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NBC dominates week as the WB leapfrogs

Peacock tops in adults 18-49, 5.9/15

NBC and ABC dueled to a close finish among young adults Wednesday, while the WB continued to make inroads against each of them.

The night’s action, which included impressive perfs by ABC’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” NBC’s “The West Wing” and the WB’s “Felicity,” among others, capped the first week of November sweeps.

Night also saw Fox struggle with its new lineup and CBS suffer through the conclusion of its “Jackie” mini.

According to Nielsen, ABC edged NBC in total viewers Wednesday (15.4 million to 15.3m) while NBC topped ABC in adults 18-49 (5.9/15 to 5.6/14). Peacock net continues to lead in the sweep with a 6.0/15 (up 11% vs. last year), with ABC second (4.8/12, down 20%). Fox, which eked past CBS into third Wednesday, is also third so far in November with a 4.5/11 (down 2%), followed by CBS’ 3.7/9 (down 3%), the WB’s 2.2/5 (up 29%) and UPN’s 1.9/5 (up 19%).

Frog shows legs

The WB is having a great sweeps, up a sizzling 42% in adults 18-34. Net beat NBC in women 18-34 from 8-10 p.m. Wednesday, one day after its Tuesday dramas — airing opposite Election Day coverage — delivered the biggest men’s 18-34 rating for any night in the net’s history (3.5/9).

While “Dawson’s Creek” contributed more strong scores — including some of its best adult demos in more than two years — it’s “Felicity” that’s really cranking things up on the night. After a down season a year ago, the drama has responded with some of its best numbers in three seasons, with Wednesday’s seg achieving a series high in women 18-34 (5.0/13).

ABC enjoyed its strongest Wednesday of the season in viewers (15.4m) and adults 18-49 (5.6/14). Each of its series also hit or matched season highs in adults 18-34.

Leading the way was “Millionaire,” which delivered its best 18-49 rating for any weeknight episode this season (5.8/15), while winning the Wednesday hour for the first time. The quizzer also drew its largest audience for any hour this season (21.90m).

A live “The Drew Carey Show” edged “West Wing” in adults 18-49 (6.7/16 to 6.6/16), while “Spin City” placed second in the demo (6.2/14), retaining a strong 92% of its lead-in. At 10, “Gideon’s Crossing” drew its largest audience (10.12m) since its Wednesday premiere and matched its best 18-49 rating (4.7/12) in four tries.

At NBC, “West Wing” (18.49m, 7.0/17) continues to perform well ahead of last year. It was up vs. the first Wednesday of November 1999 by 35% in viewers and by 52% in the demo, winning its hour in both.

Sudser “Titans” (8.5m) drew its largest audience since premiere night, but remained in fourth in 18-49 (3.4/9).

CBS’ “Bette” placed second in its slot in viewers (11.39m) and adults 25-54 (5.1/12) but is falling further behind “Millionaire.” Net’s “Welcome to New York” is having an even tougher time keeping up with the strong second half-hour of the quizzer, finishing 9 shares out of the 18-49 lead at 8:30 after “Bette” was just 2 shares back at 8.

“Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis” (3.2/8 in A18-49) improved vs. its Sunday opener but still kept the Eye 10 shares behind “Law & Order” in the demo at 10.

Fox’s numbers came way down from a week ago, but that’s mainly because an original “Malcolm in the Middle” (9.19m, 4.3/12 in A18-49) couldn’t come close to what a special “Simpsons” did in the slot a week earlier (13.23m, 6.4/18). It placed second in 18-49 whereas “The Simpsons” won by 5 shares.

‘Normal’ holds on

Still, rookie laffer “Normal, Ohio” retained 91% of that 18-49 audience at 8:30, but like “Welcome to New York” was gobbled up by “Millionaire.” At 9, “The Street” (5.19m, 2.7/6) merely matched the demo score of a year ago by “Get Real.”

Meanwhile, Nielsen reported Thursday that the combined national audience for Tuesday’s primetime election night coverage came in at 61.6 million — up 69% from the 36.5 million in 1996. (This doesn’t include PBS’ estimated 1.2 million viewers.)

NBC led the way with 18.37 million viewers and a 7.2/16 in adults 18-49 (up 51% and 65%, respectively, vs. 1996); ABC was second with 14.83 million and 5.2/12 (up 7% and 9%); followed by CBS with 12.96 million and 4.7/11 (up 24% and 49%); and Fox with 4.27 million and 1.7/4 (net didn’t cover election night in 1996).

The weblets took advantage of its competition airing basically the same program by delivering strong numbers with entertainment programming.

In addition to posting its best-ever nightly men 18-34 rating, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel” also combined for the WB’s best Tuesday since January 1999 in women 18-34 (4.6/11). UPN received its best Tuesday movie numbers of the season with “Bad Boys” (5.16m, 2.1/5 in A18-49).

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