When Nielsen issues national weekly averages today, NBC will come out on top in adults 18-49 for the seventh time in eight weeks this season. Its projected 5.2 rating in the coveted demographic easily tops CBS (4.4 or 4.5), ABC (4.3) and Fox (4.3 or 4.2).
NBC remains in a neck-and-neck battle with Fox in adults 18-49 for the November sweep, with each carrying a 5.2 rating into Monday night's action. Among the programs that may decide the month are NBC's celebrity edition of "Fear Factor" on Nov. 27 and Fox's broadcast television premiere of "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace" on Sunday.
CBS, the sweeps leader in total viewers and expected to finish on top, will win the week in overall audience for the third time in four weeks, edging NBC (roughly 13.1 million to 12.9 million).
Both leaders capped the week with a disappointing Sunday, falling behind Fox and ABC.
Fox took Sunday by all measures, including adults 18-49 (preliminary 6.4 rating, 15 share) and total viewers (13.8 million), boosted by a nearly one-hour NFL overrun. "The Simpsons" (preliminary 14.5 million, 7.1/17 in 18-49) and "Malcolm in the Middle" (preliminary 13.8 million, 6.5/15) both led their slots, but by 9:30 the tiring "X-Files" (preliminary 9.4 million, 4.6/10) left the network third in 18-49.
Airing opposite "X-Files" for the first time, ABC's "Alias" (preliminary 10.3 million, 4.6/10) held up well. The rookie drama finished in a virtual 18-49 tie with the hour's other two dramas ("X-Files" and NBC's "Law & Order: Criminal Intent") while moving ahead in adults 18-34 (4.1/10).
ABC's "The Practice" (preliminary 16.4 million, 6.4/16 in 18-49) easily won at 10 and ranked as the night's most-watched show, while the network's "Facts of Life" reunion picture did OK from 7 to 9 (preliminary 11.9 million, 4.5/11) -- although it was down about 20% from a "Growing Pains" reunion movie a year ago.
CBS ran third Sunday in viewers and fourth in demos with a weak performance from the "Hallmark Hall of Fame" picture "In Love and War" (preliminary 11.9 million, 2.6/6 in 18-49), which fell about 30% below last November's "Hall of Fame" picture.
NBC was third in demos and fourth in viewers, led by another solid performance at 9 for "Law & Order: Criminal Investigation," which won its hour in total viewers (preliminary 12.8 million). At 10, though, first-year drama "UC: Undercover" (preliminary 7.7 million, 3.4/9) continues to look shaky.
According to preliminary Nielsen figures, the four major networks combined for a mere 41 share in adults 18-49 on the night, down from 49 on the same Sunday a year ago and 55 just two years ago. Fox, the night's leader, limited its year-to-year losses to about 8% but ABC was off by 18%, NBC 21% and CBS 27%.
There wasn't a big slate of original cable programming on Sunday, although HBO's Britney Spears concert and ESPN's Rams-Patriots NFL game both figure to rate well when their numbers are released Tuesday.