Riding high no longerThough still No. 1, ABC sees lead in key 18-49 demo evaporate 1/14/2001 07:00:00 PM Eastern
What a difference a year makes at ABC. At last year's Television Critics Association winter meetings, the network was riding high and on its way to a runaway victory in nearly every major ratings category thanks to Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
As ABC executives met the national entertainment press late last week, the network was still in first place in total viewers and households, but its once large lead in the key adults 18-49 demo has evaporated, despite Millionaire, Millionaire
and more Millionaire.
NBC currently holds a narrow edge over ABC (4.9 rating/13 share vs. 4.8/13), and Millionaire's four weekly installments are averaging a median age over 50.
"There is still no clear 18-49 leader. The season is still really up for grabs, and, by your measurements, we are and continue to be number one in viewers and households. But we're not going to be happy with that until we regain the supremacy that we had last season with young adults," says ABC Entertainment Group Co-Chairman Stu Bloomberg. "We have saved some very strong series for midseason, which combined with the reinvigorated Millionaire,
we think, positions us pretty well for the second half of the season."
Bloomberg says Millionaire's ratings have started to climb as sampling of new rival shows has fallen off. ABC will continue to "stunt" the game show during the second half of the season, he adds. For the coming February sweep, the network will air rock and pop editions of Millionaire
(members of The Dixie Chicks, Metallica and Backstreet Boys will participate) along with tax-free editions sponsored by H & R Block .(The winners' taxes will be covered by the show so that they actually get a million.)
ABC executives also announced a three-year renewal for 20th Century Fox hit The Practice;
an extension of their deal with DreamWorks for rights to the studio's top films; and air dates for its midseason shows. Damon Wayans' new comedy, My Wife and Kids,
will debut Tuesday, March 13; Denis Leary's The Job
will start March 14; and the yet untitled Joan Cusack sitcom will premiere Tuesday, March 27. ABC's lone midseason drama, The Beast, will air on Mondays at 10 p.m. ET after Gideon's Crossing
wraps up its first season this spring.