ABC ratings super, even sans Bowl

'Millionaire' helps Alphabet web to triple NBC ratings

Another Super Bowl week has produced another super blowout in the primetime Nielsens, or at least that’s how the competition is looking at it. But in fact, ABC would have sacked its Jan. 24-30 rivals with or without Sunday’s Rams-Titans numbers.

Even factoring out the highest-rated night of TV in two years, ABC would have won last week by more than a full ratings point in both adults 18-49 and households. Three more colossal episodes of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and a State of the Union disruption to NBC’s Thursday made sure of that.

But with the Super Bowl included in Jan. 24-30 results, ABC more than tripled second-place NBC in adults 18-49 and more than doubled runner-up CBS in homes.

So now ABC’s got a solid 0.3 ratings-point edge in season-to-date 18-49 standings and an 840,000 advantage in total viewers. Meanwhile, in households, the Alphabet has forged a three-way season-to-date tie with CBS and NBC.

Thanks to Sunday’s Super boost and the massive impact of “Millionaire,” ABC has a realistic shot of vaulting from last year’s third-place finishes to seasonlong victories in all three races.

Last week’s adults 18-49 averages were ABC, an 11.2 rating, 28 share (up in rating by 195% from year-ago results, when Fox carried the Super Bowl); NBC, 3.8/10 (down 10%); Fox, 3.7/9 (down 67%); CBS, 3.3/8 (down 6%); UPN, 1.7/4 (up 31%); WB, 1.6/4 (down 11%); and Pax TV, 0.3/1 (even).

National primetime 18-49 averages for the top cable services were USA, 1.2/3 (up 20%); HBO, 1.1/3 (up 10%); TBS, 0.8/2 (even); Lifetime, 0.8/2 (up 60%); and TNT, 0.7/2 (down 22%).


Jan. 31 nationals were delayed due to West Coast preemptions for coverage of Monday’s Alaska Airlines Flight 261 plane crash.

In preliminary results, subject to change, ABC and CBS tied for the night’s 18-49 top spot, with CBS’ special “48 Hours” (a prelim 15.56 million viewers, 5.2 rating, 14 share, in adults 18-49) reporting that newsmag’s most newsworthy homes rating (11.2) since Dec. 7, 1994.

That was good enough to scoop the hour’s firstrun rookie drama competition, ABC’s “Once and Again” (a prelim 9.71 million, 5.0/14 in adults 18-49) and NBC’s “Third Watch” (a prelim 11.45 million, 4.5/12 in adults 18-49).

In the 8-9 p.m. slot, the WB’s “7th Heaven” (a prelim 8.98 million and a season-high 3.0/8 in adults 18-49) rose to third in total viewers, beating NBC’s “Freaks and Geeks” (a prelim 8.63 million, 3.8/10 in adults 18-49) and Fox’s “Ally McBeal” rerun (a prelim 7.29 million, 3.6/9 in adults 18-49).

Things fell apart for the WB from 9-10 p.m., though, with the season premiere of “Zoe …” (a prelim 2.82 million, 1.1/3 in adults 18-49) fumbling about two-thirds of its “7th” lead-in and “Brutally Normal” (a prelim 2.23 million, 0.9/2 in adults 18-49) fading further at 9:30.


Nielsen has slightly adjusted the previously announced Super Bowl average (Daily Variety, Feb. 1), bringing this year’s St. Louis-Tennessee contest into a households tie with the January 1997 Green Bay-New England contest. Looking at the last 11 Super Bowls, this year’s game is the only one out of six that did not feature either Green Bay or Dallas to match the rating of any of the five Super Bowls that did feature Green Bay or Dallas.

Football led into a record Nielsen judgment for “The Practice,” though its 15.3 homes rating is well below the 17.6 averaged by post-Super Bowl entertainment fare during the 1990s. On the West Coast, “The Practice” aired in its usual slot, three hours after the game.

At 10 p.m., HBO’s “The Sopranos” muscled in with cable’s largest nonwrestling 18-49 audience of the week, a national 2.7 rating. And that’s with HBO seen in just 31% of the country’s TV homes.


A Super Bowl-themed “Millionaire” tackled ABC’s best Saturday 8-9 p.m. homes rating with entertainment fare since April 13, 1985 (“T.J. Hooker”), to dominate the nets’ Jan. 29 scrimmage.

NBC continues to shoot bricks with Saturday primetime NBA hoopcasts, and the Peacock’s two-night coverage of the World Pro Figure Skating Championships melted 11% below year-ago household marks (7.2 rating vs. 8.1), previously the event’s lowest ever.

Showtime, seen in just 18% of the country, slugged out a nationwide 1.7 rating in adults 18-49 with its Mike Tyson-Julius Francis boxing.


As NBC settled for thin ice-skating numbers, Fox took control of the night with its best Friday 18-49 average since Sept. 19, 1997 (Daily Variety, Jan. 31).

With no “Dateline” competition, CBS’ “Now and Again” equaled its best 18-49 rating since premiere week.

Pax TV snuck into sixth place in homes from 9-10 p.m., as a “Touched by an Angel” rerun (1.2/2) fluttered above UPN’s “Shasta” and “Dilbert” reruns.


While President Clinton was getting lowest-ever State-of-the-Union Nielsens, “Millionaire” topped the night’s nonpolitical results with ABC’s best entertainment-fare homes rating that hour since a “Commercial Goofs” spec back on Nov. 17, 1983 (Daily Variety, Jan. 31).

With the Big 4 covering Clinton, both UPN and the WB surged to record Thursday household averages.


NBC’s “Twenty One” and CBS’ “City of Angels” continue to administer healthy gains for their nets in the 8-9 p.m. hour, though ABC’s solid “Two Guys and a Girl” is still first from 8-8:30 in the 18-49 demo.

“Twenty One” took the 18-49 lead in 8-9 p.m. averages, up 2% from its powerful previous-week results (4.9/13 vs. 4.8/13), while “City of Angels” soared 74% above year-ago 18-49 slot results (3.3/9 rating vs. 1.9/5).

NBC’s “West Wing” polled its strongest Nielsens since premiere week, and at 10 p.m., “Law & Order” filed NBC’s second-widest 18-49 margin of victory (2.9 rating points) with regular fare in that slot since Jan. 22, 1992 (“Quantum Leap”).


A record “Millionaire” total-viewer count (35.37 million) led into the biggest “Dharma & Greg” audience ever (20.59 million).

“Millionaire’s” viewer tally was the largest in the hour for any net since the 1996 Summer Olympics and highest for ABC since Nov. 21, 1991 (“Full House”).

ABC’s “Millionaire” riches sent NBC to the lowest Tuesday homes rating with regular firstrun fare in Peacock history.

A pregnancy storyline on the WB’s “Angel” delivered that series’ best 18-49 rating since its Oct. 5 premiere.


“Once and Again’s” first Monday try Jan. 24 produced a slot 18-49 win, but CBS’ surging comedies took the night in that key demo (Daily Variety, Jan. 26).

USA’s 10 p.m. wrestling grabbed basic cable’s top Nielsens of the week, including a national 3.5 rating in adults 18-49.

Each household rating point represents an estimated 1 million homes, or 1% of the country’s TV households. The share is also a percentage, but measured against only the homes in which TV is being watched during the timeslot involved.