Oscar, bows make ABC’s week golden

Kudocast up 2% ; 'Millionaire' takes third

The rich net keeps getting richer, and this time it’s not just because it has a “Millionaire.”

ABC logged another tally in the win column last week, as a strong Academy Awards showing punctuated the net’s 13th straight weekly ratings victory — its second-longest streak ever, trailing only the 14 weeks it reached in the 1978-79 season.

Nielsen on Tuesday confirmed Monday’s preliminary findings that Sunday’s Academy Awards telecast on ABC earned a 29.2/48 in homes, up 2% from a year ago. In total viewers (46.33 million) and adults 18-49 (19.1/47), it ranks as the kudocast’s second best ratings in the last five years, behind only 1998’s “Titanic”-drenched show (Daily Variety, March 27).

ABC’s margins of victory over second-place NBC last week in adults 18-49 (2.2 rating points) and in total viewers (6.6 million) were its largest of the season, excepting Super Bowl week. Its 11.8 rating in homes was its best during Oscar week since 1996.

ABC’s quizzer “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” had to settle for third place this week, with its big Tuesday seg trailing the Oscar telecast and its pre-show as the frame’s most-watched programs.

In season-to-date races, the Alphabet web has now moved ahead by a virtually unassailable margin of half a ratings point over NBC in adults 18-49 (5.6 vs. 5.1) and over CBS in households (9.3 vs. 8.8) with less than two months to go.

ABC also got strong sampling for its two series that debuted last week — Wednesday’s comedy “Then Came You” and Friday’s music-based reality skein “Making the Band.”

They were part of a big week for premieres, with at least one new program bowing each weeknight. And, while it’s too early to tell how they will fare long-term, this year’s spring crop — which also includes NBC’s “Daddio” and Fox’s “Titus” — are off to a better start than March launches of recent seasons, in which many shows crashes and burned.

“Titus,” perhaps the most impressive of the bunch, stayed hot on Monday of this week, again improving on its “That ’70s Show” lead-in in most key ratings categories.

Elsewhere, college basketball helped CBS move into second place among men 18-49 (4.0/12) for the first time this season. This year’s ratings for the first two weeks of NCAA tourney action (6.0/12 for games in all dayparts) are on par with a year ago, according to metered-market results.

March 20-26 adults 18-49 averages are ABC, a 6.8 rating, 19 share (up 89% vs. a year ago, when the Oscars aired a week earlier); NBC, 4.6/13 (down 15%); CBS, 3.8/11 (down 3%); Fox, 3.8/10 (down 19%); UPN, 1.7/5 (up 70%); the WB, 1.2/3 (down 25%); and Pax, 0.3/1 (even).

In households, it’s ABC, 11.8/20 (up 69%); NBC, 7.9/13 (down 12%); CBS, 7.8/13 (down 10%); Fox, 5.2/8 (down 20%); UPN, 2.8/4 (up 47%); the WB, 2.3/4 (down 23%); and Pax, 0.8/1 (even).

Monday

Fox, with all original programming, easily won March 27 in adults 18-49 while placing a close second to ABC in total viewers.

“Titus” (13.1 million viewers, 6.9/18 in adults 18-49) faced stronger competition in its second outing, but held strong. The laffer built on its “That ’70s Show” lead-in by 11% in total viewers (down from last week’s 19% build) and by 10% in adults 18-49 (down from last week’s 20%).

ABC’s “The Audrey Hepburn Story” (prelim 13.7 million, 4.6/12 in A18-49) benefited from a big Oscar promo push. The three-hour biopic starring Jennifer Love Hewitt built throughout the night and, without Fox to contend with at 10, it won its final hour in all demos.

Sunday

The Oscarcast dominated the night, leading ABC to victory by 29 shares in adults 18-49 and by 27 shares in homes. Among women 35-49, its strong 53 share ranks behind only the Super Bowl (59) for the season.

Among other demo groups, the kudocast snagged a 52 share among women 18-34, a 39 share for men 18-34 and a 34 share for teens.

The “Barbara Walters Special” (13.1/23 in homes) — featuring interviews with Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, Ricky Martin and Mike Myers — was up slightly from last year’s spec (12.7/22). Then at 8 p.m., ABC’s half-hour “Countdown to Oscar” special (20.6/33 in homes) improved by 14% over a year ago (18.1/29).

ABC also reports that traffic to Oscar.com, the official Web site of the Academy Awards, was 32% higher than on last year’s Oscar Sunday.

Saturday

College basketball action, highlighted by the game between Michigan State and Iowa State (8.0/15 in homes), helped CBS win a Saturday in adults 18-49 for the first time since December.

Fox placed second in homes and young adults, led by the best adults 18-49 score in nine weeks for “America’s Most Wanted” (10.39 million, 4.2/13).

NBC’s “The Others” (7.94 million, 3.6/11 in A18-49) delivered its best numbers since moving to the 9 p.m. hour three weeks ago.

Friday

ABC’s premiere of “Making the Band” hit a bull’s eye with its target audience, drawing a 5.5/24 among female teens and a 4.0/16 among kids 2-11. It also retained nearly all of its “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” lead-in in the broad category of viewers 2-34 (8.0 vs. 7.9).

Neither of the night’s gamers looked very strong: While “Millionaire” again made mincemeat of the competition with a special 8 p.m. movie-themed seg, it did so with the smallest audience for any of its installments since November, while its adults 18-49 share (19) was its lowest since January. Meanwhile, Fox’s “Greed” (7.80 million, 2.8/9 in A18-49) slipped to its lowest viewer total and demo ratings since Jan. 14.

Thursday

NBC’s premiere of “Daddio” (19.71 million, 8.8/24 in A18-49) retained 92% of its “Friends” lead-in among total viewers and 85% among adults 18-49. In both categories, it’s the net’s best midseason premiere since “Fired Up” in 1997 (Daily Variety, March 27).

“Daddio” did especially well among kids and teens (ages 2-17), drawing 2.16 million viewers — the second-best numbers for any Thursday show on the Big Four nets, trailing only NBC’s “ER.”

The UPN netlet’s “WWF Smackdown!” actually delivered the most kids and teens for the night (2.85 million).

NBC’s other Thursday premiere, “Battery Park” (14.70 million, 7.3/18 in A18-49), had a tougher time but still performed better than the net’s recent firstrun efforts in the timeslot. Facing ABC’s “Millionaire,” “Park” slipped by 21% in adults 18-49 from its “Frasier” lead-in.

Wednesday

“Then Came You” (11.14 million, 5.3/15 in A18-49) won its half-hour in all key demos with the net’s best comedy tally in the slot since the season premiere of “Norm” last September (Daily Variety, March 24).

“Then” did especially well among women, topping the timeslot’s comedy average this season by 24% among women 18-34.

NBC’s “West Wing” legislated its largest audience (15.76 million) and best adults 18-49 score (5.5/15) since its series premiere last fall.

Tuesday

UPN’s new police drama “The Beat” (2.95 million, 0.9/2 in A18-49) brought more viewers to the 9 p.m. hour, but still fell below its time period average in adults 18-49 (Daily Variety, March 23).

“Millionaire” (29.80 million, 10.3/28 in A18-49) rebounded from a few sub-par ratings perfs to post its second best Tuesday adults 18-49 score. That helped “Dharma & Greg” notch its best-ever adults 18-49 adults rating (7.9/21) and total-viewers tally (17.18 million) for a repeat.

Fox’s fading “Party of Five” dropped to its lowest adults 18-49 rating for an original (2.4/6) in its six-year history.

Monday

Fox laffer “Titus” got off to a great start, winning its half-hour in all key demo categories. It did especially well among men, posting the net’s best men 18-34 score in the 8:30 timeslot since 1994.

NBC’s “Geeks and Freaks” was one of “Titus’ ” victims: The critically lauded drama drew only 6 million viewers in its 8 p.m. hour and was canceled the next day.

Each adults 18-49 rating point reps 1.24 million viewers, 1% of the U.S. total. The share is also a percentage, but measured against only the viewers watching TV during the slot involved.

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