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'Millionaire' Numbers Down for ABC

Updated:
NEW YORK (AP) — With ``Who Wants to Be a Millionaire'' ratings down sharply, viewers may be suffering from Regis fatigue.

The game show sensation averaged 19 million viewers in October, a 21 percent drop from its average of 24 million from January through September, according to Nielsen Media Research.

That's cause for concern at ABC, which has scheduled the Regis Philbin game show for four nights a week this season. Without its typical ``Millionaire'' bump, ABC tumbled to fourth place in last week's prime-time ratings.

The game show drew an audience of 16.3 million people last Thursday, which barely qualified it for Nielsen's top 20 of the week.

ABC points out that ``Millionaire'' faced unusually strong competition in October with the baseball playoffs and premieres of competing network shows. The network hopes for a rebound this month with a second round of celebrity shows.

The decline of ``Millionaire'' is also inevitable given the sheer volume of shows it puts on the air, said executive producer Michael Davies. While not the big event it once was, it's still doing strong business, he said.

''`Millionaire's' strength is that it's the Energizer bunny,'' Davies said. ``We're going to keep on going when everybody else is in repeats.''

NBC's one-hour season premiere of ``Frasier'' drew 28.6 million viewers on Oct. 24, making it the week's most-watched program.

The sitcom that replaced ``Frasier'' on Thursday's NBC schedule, ``Will & Grace,'' had 17.5 million viewers, even fewer than the premiere of the new Thursday comedy ``Cursed.''

NBC isn't second-guessing its decision, spokesman Mike Nelson said Tuesday. ``Will & Grace'' draws a younger audience on Thursday night, which is important to advertisers, and ``Frasier'' has strengthened NBC's Tuesday night schedule, he said.

In an extraordinarily close competition, Fox won the week's prime-time crown with the help of its World Series telecasts — even though the Mets-Yankees Subway Series was the lowest-rated fall classic ever. For the week, Fox averaged 12.89 million viewers in prime-time (8.9 rating, 14 share).

NBC averaged 12.82 million viewers (8.8, 14), CBS averaged 12.26 million (8.7, 14) and ABC had 11.82 million viewers (8.0, 13). The WB, with 4.6 million viewers (3.1, 5), beat UPN for the first time in several months. UPN had 4 million viewers (2.7, 4) and Pax TV had 1.1 million (0.9, 1).

NBC's ``Nightly News'' won the evening news ratings race with 9.3 million average viewers (7.0 rating, 15 share), ABC's ``World News Tonight'' had 8.7 million (6.8, 14) and the ``CBS Evening News'' had 8.4 million (6.3, 13).

Fox News Channel had its best ratings month in its four-year history. Its average of 246,000 viewers in October was the closest it has ever been to CNN, which had 388,000 viewers.

A rating point represents 1,022,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation's estimated 102.2 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show.

For the week of Oct. 23-29, the top 10 shows, their networks and ratings: ``Frasier,'' NBC, 18.9; ``ER,'' NBC, 17.6; ``Friends,'' NBC, 14.7; ''60 Minutes,'' CBS, 13.1; World Series Game 5: N.Y. Yankees vs. N.Y. Mets, Fox, 13.1; ``Who Wants to Be a Millionaire'' (Sunday), ABC, 13.1; ``Everybody Loves Raymond,'' CBS, 13.0; ``Who Wants to Be a Millionaire'' (Tuesday), ABC, 12.7; World Series Game 4: N.Y. Yankees vs. N.Y. Mets, Fox, 12.5; ``The Practice,'' ABC, 12.5.

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On the Net:

http://www.nielsenmedia.com
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