‘Mil’ gnaws at NBC Thursday ratings

ABC capitalizes on reruns, gets ratings win

The ongoing strength of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” now threatens to turn Thursday, an NBC stronghold for 15 years, into an ABC night whenever the Peacock goes into rerun.

The Jan. 20 “Millionaire” seg led ABC to its first, Thursday, total-viewers triumph with all regular programming since “The Stand, Part 4” scared up an ABC victory May 12, 1994. NBC’s reruns did hold onto the night in the key adults 18-49 demographic, but by a thin 0.3-rating-point edge.

Even with “Millionaire,” ABC isn’t yet a true Thursday threat to NBC’s venerable schedule when it’s in firstrun, but if the Peacock can no longer count on a decisive Thursday win when its key regulars go into rerun, that’ll represent a major shift in primetime’s balance of power.

It took season highs for every other ABC Thursday regular to top NBC last Thursday. At 10 p.m., a record “20/20 Downtown” even beat an “ER” rerun in total viewers, 16.72 million vs. 16.03 million. More routine ABC performances could give the night back to NBC reruns.

From 9-10 p.m., “Millionaire” brought in 32.46 million viewers, making it the second-most-watched primetime telecast of the season, behind only the 33.67 million of the Wednesday, Jan. 12 “Millionaire” seg.

It was also the second-best “Millionaire” to date in adults 18-49, with an 11.5/27. That’s ABC’s best regular-fare result in the hour since Sept. 30, 1982 (“Too Close for Comfort”).

The hour’s NBC’s rerun competition, “Frasier” and “Stark Raving Mad,” trailed by a staggering 17.66 million viewers (32.46 million vs. 14.80 million) and 10 shares in adults 18-49 (11.5/27 vs. 7.2/17). For the night, ABC prevailed by 4.51 million viewers (20.83 million vs. 16.32 million).

Up against “Millionaire,” the night’s most effective counterpunch was thrown by UPN, where WWF wrestling attracted that netlet’s highest teen rating (7.7/22) since the night of UPN’s launch with the first “Star Trek: Voyager,” Jan. 16, 1995.