'Millionaire,' 'Practice' Give ABC Early Sweeps Lead

"Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" and the concluding half of the two-part "The Practice" that began after the Super Bowl paced ABC to a strong start in the February rating sweeps as well as its sixth consecutive weekly victory, based on viewing estimates issued Tuesday by Nielsen Media Research.

ABC's tally included the most-watched edition of football's Pro Bowl since 1997. The network boosted its results with an extra Wednesday edition of "Millionaire" thrown on to undercut NBC's "Twenty One," dealing the rival quiz show its lowest rating yet despite a $1.1-million giveaway. In similar fashion, "Millionaire" delivered blows Sunday to "The X-Files" and the movie "Face/Off."

NBC still had much to crow about over the weekend thanks to a pair of new dramas, as "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" continues to win its time slot since moving to Fridays, while the sci-fi concept "The Others" delivered promising numbers in its Saturday debut. Although "Millionaire" has siphoned some viewers away from "Frasier," NBC is also holding its own Thursdays, though an original episode of "ER" didn't command the week's No. 1 spot for only the second time this season, again yielding to the Regis Philbin game show.

CBS' Miss USA Pageant received a modest score from the Nielsen judges Friday, drawing about 1 million fewer viewers than last year.

Cable Top 10

Here are Nielsen's Top 10 cable programs in prime time last week, also ranked by total viewers (in millions).


Net- View- Program work ers 1. Wrestling (Mon., 10 p.m.) USA 7.93 2. The Sopranos HBO 7.16 3. Wrestling (Mon., 9 p.m.) USA 6.93 4. "Cabin by the Lake" USA 6.40 5. "8MM" HBO 4.77 6. Wrestling (Sun., 7 p.m.) USA 4.42 7. Wrestling (Mon., 8 p.m.) TNT 3.77 8. "Wild Things" HBO 3.14 9. Walker, Texas Ranger USA 3.04 10. "Indecent Proposal" USA 2.96


Network Averages

Here is the number of viewers that each network averaged per hour of prime time, for last week and for the season.


Last Season week to date ABC 15.96 million 13.85 NBC 12.59 12.85 CBS 12.57 12.88 FOX 8.57 9.21 UPN 4.22 3.92 WB 3.69 3.86


Southland Viewing

Here are Nielsen's Top 10 prime-time programs in the Los Angeles area during the same week. The rankings are based on the number of households watching.


Sta- House- Program tion holds 1. Friends KNBC 1,109,756 Millionaire (Tue.) KABC 1,109,756 3. ER KNBC 994,593 Millionaire (Wed.) KABC 994,593 5. Frasier KNBC 937,011 6. Millionaire (Thur.) KABC 916,073 7. Millionaire (Sun.) KABC 884,664 8. Jesse KNBC 858,491 9. The Practice KABC 806,144 10. Stark Raving Mad KNBC 706,685


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