‘Millionaire’ hits new jackpot

34 mil tune in

The rich just keep getting richer.

ABC’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” continues to amaze, shattering all its previous Nielsen records with a whammo Wednesday edition that amassed the largest audience of any primetime telecast this season and beat the combined audiences of all six broadcast-network alternatives that hour.

A total of 33.67 million viewers tuned in to Wednesday’s seg, nearly 4 million more than the hit gameshow’s previous best of 29.71 million, established with its final November seg. Wednesday’s viewer tally was also 2 million better than the second-largest audience of the current primetime season, the 31.54 million that tuned in to the September premiere of “ER.”

“Millionaire’s” 33.67 million viewers were 16% better than the 28.91 million amassed by all six broadcast-net alternatives that hour. It was ABC’s largest non-sports aud in the slot since Feb. 29, 1984 (“The Fall Guy”).

Wednesday’s “Millionaire” cashed in an 11.7 rating/31 share in adults 18-49, also good enough to edge the combined CBS-NBC-Fox-UPN-WB-Pax competition for the hour (11.6).

“Millionaire” spread the Nielsen wealth across ABC’s schedule, boosting “Drew Carey” to a series-record 21.40 million viewers and “Spin City” (16.17 million and an 8.3/21 in adults 18-49) and “20/20” (13.48 million, 6.2/17 in adults 18-49) to season highs.

With the amazing quizzer holding up so well, network TV insiders are already buzzing about the possibility that ABC could continue to strip “Millionaire” five or seven nights per week instead of reducing the skein to a thrice-weekly run next week. Alphabet insiders say that’s unlikely to happen, though the net may use the show to fill up selected weak spots during sweeps periods.

As for Wednesday’s “Millionaire” perf, the show’s timeslot competition was decimated.

The WB’s “Dawson’s Creek” evaporated to its lowest firstrun homes rating ever (2.6), “Dateline NBC” reported its poorest Wednesday households score ever (4.5), and “Beverly Hills, 90210” limped to its weakest firstrun homes rating (5.0) since Dec. 27, 1990.

ABC was the night’s big winner, but CBS had plenty to brag about, too.

In primetime, the little-hyped telepic “A Father’s Choice” scored an impressive household tally (11.2/18), helping CBS finish second for the night in homes behind ABC.

UPN didn’t mind the gameshow competition, though, as “7 Days” matched its season-best 18-34 figures (1.5/4). “Days” also beat a firstrun episode of the fading “Dawson’s Creek” for the first time ever in adults 18-49.