Thanks in large part to the enormous aud for its “9/11” special, CBS catapulted to the front of the total viewers race for the second post-Olympics week in a row, averaging 14.5 million viewers compared to NBC’s 12.3 million.
The Eye stayed close to NBC among adults 18-49, but the Peacock took the crown (4.9/13 vs. CBS’ 4.8/13), thanks to strong wins on four nights of the week.
The Olympics apparently left behind a lasting glow for NBC. Year-to-year, the Peacock was up an astounding 45% in adults 18-34, 29% in young adults and 25% in total viewers — even though the net stuck with regular programming last week.
Docu spec “9/11” gave CBS similarly healthy increases: The Eye improved 21% in adults 18-49, 20% in adults 18-49 and 19% in viewers.
Spec was by far the week’s top-rated program by most measurements; “Friends” was top regular series among adults 18-49 (12.4/31), while “CSI” bagged the most viewers (26.7 million) for the week.
Meanwhile FX made cable-network history with the March 12 debut of its weekly series “The Shield,” the hard-edged cop show that harvested 3.1 million homes, a better audience delivery than any other premiere episode of an original series on basic cable.
The 4.1 average rating in cable homes stunned even the executives at FX, who would’ve celebrated if the episode wound up in the mid-2s. Advertisers who bought time chalked up a bargain-basement coup because the salespeople at FX priced the first three episodes very conservatively, at less than a 2 rating.
The series, produced by Fox TV Studios and Columbia TriStar TV, did particularly well among adults 18 to 49 and adults 25 to 54, the demo groups FX targets with its programming.
FX was not the only cable network crowing over March 12 numbers. MTV pulled an impressive 3.2 rating for the second week of “The Osbournes,” a satire of family sitcoms. The 3.2 rating was four-tenths of a point higher than the 2.8 the series scored in its premiere week. It’s extremely rare for a new series to do better in its second week than in its first.
Meanwhile cable subscribers couldn’t get enough of the profanity-laced harangues of Brian Dennehy as Bobby Knight in ESPN’s first original TV movie “A Season on the Brink,” which aired March 10.
The uncensored version, featuring more verbal explosions highlighted by the word “fuck” than any show in the history of basic cable, delivered a powerhouse 3.2 rating in cable homes in the metered-market overnights.
Another successful Disney cable entry March 11, the Disney Channel’s 8 p.m. preem of “Cadet Kelly,” landed a 5.6 Nielsen score in households. Pic revolving around a military school was the highest-rated original pic in the cabler’s history. Likely propelling “Cadet” was its lead-in at 7:30 p.m., “Lizzie McGuire,” which similarly churned out its best perf in households (3.1). “Cadet” stars “Lizzie” lead Hilary Duff.
In the syndie race, the Winter Olympics put the freeze on syndies during the February sweeps.
The top nine yakkers posted perfs down from a year earlier, as viewers skated over to catch MSNBC’s competing daytime coverage of the Games.
Talk leader “Oprah,” posting a 5.8 Nielsen household score, slipped 12% from February 2001.
Others recording double-digit drops include “The Jerry Springer Show” (2.9, down 24%), “The Montel Williams Show” (2.8, down 20%), “The Rosie O’Donnell Show” (2.4, down 23%), “Ricki” (1.9, down 27%) and “The Jenny Jones Show” (1.9, down 17%).
“Everyone is going to take the Olympics into account,” said Katz TV’s Bill Carroll, who believes the Games will become “the explanation or the excuse” execs use for their shows’ slew of bad perfs.
In warmer news, however, “Sally” (1.7, down 29%) scored a season high 2.0 during that last week of the month — the show’s final winter sweeps period.
The Olympics left nearly all the court and game strips in the dust, including the top three gavelers: “Judge Judy” (5.9, down 8%), “Judge Joe Brown” (3.6, down 8%) and “Divorce Court” (2.9, down 6%).
It was the same story with the top gamers, “Wheel of Fortune” (10.1, down 8%), “Jeopardy!” (8.5, down 7%) and “Hollywood Squares” (2.8, down 28%).
Off-nets looked healthier. Likely helping “Friends” (7.5, up 21%) is a just-added TBS cable window. Boosting “Seinfeld” (6.7, up 26%) is the fact that it’s getting double-run for the first time this season.
The rookies, who can’t yet compare February sweeps periods, had an overall better time of it. Several improved from their debuts, including top rookie “Texas Justice” (2.1, up 5% from its January start).
(Michael Schneider, Josef Adalian, John Dempsey and Susanne Ault contributed to this report. )