Rating holding pat

In week prior to season, NBC, CBS on top

As the networks charge into the new primetime Nielsen season, NBC still looks like the web to beat in adults 18-49, while CBS seems secure as king of the households hill.

Results for the Sept. 13-19 week, the last before the 1999-2000 campaign began, show the Peacock web coming within two-tenths of a rating point of ABC in adults 18-49. That’s impressive, since NBC had a mostly rerun sked last week while ABC got major boosts from the best season premiere numbers for “Monday Night Football” in three years and Saturday’s ”Miss America Pageant.”

Football could still make ABC a formidable challenger to NBC, but the Alphabet’s cornerstone Tuesday and Wednesday comedy lineups are looking somewhat soft heading into the new season. NBC, meanwhile, got a rally last week from its previously fading Thursday comedy schedule.

Meanwhile, CBS led the week in homes, as college football scored the Eye’s best Saturday average since May and a Sunday preview of the new Tuesday drama ”Judging Amy” filed the week’s second-highest homes rating.

A viewer boycott, called by some African-American leaders to protest the dearth of minority actors in primetime casts, apparently had little impact last week. Compared with the same week a year ago, the four-net rating was off by 7%, which roughly equals the 6% falloff for the rest of the broadcast year. And with fewer early premieres this year than last, a falloff bigger than 7% would not have been surprising.

The week’s adults 18-49 averages were: ABC, a 4.2 rating, 13 share (down in rating by 7% vs. the same week last year); NBC, 4.0/12 (down 11%); CBS, 3.5/11 (even); Fox, 3.3/10 (down 28% vs. last year’s full week of premieres); UPN, 1.3/4 (up 18%), tied with WB, 1.3/4 (up 8%); Pax TV, a 0.3 rating.


CBS ruled the night in households as its ”Judging Amy” preview equaled the Eye’s adults 25-54 rating (7.0) a year earlier in the slot with its ”Touched by an Angel” season premiere.

ESPN’s N.Y. Jets-Buffalo football sacked all broadcast competition in adults 18-49 with a national 5.2 rating (though ESPN reaches just 76% of the country’s TV homes).

NBC’s ”Mad About You” left the network airwaves with a whimper, equaling its second-lowest homes rating ever.


”Miss America” slipped 1% below last year’s worst-ever household rating, but still dazzled the competition with ABC’s highest Saturday homes average since January 1998 (Daily Variety, Sept. 20).

CBS responded with the top household rating for a regular-season network college-football telecast in primetime since November 1996.

Football and ”Miss America” tied for the nightlong win in adults 18-49.

Against that special competition, NBC’s ”Pretender” looked tired, landing deep in fourth place for the night among adults 18-49.


Fox tied ABC for the night in adults 18-49, as a rerun of Sly Stallone’s ”Cliffhanger” climbed to Fox’s highest Friday average since February.


After a lean summer, NBC’s three Thursday heavyweights pounded the competition with hour-long reruns of last May’s season-closing segs (Daily Variety, Sept. 20). Among those bloodied was Fox’s premiere of ”Action,” which managed only modest demo gains over last season’s mediocre slot averages with ”Fox Files.”

UPN again won the night in teens, as wrestling charged to the netlet’s highest Thursday Nielsens ever.


Though ”The Norm Show” struggled in both its Wednesday airings, ABC edged Fox for the night in adults 18-49. NBC led in homes as hurricane coverage whipped up the strongest Wednesday ”Dateline” numbers since April.

Fox’s ”Get Real” slipped 16% vs. its unimpressive previous-week premiere (Daily Variety, Sept. 17).


ABC’s sitcoms are looking vulnerable heading into the fall season, last week trailing NBC’s rival lineup by 4 shares in adults 18-49, despite double doses of ”Dharma” and ”Spin City.” NBC dominated the night with its best Tuesday 18-49 average since March.

Fox’s ”Central Park in Blue” concert spec was a bummer, tripping to that net’s lowest-ever homes rating in the slot.

Cable’s USA Network beat UPN and the WB in homes with a national 3.3 for the Robert Halmi telefilm ”Journey to the Center of the Earth, Part 1.” It was the top non-football, non-wrestling result of the week in basic cable.


ABC reclaimed Mondays with the Sept. 13 return of ”Monday Night Football” (Daily Variety, Sept. 15). A rerun of the ”Get Real” premiere fell to Fox’s lowest homes rating that hour since July 1997.

UPN looks like it’s on to something with ”The Parkers,” which won its slot in kids and was second in teens with best-yet results in both demos.

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. A share is the same sort of percentage, except it measures only the homes or viewers watching TV during the timeslot involved.