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NBC on brink of victory in May sweeps

Eye in close second

Another big Thursday NBC victory has put the Peacock on the brink of clinching the May sweeps households crown, but CBS isn’t going down without a fight.

The Eye battled back Friday, as the Daytime Emmys presented CBS with its highest non-sports Friday homes rating since Nov. 14, 1997.

Then on Saturday, a “Dr. Quinn” vidpic boosted CBS to its healthiest Saturday homes average since the NCAA basketball semifinals March 27.

Projected sweeps averages through Saturday night (using preliminary data for May 21-22) show NBC still leading CBS by a 0.9-rating-point margin. That’s probably — but not certainly — more than CBS can make up in the sweeps’ final four nights. NBC has trounced the sweeps field in adults 18-49, currently leading second-place Fox by 1.8 rating points.

According to preliminary Nielsen nationals, Friday’s Daytime Emmys walked off with a 10.3 rating, 19 share in homes and a 4.5/15 in adults 18-49, repping a 1% homes increase over last year’s telecast on NBC and a 10% slide in adults 18-49.

’20/20′ sees low ratings

Facing that CBS kudocast, NBC lost Friday in homes for the first time in the 19 weeks “Providence” has been on the schedule. The Daytime Emmys also helped dump ABC’s “20/20” (a prelim 7.7/14 in homes, 4.0/13 in adults 18-49) to third in the 10-11 p.m. hour for only the second time in the past year (the other time being Feb. 26 vs. NBC’s Soap Opera Awards).

Saturday’s “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman: The Movie” (a prelim 8.0/16 in homes, 2.7/10 in adults 18-49) sewed up CBS’ best non-sports homes rating in that 8-10 p.m. slot since a country music spec Nov. 28.

“Quinn’s” skew was old, though, and NBC’s three hours of “The Pretender” (a prelim 7.0/14 in homes, 4.1/14 in adults 18-49) easily won the night in the 18-49 demo. The Peacock also dominated Friday prelims among adults 18-49.

NBC clobbered the Thursday competition by all measures. The season finale of “Frasier” (18.1 rating, 28 share in homes, 14.1/36 in adults 18-49) earned that series’ best 18-49 score since premiere week, while “ER’s” season-ender (22.1/35 in homes, 16.7/42 in adults 18-49) injected that drama’s second-strongest homes rating of the 1998-99 campaign.

Out-Foxed

NBC’s 15.0 rating average for Thursday in adults 18-49 was triple the 5.0 of second-place Fox. Impressively, NBC improved on the Thursday lineup’s season-closing 14.6 from two years ago, but couldn’t manage even half of last year’s 32.0, which reflected the boost of “Seinfeld’s” finale.

Projected household averages for the first 23 nights of the May sweeps are: NBC, a 9.9 rating (down 15% vs. results for the same nights last year); CBS, 9.0 (up 3%); ABC, 7.2 (down 4%); Fox, 6.1 (down 12%).

Adults 18-49 standings are: NBC, a 6.1 rating (down 23%); Fox, 4.3 (down 12%); ABC, 4.2 (even); CBS, 3.7 (even).

With its “Cleopatra” two-parter and the “Home Improvement” finale still to be counted, ABC has a strong shot a grabbing second place from Fox in the 18-49 race.

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.