'Millionaire' Helps Pay ABC a Weekly Dividend

"Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" paced ABC to an easy victory last week, as CBS' challenge pretty much began and ended with the ratings high achieved by its summer hit "Survivor," based on viewing estimates issued Tuesday by Nielsen Media Research.

Tuning up for its move to Thursdays, NBC's "Will & Grace," starring Debra Messing and Eric McCormack, ran a mini-marathon featuring six episodes chosen by viewers. Ratings were reasonably impressive, with four of the six installments (the other two went up against sitcom-killer "Millionaire") represented in the week's Top 20 programs.

ABC posted its best Sunday night in six weeks, as "Millionaire" exceeded the combined audience for NBC, CBS and Fox by 4.6 million viewers. In addition, the Thursday "Millionaire" is funneling viewers into ABC's newsmagazine "20/20 Downtown," which has beaten "ER" reruns four times in the last five weeks.

Between "Millionaire" and "Survivor," the percentage of homes watching TV is up this summer for the first time since 1993. Last week, every broadcast network but the WB exhibited gains versus the corresponding week a year ago. CBS' "Big Brother," meanwhile, appeared to miss ousted contestant William Collins over the weekend, as viewing sank to the show's lowest level yet Saturday, down 17% from the week before.

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 8.05 2. Wrestling (Mon., 9 p.m.) USA 7.01 3. "Nuremberg" Pt. 2 TNT 6.05 4. Sex and the City HBO 4.56 5. Arli$$ HBO 3.75 6. "Ellen DeGeneres/Beginning" HBO 3.67 7. Real World MTV 3.61 8. Wrestling (Wed., 10 p.m.) TBS 3.50 9. Sunday Night Baseball ESPN 3.24 10. Wrestling (Wed., 9 p.m.) TBS 3.20


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 10.00 million 13.37 CBS 8.89 11.89 NBC 8.11 11.72 FOX 6.19 8.41 UPN 3.29 3.81 WB 2.42 3.39


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. Survivor KCBS 874,195 2. Millionaire (Sun.) KABC 706,685 3. Millionaire (Tue.) KABC 680,511 4. Millionaire (Thur.) KABC 638,633 5. The Practice KABC 549,644 6. Will & Grace KNBC 528,705 7. 20/20 Downtown KABC 507,766 8. Dharma & Greg KABC 497,297 20/20 KABC 497,297 10. Dateline NBC (Mon.) KNBC 492,062


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