Strong ‘SVU’ Friday bow boosts Peacock

CBS shows some 'Winning Lines'

NBC looks to be tightening its grip on Fridays, thanks to the successful arrival of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” while CBS shows promise of modest Saturday strides with OK premiere numbers for the new gameshow “Winning Lines.”

“Lines” joined the CBS Saturday schedule with nothing approaching the hit numbers ABC has enjoyed with “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” but the new Dick Clark-hosted gamer did manage to top slot-average demos for benched regular “Early Edition.”

The first non-Monday try for “Law & Order: SVU” matched the Peacock’s best Friday 10-11 p.m. adults 18-49 results (a preliminary 4.8 rating, 14 share) with regular fare since Nov. 14, 1997.

That slot-winning performance boosted NBC to its highest regular-fare 18-49 Friday average since last Feb. 3. With NBC already consistently winning from 8-10 p.m. with “Providence” and “Dateline,” “SVU” gives the Peacock a shot at dominating the night.

“SVU’s” prelim 13.64 million viewers gave NBC a comfortable nightlong winning margin of 3.79 million. In adults 18-49, NBC prevailed by 2 shares over “Greed”-boosted Fox (5.0/14 vs. 4.1/12).

Two more shares back, ABC’s once-dominant Friday lineup barely topped CBS to avoid fourth place in the 18-49 demo.

CBS’ Saturday debut of “Winning Lines” (a prelim 10.14 million viewers, 2.9/9 in adults 18-49) improved on “Early Edition’s” 18-49 slot average by 16% (2.9 vs. 2.5), and preemptions could mean bigger gains when Nielsen updates these results Tuesday.

At 8:30, though, CBS was caught off guard by “Candid Camera’s” 14% 18-49 falloff vs. lead-in (with a prelim 9.07 million, 2.5/7), which led to a below-average 9-10 p.m. 18-49 score from “Martial Law” (a prelim 9.94 million, 2.7/7 in adults 18-49). “Law” slipped 7% vs. its season-to-date 18-49 average despite elevated viewership levels due to January’s early sunsets and winter weather.

CBS edged ABC for the night in total viewers, but ABC’s three-hour broadcast debut of Bruce Willis’ “The Fifth-Element” (a prelim 10.82 million, 4.8/14 in adults 18-49) pushed around the 18-49 competition.

While “Winning Lines” bowed to decent numbers, Fox’s “Millionaire” wannabe “Greed” is fattening that net’s Nielsen account.

Last week’s Wednesday-through-Friday re-intro of the gamer easily beat season-to-date slot averages on each night and hit Fox’s best non-sports homes rating (7.8/12) in the Thursday 9-10 p.m. hour since last May.