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Peacock rules roost in ratings

Sweeps stunts draw auds

NBC has cruised ahead of its primetime Nielsen pursuers in May 3-9 results, as sweeps specials sailed to solid ratings and key series that normally anchor their schedules sank to some historic lows.

On the skein side, such venerable ratings workhorses as “Frasier,” “Touched by an Angel,” “Drew Carey” and “The Simpsons” hit various low-water marks last week, with longer days and pleasant spring weather distracting many viewers and sweeps-month stunts luring away others.

The week was bookended by two powerful “Noahs,” NBC’s “Noah’s Ark, Part 2,” which delivered the Peacock’s weeklong win with the net’s biggest Monday rating in a year, and CBS’ “The Simple Life of Noah Dearborn,” a key to CBS’ solid second-place finish in homes for the week.

Both those nets also clicked with Wednesday stunts: CBS’ Academy of Country Music Awards and NBC’s Julia Roberts guest appearance on “Law & Order.”

ABC rose to second for the week in adults 18-49, its best finish since Oscar week, thanks to the special sweeps theatrical offerings “A Time to Kill” on Thursday and “The Rock” on Monday.

NBC stumbled Sunday with “The Hunt for the Unicorn Killer, Part 1,” which fell to fourth in its slot among adults 18-49, but “Unicorn” found its footing with Monday’s part two and hoofed to a respectable second in its slot in the 18-49 demo.

NBC continues to control the May sweeps. Adults 18-49 standings 12 days into the four-week period are: NBC, a 6.2 rating, 18 share (down 17%); Fox, 4.4/13 (down 15%); ABC, 4.1/12 (down 5%); CBS, 3.7/11 (up 3%); WB, 1.6/5 (even); UPN, 1.1/3 (down 27%).

In homes, sweeps averages are: NBC, 10.0/17 (down in rating by 12% vs. results for the same period last year); CBS, 8.8/15 (even); ABC, 7.1/12 (down 8%); Fox, 6.2/11 (down 13%); WB, 3.1/5 (even); UPN, 2.1/4 (down 19%).

For the May 3-9 week, adults 18-49 averages were: NBC, 6.1/18 (down 10%); ABC, 4.4/13 (up 2%); Fox, 4.3/13 (down 12%); CBS, 3.9/11 (up 5%); WB, 1.6/5 (up 7%); UPN, 1.1/3 (down 27%); Pax TV, a 0.3 rating.

National primetime 18-49 averages for the top cable services last week were: HBO, 1.0/3 (down 17%); USA, 0.8/3 (up 14%); TBS, 0.7/2 (up 17%); TNT, 0.7/2 (down 53%); ESPN, 0.5/2 (up 25%).

Monday

Fox swept its May 10 half-hours in adults 18-49 as “Ally McBeal” (11.4 rating, 17 share in homes, 9.0/22 in adults 18-49) filed its second-best homes rating ever. CBS still nipped Fox in households for the night.

NBC’s “Unicorn Killer” (9.0/14 in homes, 5.2/13 in adults 18-49) scored as just the third multiple-parter out of 12 aired on the nets this season to improve in households with its second episode. “Unicorn” still settled for NBC’s second-lowest homes rating for a firstrun multiple-parter in at least 17 years, topping only February’s “To Serve and Protect.”

CBS’ “L.A. Doctors” (8.4/14 in homes, 4.5/11 in adults 18-49) wrapped its first season with a boost to its bleak renewal hopes, sewing up CBS’ best non-sports 18-49 rating in that 10-11 p.m. hour since Jan. 18.

Sunday

CBS crushed the Sunday households competition and nearly hunted down Fox for first in adults 18-49 thanks to “The Simple Life of Noah Dearborn.” The Trimark Pictures telefilm earned the Eye’s best Sunday-pic results in five weeks, despite a lead-in from the lowest-rated firstrun regular-slot “Touched by an Angel” since Saturday May 11, 1996.

With the start of the NBA playoffs, NBC begins to feel more acutely the absence of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. Sunday’s L.A. Lakers-Houston Rockets coverage declined by 31% vs. the comparable year-ago opening-weekend Chicago-New Jersey hoopcast. It’s the lowest rating for a network primetime NBA playoff telecast in the 1990s and possibly ever.

ABC’s “Flubber” tied CBS and NBC for first 7-9 p.m. in adults 18-49 and the season finale of “The Practice” won its hour in that demo.

Fox’s “Family Guy” built by a best-yet 10% on its 18-49 lead-in from “The Simpsons” (which slipped to its lowest-ever regular-slot firstrun homes rating).

Saturday

NBC grabbed the Saturday lead in adults 18-49 as “Profiler” tracked down its highest homes rating since March 1998. CBS got the nod in homes.

Friday

“Dateline” kept NBC ahead of the Friday pack. CBS’ “Nash Bridges” won its hour in homes and adults 18-49 with the night’s second-best 18-49 score, behind only “Dateline” and ahead of “Providence.” That was despite lowest-ever firstrun homes ratings for “Kids Say the Darndest Things” and “Candid Camera.”

ABC’s wheezing Friday lineup fell to third in adults 18-49 behind NBC and CBS.

A “Worst Drivers” spec beat every Fox regular-fare 18-49 result in that hour since May 1, 1998.

Thursday

NBC breezed, though “Frasier” faded to the Peacock’s lowest firstrun regular-fare rating in that Thursday 9-9:30 half-hour in nearly 15 years, since May 10, 1984 (Daily Variety, May 10).

“Will & Grace” is still failing to click Thursdays, this time holding a lowest-yet 81% of its 18-49 lead-in from “Friends.”

“A Time to Kill” topped ABC’s season Thursday homes average by 50%. Fox’s Adam Sandler rerun “Billy Madison” scored the week’s second-highest teen rating, behind only Sunday’s “Family Guy.”

UPN’s “Primal Force” (2.4/4 in homes, 1.5/4 in adults 18-49) hunted down that netlet’s third-best Thursday homes rating to date.

Wednesday

Julia Roberts’ guest appearance on the 200th episode of “Law & Order” attracted that series’ best Wednesday numbers since February 1996, lifting NBC to just its second Wednesday 18-49 win since last June (Daily Variety, May 7).

ABC faded with a record-low regular-slot firstrun homes rating for “Drew Carey.”

CBS tied NBC for first in homes despite lowest-yet numbers for the Academy of Country Music Awards.

Tuesday

ABC held on in adults 18-49 but “JAG” led CBS to its 16th Tuesday homes win of the season (Daily Variety, May 6).

Fox’s all-animation lineup slipped to fourth in adults 18-49 with the lowest average in its five tries.

“NewsRadio” ended its fifth and possibly final season with a solid 14% build on its 18-49 lead-in. “Sports Night’s” first-season finale dropped 14% of that slot’s 18-49 lead-in, while NBC’s “3rd Rock from the Sun” clicked in that 9:30 slot, retaining its full 18-49 lead-in.

The WB’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” equaled its lowest firstrun Tuesday homes rating to date.

Monday

“Noah’s Ark” sailed off with the May 3 win (Daily Variety, May 5).

CBS’ “King of Queens” achieved a best-yet 40% build on its 18-49 lead-in from “Cosby.” NBC’s “Suddenly Susan” slipped to its worst-ever firstrun homes rating.

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 measures only the homes or viewers watching TV during the timeslot involved.