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‘Primetime’ Condit, sports pump Alphabet

ABC takes adult demo, total viewers for the week

Connie Chung’s “Primetime” interview with Gary Condit combined with a pair of strong sports perfs to put ABC atop the ratings charts, ending NBC’s months-long demo dominance.

According to Nielsen Media Research data for the week of Aug. 20-26, the Alphabet net won easily in adults 18-49 (3.3/10) and total viewers (9.66 million) — posting its best marks since mid-May. ABC’s overall audience was the largest for any net since NBC’s NBA Finals-fueled week in mid-June.

NBC slipped to second in adults 18-49, ending an 18-week winning streak that was tied for the fourth-longest stretch on record. Net claimed four of the week’s top five shows in the demo (its Thursday comedies) but was uncompetitive over the weekend.

It also lost for the first time in 16 weeks in adults 25-54 (ABC won) and for the first time in 15 weeks in 18-34 (with Fox breaking through).

Chung’s Thursday “Primetime” interview with Rep. Gary Condit (D-Calif.) was the most-watched program on television since the season finale of “ER” on May 17 (23.70 million viewers) and also topped the week in adults 18-49 (7.5/22) and 25-54 (9.4/25).

ABC also improved its standing with a pair of sports specials bookending the frame: Monday’s NFL preseason game (Broncos-Packers) and Sunday’s championship game of the “Little League World Series.” Quizzer “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” also pitched in, with three editions among the week’s five most-watched shows.

Fox’s first victory in adults 18-34 since mid-May was powered by Monday’s “Teen Choice Awards,” which significantly boosted what’s been one of its weakest nights this summer. Despite a sluggish summer, Fox remains the only major net to be up in adults 18-49 for the season.

CBS was fourth in adults 18-49 (but just two ticks out of second), showing big losses from a year ago when “Survivor” dominated the frame. Net was led by “Big Brother 2,” which delivered its strongest week to date.

UPN grabbed its largest weekly aud since May thanks to repeat movie “Hot Boyz,” which posted the net’s largest Tuesday audience since early April.

The WB remained behind its rival weblet but showed the biggest year-to-year gains for any network.

Monday

ABC’s Raiders-Cowboys NFL contest on Aug. 27 became the most-watched preseason contest in two seasons (11.54m), although the previous week’s Broncos-Packers game fared a tick better in 18-49 (4.4/13 vs. 4.3/13). Net easily won the night.

CBS’ “Yes, Dear” retained 87% of its “Everybody Loves Raymond” 18-49 lead-in (4.0/11 vs. 4.6/13) — down from last week’s 98% hold but still better than “Becker’s” 81% this summer. “Raymond” was the night’s top show in 18-49 and viewers (13.12m).

One week before some of its Monday laffer fall preems, UPN’s comedy block won the night in teens (2.7/10) with its best score since March.

Sunday

ABC and Fox tied for the lead in 18-49 (3.2/9), with the Alphabet net an easy winner in total viewers (10.2 million), led by the most-watched “Millionaire” on the night since June (13.95m). The Little League World Series (8.61m, 2.8/10 in A18-49) also provided a boost, grabbing the title game’s strongest marks since 1993; game finished in the top 10 for the week in men 25-54, its strongest demo.

Fox’s “The Simpsons” (4.7/14) and “Malcolm in the Middle” (4.1/11) were the night’s top draws in 18-49, posting their strongest scores in seven weeks.

A strong lead-in from golf helped a repeat of CBS’ “60 Minutes” match its best 18-49 rating since April (2.9/10) and “Touched by an Angel” to its best marks in 12 weeks (9.75m, 2.5/7 in 18-49), but a repeat of mini “The Last Don II” sunk to the net’s smallest movie aud (6.20m) since Christmas Eve.

HBO’s primetime Madonna concert averaged 5.74 million viewers, topping Fox and NBC from 9 to 10.

“NAACP Music Awards” (3.40m, 1.6/4 in A18-49) gave the WB its best perf in the 9 o’clock hour since April 1.

Saturday

Fox edged out CBS in 18-49 and viewers, although the Eye’s “Big Brother” (7.12m, 3.1/10) was the night’s top show by both measures –the reality skein’s best Saturday marks to date, including last year’s editions.

Friday

Fox edged ABC in 18-49 (2.8/10), with NFL preseason action (Colts-Vikings) matching the former’s best Friday rating this summer. ABC won all three hours in total viewers, led by a repeat “Millionaire” at 9 (11.23m), which also won in 18-49 (3.0/10).

A Museum of Television & Radio spec, “Breaking the News,” grabbed CBS’ best 18-49 rating from 8-10 (1.8/7) since June 1. This helped “48 Hours” to a surprise victory at 10 (2.8/9), topping “20/20” (2.6/9) and “Law & Order: SVU” (2.3/8).

Thursday

Despite the “Primetime” interview (Daily Variety, Aug. 27), NBC edged out ABC for the night in 18-49 (4.8/15 vs. 4.6/14) for its 16th straight win. Still, it was ABC’s best Thursday demo score since January.

NBC’s 8-10 p.m. laffers — perhaps thanks to CBS benching “Big Brother” and “CSI” for football — averaged a summer-best 5.5/17 in adults 18-49.

UPN’s live edition of “WWF Smackdown” pinned down its best teen score (6.2/22) since March.

Wednesday

CBS delivered its strongest 18-49 rating on a Wednesday (3.4/10) since the Country Music Awards in May and won on the night for the first time since an episode of “Survivor” on March 21.

“Big Brother 2” (3.9/13 in 18-49) gave CBS its best non-“Survivor” series score in the leadoff hour since Oct. 25 (“Bette”/”Welcome to New York”). And at 9, “Miss Teen USA” (7.87m, 3.1/9 in A18-49) delivered big gains from a year ago (when it aired on Saturday), including 35% in adults 18-49 and 68% in female teens.

Opposite “Big Brother,” ABC’s “Wayne Brady” fell to its lowest marks in three tries (7.76m, 3.0/10 in A18-49).

Tuesday

ABC and NBC tied for the night’s lead in 18-49 (3.0/9) but it was CBS’ “Big Brother” that was easily the night’s top show in the demo (4.3/12), grabbing the highest rating for any edition of the series this summer.

The WB’s “Dead Last” (3.30m, 1.4/4 in A18-49) remained true to its title at 9, but was up slightly from its week-earlier bow and wasn’t too far behind Fox’s struggling “Murder in Small Town X” (3.90m, 1.8/5).

Monday

ABC rolled on Aug. 20 behind the top 18-49 score for an NFL preseason contest (4.4/13) in two seasons (Daily Variety, Aug. 22).

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