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‘Bachelor’ bounce boosts Alphabet

Net wins key demo, moves up in sweeps race

Nearly 26 million viewers were wedded to ABC’s “The Bachelor” on Wednesday, as the dating show’s two-hour conclusion turned CBS’ competing “Victoria’s Secret” spec into a bust — and helped give the Alphabet a fighting chance at a second-place finish in the November sweep.

Combined with winning perfs from laffers “My Wife and Kids” and “George Lopez,” the Alphabet nearly doubled its closest pursuer on the night (NBC) in adults 18-49 (9.6 vs. 5.2), according to Nielsen.

Whammo Wednesday has vaulted ABC ahead of CBS into second place for the sweep in the key demo with one week to go (4.2 vs. 4.1). The Alphabet is projected to wrap the month with at least a share of the silver medal — and a likely outright second-place finish — one year after tumbling to fourth.

After months of negative buzz, ABC Entertainment prexy Susan Lyne understandably welcomed the “Bachelor” bonanza, as well as the net’s overall sweeps perf.

“This is a really nice morning and a very nice sweep so far,” she told Daily Variety. “We were hoping to come in a respectable third and stay flat in the year-to-year comparisons, and it looks like we have a good shot at bettering both. . . . God bless ‘The Bachelor.’ ”

Solidifying sked

Both CBS and ABC have made moves to shore up tonight’s sked, with the Eye replacing “Robbery Homicide Division” with a “CSI” repeat, and ABC yanking “Drew Carey” and “Whose Line Is It Anyway” for an extra hour of “Home Videos.”

What’s more, ABC will look to get one more boost from “The Bachelor,” moving up to next Tuesday an episode of laffer “Less Than Perfect” that features a guest turn by the bachelor himself, Aaron Buerge.

Overall, NBC is the sweep’s wire-to-wire leader in adults 18-49 (5.1) and was in a close battle with CBS for the month’s total-viewer lead.

The WB remains the month’s growth story, up by 19% in 18-34 (to 2.5/7). Fox, meanwhile, is the sweep’s laggard, even if you toss out the World Series games it aired last November.

The “Bachelor” finale, which ended with Missouri banker Buerge proposing to psychologist Helene Eksterowicz, dominated its competish in every key measure, including adults 18-49 (11.9/28) and 18-34 (12.3/32), and total viewers (25.9 million). It racked up a 16.6/39 in women 18-34, building to an 18.3/43 by its final half-hour.

Best since ‘Spin’

Its 18-49 score is the best for any ABC series since the “Spin City” finale in May 2000, while its women 18-34 rating is the net’s best since the Monica Lewinsky interview on “20/20” in March 1999.

“The Bachelor” also generated the highest 18-49 rating for any episode of any nonscripted series in the 18 months since the finale of CBS’ “Survivor: Australian Outback” in May 2001. In adults 18-34, “Bachelor” edges out the finale of Fox’s “American Idol” from September (12.3 vs. 12.2).

Lyne credited “Bachelor” creator Mike Fleiss for keeping a protective eye on the creative content of the show and for helping ABC ensure the franchise has a healthy lifespan. Net execs know all too well from “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” how today’s reality smash can quickly turn to trash.

“Mike Fleiss has protected this concept vigorously,” Lyne said. “We were eager to have more episodes and he was fierce about why that was a mistake. We have to be careful to protect this franchise.”

Platform relationships

Fleiss said he thinks having two rounds of “The Bachelor” — and perhaps one round of “The Bachelorette” — each season would be a logical plan for continuing the series.

“I like it as a special event,” he said. “You have to resist (overexposure) at all costs.”

“Bachelorette” will bow Jan. 8, with the next “Bachelor” probably preeming the week after ABC’s March 23 Oscarcast. Alphabet will air another reality skein in the timeslot between “Bachelorette” and “Bachelor.”

ABC will launch three new dramas in January, while Lyne said the net is expected to bow three new laffers and up to four limited-run reality concepts come spring.

Fleiss said Lyne, ABC topper Lloyd Braun and reality guru Andrea Wong “have been amazingly supportive” of the show. He also singled out Disney chief Bob Iger for helping guide “The Bachelor” creatively.

“He’s been very involved creatively with the show,” Fleiss said. “I get notes from Bob Iger all the time. During the first cycle of the show, he made a great editing suggestion that was key.”

By the numbers

As for the specific ratings Wednesday, from 9 to 10, “Bachelor” trounced CBS’ “Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show,” with the undie spec placing a distant third for its 9 o’clock hour in adults 18-49 (3.9/9) — an 11% decline from what ABC delivered with it a year ago on a sweep Thursday.

The controversial “Secret” likely turned off more viewers than it turned on, settling for the Eye’s third-best 18-49 score in the hour this season. It was the Eye’s spotlight special of the month, but it didn’t come close to what Carol Burnett, Michael Jackson or “I Love Lucy” specs delivered a year ago.

NBC’s second-place “West Wing” (5.0/12 in A18-49) held up pretty well, declining just a tick week to week and beating “Secret” by 26%, while the WB’s “Birds of Prey” (2.1/5) was up slightly. Fox’s “Fastlane” (2.9/7) seemed most affected, down 12% from the previous week.

ABC won from 8 to 9 with “My Wife and Kids” (5.0/14 in 18-49) and “George Lopez” (5.2/13), but NBC’s “Ed” held tough, placing second and matching its season high set a week earlier (4.5/12). In overall aud, “Ed” rolled its best game (13.32 million) since its series premiere two years ago.

NBC’s “Law & Order” (17.98 million, 6.0/15 in A18-49) took a hit at 10, falling to its lowest firstrun 18-49 rating since February 2000 opposite the Grammys. For a third straight Wednesday this sweep, the usually dominant “Law” had to settle for second place to ABC in the demo.