie detective series ”Snoops” a shot after two week of preemptions, but ”Snoops” missed the mark, losing more than half its ”Millionaire” lead-in and dragging ABC from first place the previous hour to fourth.

That opened the door for some season-best Sunday-pic numbers from CBS’ ”Sarah, Plain & Tall: Winter’s End” and NBC’s ”Y2K.”

Despite those rallies, ABC will easily win the Nov. 15-22 primetime Nielsens week, but the margins will be down vs. the previous week in key demographics despite ”Millionaire” gains on six of seven nights, as Monday football losses and other soft spots on the ABC sked cut into the Alphabet’s lead.

The ‘Snoops’ slide

The Sunday slide evinced by “Snoops” is an example of how ABC’s fortunes will inevitably decline once ”Millionaire” wraps its November run, and the Alphabet must rely once again on such fledgling series as ”Snoops,” ”Odd Man Out” and ”It’s Like, You Know …”

Based on prelim weekend data, ABC is expected to average a 6.2 rating in adults 18-49 for the Nov. 15-21 week (up 17% vs. year-ago results). That’s good enough to top NBC’s 5.6 (even with last year), Fox’s season-high 5.3 (down 7%) and CBS’ 3.8 (down 10%).

In homes, ABC is poised to win the week with a 10.6 rating (up 16%), its highest homes tally since the Oct. 27-Nov. 2, 1997, the week of ”Cinderella.” Other projected averages are NBC, 9.3 (up 1%); CBS, 9.1 (down 6%); Fox, 6.8 (down 11%). Nielsen will release official Nov. 15-21 averages today.

Up and yet down

The Nov. 21 ”Millionaire” seg hoarded 25.82 million viewers and an 8.7/19 in adults 18-49, according to preliminary Nielsens, repping a 670,000 viewer increase but a 3% 18-49 drop vs. the previous week’s Sunday 9-10 p.m. results.

So when ”Snoops” (a prelim 11.11 million viewers, 4.2/9 in adults 18-49) lost more than half its ”Millionaire” lead-in at 9 p.m., the competition rallied. ”The X-Files” (a prelim 16.39 million, 9.3/20 in adults 18-49), ”Y2K” (a prelim 16.67 million, 7.4/16 in adults 18-49) and ”Sarah” (a prelim 20.25 million, 4.4/10 in adults 18-49) dumped ”Snoops” to fourth for the 9-10 p.m. hour.

”Y2K” plugged into NBC’s biggest Sunday-pic adults 18-49 audience since ”Noah’s Ark” last May, and CBS’ ”Sarah” sewed up the Eye’s top Sunday-pic homes rating (14.0) since ”Joan of Arc,” also last May.

Competitors limited

It’s likely such season-high marks would have been matched in previous weeks with such sweeps fare as ”Leprechauns,” ”Shake, Rattle & Roll,” ”Aftershock” and ”Mary, Mother of Jesus,” but each of those pics were limited by direct ”Millionaire” competition.

Sunday it was CBS’ ”Touched by an Angel” (a prelim 15.24 million, 3.9/9 in adults 18-49, its lowest firstrun 18-49 tally since 1994) and NBC rookie ”Third Watch” (a prelim 10.04 million, 3.9/9 in adults 18-49, lowest-yet figures) looking like paupers vs. ”Millionaire.”

Fox’s ”The Simpsons” (a prelim 15.55 million, 7.8/18) edged ”Millionaire’s” 18-49 result from 8-8:30.

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 viewers watching TV during the slot involved.