In one of the last weeks before the new season, all four major networks for the first time finished with the same share among young adults for the Sept. 3-9 period – another sign of how hotly contested the upcoming season could be.
(However, Tuesday’s terrorist attacks mean the new season, scheduled to start next Monday, could be delayed.)
NBC won for the 20th time in 21 weeks in the coveted adults 18-49 demographic (3.3 rating, nine share), according to Nielsen, but second-place CBS (3.1/9) and third-place ABC and Fox (who tied at 3.0/9) were all within three-tenths of the lead. ABC was the most-watched network overall, winning for the fifth straight week.
(Each adults 18-49 rating point represents 1.24 million viewers, 1% of the U.S. total. A share is the same sort of percentage, except it’s measured against only the homes or viewers watching TV during the time slot involved.)
NBC’s victory was led by nightly wins on Wednesday and Thursday and close second-place finishes on Monday and Tuesday. The network was represented in the top five by “Friends” at No. 2 (5.6/16) and Wednesday’s special episode of “Fear Factor,” which tied for third with CBS’ Tuesday installment of “Big Brother 2” (5.5/14).
CBS moved up to second in adults 18-49 – with its highest rating since mid-May – behind three strong performances from “Big Brother” and the premiere of “The Amazing Race.” The reality series teamed to give the network its strongest Wednesday since May, while U.S. Open women’s tennis delivered the network’s best Saturday since March.
ABC claimed three of the top four shows in total viewers, led by “20/20” in its Wednesday premiere at No. 1 (13.26 million viewers) and two hours of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” which ranked third and fourth.
Fox delivered its best 18-49 rating since late May, thanks to Sunday’s beefy 24-minute NFL overrun (8.8/30) for the Rams-Eagles game, which led into the No. 1 show of the week in the demo, “The Simpsons” (5.8/16).
The WB nearly caught UPN for the first time since May behind a pair of strong movies. “It Could Happen to You” gave the WB its largest Wednesday audience since May, and “Sabrina Goes to Rome” drew its biggest Friday crowd since February.
And Pax grabbed its largest weekly audience ever (1.86 million) thanks to the strong two-hour Sunday premiere of “The Ponderosa.” The series, a prequel to the classic TV Western “Bonanza,” averaged nearly 4 million viewers and helped the fledgling network outdraw the WB on the night.
Football and “The Simpsons” helped Fox dominate Sept. 9, with its best averages since May.
CBS’ repeat of “Amazing Race” (6.78 million, 2.4/7 in adults 18-49) didn’t do much in a post-“60 Minutes” outing, while NBC’s “Weakest Link” (6.87 million, 2.6/7) struggled in its new time slot. NBC looked better from 9-11 with “Law & Order” and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” which easily topped two one-hour episodes of ABC’s “The Practice.”
Fox edged CBS in adults 18-49 (3.2 vs. 3.1) even though the latter won the head-to-head battle from 8-10 p.m. with the women’s final of U.S. Open tennis (10.27 million, 3.5/12 in adults 18-49). For CBS, it was its best demo score on the night since the NCAA men’s basketball semifinal in late March.
ABC moved up to third with the Notre Dame-Nebraska college football game (7.11 million, 2.3/7 in adults 18-49), while fourth-place NBC got no help from its repeat of rookie reality show “Lost” (3.79 million, 1.5/5).
Two hours of “Millionaire” dominated, helping ABC post its best 18-49 Friday average (3.4/12) since March and lift the network to its 12th straight win on the night in total viewers.
NBC stumbled with news special “Revenge of the Whale” (5.61 million, 1.6/6 in adults 18-49), while UPN’s reality series “Manhunt” (1.57 million, 0.8/3) failed to find many new viewers with its finale.
The “MTV Music Video Awards” boosted the cable channel to the top among all networks in primetime in adults 18-49 and total viewers. ABC led the broadcast networks in total viewers, boosted by the season premiere of “Whose Line Is It Anyway,” whose 8 p.m. segment drew its largest audience (6.84 million) since March.
CBS edged NBC in a rare reality battle from 8-10 p.m., as the premieres of “Lost” and “Amazing Race” were overshadowed by stronger performances from “Big Brother” and “Fear Factor,” respectively.
Barbara Walters’ chat with Anne Heche helped “20/20” draw the largest audience of the night (13.26 million). It also bagged the best 18-49 rating for a Walters interview (5.1/14) since March 2000, when she spoke with the parents of JonBenet Ramsey.
CBS’ “Big Brother 2” hit series highs in total viewers (11.19 million) and all key demos, including the network’s best 18-49 score in the 9 p.m. hour (5.5/14) since May 1999 (“Joan of Arc”).
It was also a good night for ABC’s “Millionaire,” which posted its best 18-49 score (3.8/11) since June 5, and NBC’s “Dateline” (4.7/13), which hit a six-month high. On the down side, Fox’s short-run reality series “Murder in Small Town X” (4.01 million, 1.6/5 in adults 18-49) wrapped meekly.
ABC edged out NBC in adults 18-49 on Sept. 5 behind “Classic TV Bloopers” (3.1/9) and theatrical premiere “The Glimmer Man” (11.81 million, 4.1/11 in adults 18-49), which earned the best numbers for a movie this summer.