Thanks, in part, to the success of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” ad revenues for ABC, NBC and CBS combined were up more than 17% to $3.5 billion during the second quarter compared to the same period last year.

Primetime and sports advertising fueled the dramatic increases, showing growth of $268.8 million and $190.1 million, respectively, according to figures compiled by Ernst & Young and released last week by the Broadcast Cable Financial Management Assn.

“The addition of NHL hockey and the Final Four basketball in the second quarter certainly influenced the gross revenue in sports,” said Buz Buzogany, president and CEO of BCFM. “Plus, the continued influence of ‘Millionaire’ in primetime helped drive the numbers.”

Morning was surprisingly strong, with ayem numbers growing by nearly $41 million or 27%. Latenight was also booming, with the Big Three webs showing aggregate growth of nearly $26 million, or nearly 15%. The only areas to dip year-to-year were news, which declined 1.1% to $308.7 million, and children’s programming, which dropped 9% to $21.9 million. Daytime was relatively flat, accounting for $305.2 million.

For the first six months of 2000, net revenue for the three networks totaled $5.86 billion, up 19% from the year-earlier period, according to the report.

Buzogany attributed some of the boom to dot-com business, which helped boost the sports, latenight, and primetime arenas in particular. But Buzogany said it’s debatable whether or not the dot-com dollars will stick around for the third quarter.

Even if they dry up, however, the webs are in good shape for the near future. Buzogany predicts that the third quarter will be strong. “The traditional summer ratings slump for the Big Three has been somewhat thwarted by new programming successes and the continuing strength of ‘Millionaire,’ said Buzogany. “If you add the Olympics revenue to the mix, it will be an outstanding quarter for all three networks.”