Finales, Playoffs Boost NBC

by May 23, 2001, 12:00 AM
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Big scores from its season finales and an extra ratings bounce from the NBA playoffs boosted NBC to an easy primetime ratings victory last week (May 14-20), snapping several streaks in the process.

It was also a very good week for the WB, which was the only network to improve in both total viewers and key demos. The WB nabbed its best weekly adults 18-49 average since December and its largest overall audience since February, according to Nielsen.

NBC's big week was highlighted by the period's top five programs in both total viewers and adults 18-49, one of the demographics coveted by advertisers. "Friends" was the week's top draw in the demo (15.7 rating, 43 share), grabbing the highest share for any series episode this season, while "ER" was the week's most watched program (30.72 million viewers). Each adults 18-49 rating point represents 1.24 million viewers, 1% of the U.S. total.

NBC's 5.9/17 in adults 18-49 for the week -- its best score of the season -- topped second-place Fox by 34%. NBC also finished on top in adults 18-34 for the first time in six months, snapping Fox's seven-week winning streak.

And in total viewers, NBC prevailed by more than 2 million viewers over runner-up CBS, which had won the previous six weeks. It's the first time NBC has been on top in 15 weeks.

In addition to dominant season finales for Thursday's "Friends," "Will & Grace" and "ER," NBC received winning finale scores from last Wednesday's "The West Wing" and Friday's "Providence." Primetime overruns of NBA playoff action shored up the network's Saturday and Sunday scores.

Robert Downey Jr.'s farewell on Monday's "Ally McBeal" and the birth of Agent Scully's baby on Sunday's "The X-Files" bookended a big week for Fox, which earned its best adults 18-49 average and largest audience in seven weeks. The network won in men 18-34 (4.6/16), edging out NBC in one of the few categories NBC failed to win.

CBS, without any "Survivor" programming on its lineup, was second in total viewers but fell to fourth in adults 18-49 with its lowest weekly score (3.4/10) since December. CBS, which has moved into first place for the season in total viewers with just three nights to go, was the most-watched network on three nights (Monday, Saturday and Sunday) and was second on Thursday behind a big first-year finale for "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation."

ABC had a rather uneventful week, placing third in demos and total viewers. Only Tuesday's "Dharma & Greg" and "NYPD Blue" were among the week's top 20 shows in adults 18-49, although the opening night of miniseries "Anne Frank: The Whole Story" did pretty well, winning its slot in the demo.

At the WB, "Dawson's Creek" moved into the top 20 among women 18-34, winning its time period. "Angel" also equaled or outperformed lead-in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" in all demos for the first time, boding well for the former's move to Mondays next fall.

UPN was boosted by the penultimate episode of Wednesday's "Star Trek: Voyager," which drew its largest audience since October, but remained weak on Tuesday, where "Chains of Love" continues to fade.

SUNDAY

Fox won May 20 easily in all demos, including by six shares in adults 18-49. The "X-Files" finale was the night's top draw in the demo (7.5/18), followed by "Malcolm in the Middle" (7.0/19) and "The Simpsons" (6.9/20).

The season finale of HBO's "The Sopranos" placed second in its time slot in adults 18-49 (a 5.4 to a 7.5 for "X-Files") and fourth in total viewers (9.46 million), behind CBS, ABC and Fox but slightly ahead of NBC. It was the second best showing ever for the Mob series, trailing only its two-hour season premiere in March.

Even with CBS' "60 Minutes" (13.65 million, 2.6/9 in adults 18-49) and "Touched by an Angel" (13.14 million, 3.3/9) both down year-to-year by about 25% in key demos, the Mary Tyler Moore TV movie "Like Mother, Like Son" rallied to the network's best made-for-TV movie scores (16.14 million, 4.5/11) since December. That helped the network take the night in viewers.

"Anne Frank" opened to the third best adults 18-49 rating for any miniseries this season (4.9/12) and was the week's top program in female teens (9.6/33).

NBC received a very strong 89-minute overrun from Game 7 of the Toronto-Philadelphia NBA playoff series (11.16 million, 5.4/20 in adults 18-49), which won its slot in some demos.

SATURDAY

Series finale of nine-year veteran "Walker, Texas Ranger" helped CBS corral its largest Saturday audience from 8-10 p.m. (10.82 million) in 16 months. It teamed with the season finale of "The District" to give CBS the night in viewers (11.5 million) and 25-54 (4.0/12).

NBC, boosted by a strong overrun for the Lakers-Spurs NBA playoff game (8.69 million, 3.9/16 in adults 18-49), won on a Saturday in 18-49 (3.4/12) for the first time since the Feb. 4 XFL premiere.

FRIDAY

The "Daytime Emmy Awards" slipped to all-time lows (10.28 million, 3.4/11 in adults 18-49), but a winning score from "Providence" (12.57 million, 3.8/14) helped NBC pull out the night.

The network premiere of "Batman & Robin" gave CBS its second-best Friday 18-49 rating in eight weeks (2.4/8) but drew the network's smallest crowd on the night (5.70 million) this season. Fox matched its best 18-49 rating since February (3.2/11) with the premiere of "There's Something About Mary."

THURSDAY

NBC rolled to victory behind the season finales of its three big series. The 43 share in adults 18-49 for "Friends" is the highest for any scripted program since last May's finales, when both "Friends" and "ER" netted a 44 share.

CBS rookie "CSI" was the night's top non-NBC program (18.98 million, 6.4/15 in adults 18-49), but it remained 14 shares behind NBC's "Will & Grace."

WEDNESDAY

NBC won the night by its largest margin in adults 18-49 (46%) in more than nine years, led by the strongest one-hour episode ever for "The West Wing" (7.9/19) and the best ever for "Law & Order" (9.2/24).

Even though NBC topped Fox by a healthy 6 shares in 18-49 (7.0/19 vs. 4.8/13), Fox won in adults 18-34 by a tick (5.4/16 vs. 5.3/15). The difference was among adults 35-49, where NBC trampled Fox (8.6/21 to 4.1/11).

Key for Fox was week-to-week gains for "Boot Camp" (10.39 million, 5.1/12 in adults 18-49), which was the night's top program on any network in adults 18-34 (6.2/16) and men 18-34 (5.9/17).

The WB's "Dawson's Creek" won its hour by an impressive 4 shares in women 18-34 (5.7/17).

TUESDAY

A one-hour "Frasier" gave NBC its best comedy scores in the 9 p.m. hour (15.63 million, 6.6/17 in adults 18-49) since February.

CBS' "JAG" slipped to firstrun season lows (11.31 million, 3.1/9 in adults 18-49), while lead-out "60 Minutes II" fell to its second-lowest 18-49 rating ever (2.1/6) -- behind only last July 4. Still, "Judging Amy" stepped up to win the 10 p.m. hour in viewers and place second in 18-49 (4.3/11) -- its best marks since February.

Fox's "Titus" retained an impressive 95% of its adults 18-49 lead-in from "That '70s Show" (5.4/15 vs. 5.7/18), helping the network tie ABC for the lead in 18-49 and leading it to outright wins in 18-34 and all male demos.

ABC's "Millionaire" (4.5/14) and "Dharma & Greg" posted solid second-place finishes in adults 18-49, while "NYPD Blue" won its hour (5.5/15) .

MONDAY

The strongest outing since February for "Ally McBeal" led Fox to a 3-share victory in 18-49 on May 14, while CBS won in viewers but fell to third in the demo.

- Reuters/Variety

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