NBC Wins Wednesday

  • by February 16, 2001
HOLLYWOOD (Variety) - NBC rolled to a convincing ratings victory Wednesday night and has expanded its lead at the halfway point of the February sweep.

Led by the top scores for "Ed" since October, the highest-rated one-hour episode of "The West Wing" ever and one of the best showings in the 11-year history of "Law & Order," NBC topped second-place ABC by 3 shares in adults 18-49 and by about 3 million viewers overall, according to Nielsen estimates.

NBC took four of six half-hours in the key demo, with the nightly 6.8 rating its second highest on a Wednesday with regular programming since January 1994. (Each adults 18-49 rating point represents 1.24 million viewers, 1% of the U.S. total.)

ABC held tough behind the top-rated "Drew Carey" in nine months and a solid score for a rock star edition of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." The network delivered its best Wednesday 18-49 rating with series programming (5.7 rating, 15 share) since November.

Fox's Barbra Streisand concert and CBS' Holocaust-themed mini "Haven" served as Valentine's Day gifts of sorts to the other networks. The low-rated and older-skewing specials freed up a lot of young adults for both NBC and ABC.

While CBS has struggled Wednesdays anyway-"Haven's" puny 1.9/5 demo rating isn't much below some of the network's other movie scores this season-Fox's results are just a fraction of what it had averaged recently with "Temptation Island." The Streisand special, ordered by Fox long before "Temptation" came along, averaged a third-place 2.6/7 in adults 18-49 and a fifth-place 1.7/5 in 18-34 -- dropoffs of 64% and 82%, respectively, from the network's first-place finishes a week earlier.

"Temptation" will be back for two more sweep outings this month, but it might not prove enough for Fox to catch NBC for the adults 18-49 crown. Despite Wednesday's woes, Fox enjoys a slim lead over NBC in adults 18-34 (5.3/15 to 5.2/15) and is expected to pull away down the stretch.

With two weeks to go, NBC leads in the key 18-49 race with a 5.7/15 (up 2% in rating vs. a year ago), followed by Fox, 5.0/13 (up 4%); ABC, 4.4/11 (down 23%); CBS, 4.2/11 (up 14%); the WB, 1.7/4 (up 13%); and UPN, 1.6/4 (down 6%). NBC has retaken the lead in total viewers with an average of 13.4 million (up 2%), followed by CBS, 13.3 million (up 2%); ABC, 12.7 million (down 15%); Fox, 10.5 million (up 2%); the WB (4.0 million, up 3%); and UPN, 3.9 million (down 10%).

The strongest performer of the month in its target demo is the WB, up vs. last February by 25% in adults 18-34 (to a 2.0/5). CBS, boosted by its "Survivor"-led Thursday lineup, is up 16% in adults 25-54 (to 5.2/12).

Wednesday's highlights included NBC's "Ed," whose Valentine-themed episode delivered the rookie series' best ratings (12.19 million, 5.5/15 in adults 18-49) since its bow. It topped "Millionaire" by all key adult measures.

The quizzer, surprisingly, recorded an 18-49 rating (5.3/15) that was only on p

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