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‘Millionaire’ payoff

Alphabet stops NBC win streak

ABC returned to the winner’s circle last week, posting its first demo victory of the season while also ranking as the most-watched net for the third time in four weeks.

The Alphabet topped NBC by 1 share in adults 18-49 for the frame ending Dec. 3, halting the Peacock’s seven-week winning streak in the demo. It’s the first victory of the season for defending champ ABC, which won on Monday (tied with Fox), Wednesday and Saturday, according to estimates by Nielsen Media Research.

Things came a little easier for ABC in total viewers, which opened up a bigger edge for the seasonal race by winning on four nights and placing a close second on another and topping second-place NBC by nearly 2 million viewers.

While a seemingly rejuvenated “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” powered the net’s winning scores, ABC also reached the end zone with a pair of football games, two strong specials as well as one of the highest-rated newsmag episodes of the season.

ABC also benefited by NBC’s potent Thursday lineup airing all repeats on the first night after the November sweep ended. Even without firstruns, though, the Peacock’s Thursday still claimed the week’s top four spots in adults 18-49, led by “Friends” (8.4/23).

In total viewers, “Millionaire” segs on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday gave ABC three of the week’s top 5 shows.

NBC edged ABC to win the week in adults 25-54, claiming the top seven shows of the week in that demo, led by the best rating in the 11-year history for “Law & Order” (9.9/23).

Fox prevailed among adults 18-34, with Sunday’s “The Simpsons” ranking No. 1 and five other programs finishing in the top 10. The net continues to show the largest season-to-date gains among the major nets.

CBS was the only net showing year-to-year losses for the week in both total viewers and its target demo. The Eye was down especially on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday — three nights decorated more heavily a year ago with Christmas specs.

The WB keeps zeroing in on its target demo of adults 18-34, up last week by 31% vs. the same week a year ago despite just a 3% gain in total viewers.

Fellow netlet UPN was flat or up in all key demo breakdowns vs. a year ago, topping the WB in both total viewers and adults 18-49 for the first time in six weeks.


Fox won Dec. 4 in 18-49 (6.1/15) behind the second-highest rating of the season for “Ally McBeal” (6.9/16) and another strong showing for “Boston Public” (a close second at 5.2/13). “Ally” was the night’s top-rated show in 18-49, 25-54 and 18-34.

A dud of an NFL matchup (sub-.500 teams Kansas City and New England) produced the lowest-rated “Monday Night Football” game in homes (9.9/16) since at least 1987. It dropped ABC to a rare third-place Monday finish in 18-49 (4.8/12).

CBS rookie laffer “Yes, Dear” failed to build on its “King of Queens” lead-in in adults 18-49 for the first time, perhaps because its lead-out, “Everybody Loves Raymond,” was in repeat for the first time this season. Still, “Yes, Dear” (13.31m, 5.2/13 in A18-49) and “King of Queens” (14.28m, 5.4/14) combined to give the net a victory in the 8 p.m. hour in viewers, 18-49 and 25-54.

A Tina Turner concert spec on CBS placed third in its 10 p.m. hour (10.35m, 3.6/9 in A18-49).

The first Monday outing for sudser “Titans” sank to the net’s second weakest numbers in the 8 o’clock hour this season (6.56m, 2.8/7).


Fox won the night in 18-49 led by “The Simpsons” (7.7/18) while CBS, behind the most-watched seg of “Touched by an Angel” this season (16.27m), prevailed in viewers.

“Millionaire” slipped to its lowest Sunday numbers of the season but still won its hour in viewers (16.85m) and placed second in 18-49 (4.5/9). Quizzer didn’t get any help from a Christina Aguilera spec (8.09m, 2.9/6), which pulled in the net’s lowest in-season numbers in the Sunday at 8 slot since October 1999.

In the pic battle, CBS’ “Papa’s Angels” (13.65m, 3.8/9 in A18-49) topped NBC’s “In His Life: The John Lennon Story” (7.32m, 3.3/7), the first single-part Peacock made-for this season.

NBC, airing its revamped lineup for the first time, fared pretty well at 7 with “Amazing Videos” (10.61m, 3.4/9 in A18-49), but “Dateline” (3.3/7) fell well below “Ed’s” average in the hour.

ABC’s debut of “Tangerine Bear: Home in Time for Christmas” drew the highest kids rating in the 7:30 half-hour (10.2/28) since January’s Super Bowl.


The Oklahoma-Kansas State college football contest — a game of significance for the national rankings — gave ABC the night in viewers (11.7 million) and 18-49 (4.3/13). Compared with a less important game a year ago (Florida-Alabama), this year’s was up 18% in viewers and 22% in the demo.

CBS placed second in viewers as “Frosty the Snowman” and “Frosty Returns” combined to give the net its largest audience in the Saturday leadoff hour (10.9 million) since a NCAA basketball tourney semifinal on April 1. From 9 to 11, the latest “Ice Wars” competition (9.17m) slipped about 15% below last year’s levels.


With Fox’s “Police Videos” sitting out the week, ABC’s repeat holiday edition of “America’s Funniest Home Videos” satisfied the public’s hunger for reality programming in the 8 o’clock hour by delivering the net’s best 18-49 score and largest aud since March (a night with “Millionaire”). That helped ABC pull to a close second behind NBC for the night (3.5/11 to 3.7/11).

An Elton John concert spec did OK for CBS at 10 (10.01m, 3.7/11 in A18-49), but was no match for NBC’s “Law & Order: SVU” (15.43m, 5.2/15), which surged to its best ratings since February.


ABC nearly caught an all-rerun NBC lineup in total viewers (15.2m vs. 15.4m), but NBC still won the night by 7 shares in adults 18-49, led by the top-rated repeat episode of “ER” (16.21m, 8.2/21) of at least the past two seasons.

Compared with its first all-repeat Thursday slate a year ago, NBC was up 10% in viewers and 18% in 18-49.

It was a good night for newsmags as “Primetime Thursday” gave ABC its strongest delivery in the 10 p.m. hour (15.89m, 5.7/15 in A18-49) since May; it ranks as the season’s second-highest-rated newsmag hour in 18-49 (behind only “Dateline’s” 6.8/17 on a Tuesday following the season preem of “Frasier”). CBS’ “48 Hours,” featuring a report on the drug Ecstacy, logged its best in-season Thursday numbers (11.30m, 3.3/9) since April.

ABC’s “Whose Line Is it Anyway” placed a close second to a “Cursed” repeat at 8:30 (11.76m to 12.44m), with its second largest aud of the season.

One-hour music specs featuring Britney Spears and ‘N Sync gave Fox its highest-rated Thursday specials in teens since August 1999, but the net could do no better than fifth for its two-hour block in either viewers (6.8 million) or adults 18-49 (2.6/7)


NBC’s “Law & Order” wrapped its strongest November sweep ever in adults 18-49 (7.1/19) with its best demo showing for any hour (7.7/20) since September 1999. And that’s despite facing a highly rated ABC spec featuring magician David Blaine.

“David Blaine: Frozen in Time” attracted ABC’s largest aud (15.88m) and best 18-49 rating (7.3/19) since May and ranks as the season’s second highest-rated nonseries entertainment special this season, just behind NBC’s “Saturday Night Live Presidential Bash” last month (7.4/17).

Actually, not only did “Law” log its best 18-49 rating of the season at 10, but so too did ABC (with the Blaine spec) and CBS (with the final hour of theatrical “A Perfect Murder”).

“Millionaire” averaged 22.09 million viewers, its largest crowd for a regular edition on any night this season.

“Dawson’s Creek” and “Felicity” combined to give the WB big year-to-year gains in adults 18-34 (48%) and 18-49 (35%). In many key demos, it was the best November sweep perf ever for “Dawson’s.”


ABC won in viewers behind “Millionaire’s” best numbers this season (21.19m, 5.6/14 in A18-49) for a Tuesday seg (except celeb night).

Fox continued its winning ways on the night, finishing on top in adults 18-49 (6.0/15), 18-34 and teens. All three of its shows delivered their best marks of the sweep.


Fox’s “Ally McBeal,” featuring a headline-making Robert Downey Jr. in a prominent storyline, posted its best ratings in eight months (Daily Variety, Nov. 28).

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