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ABC off to strong start

NEW YORK (AP) -- ABC is off to a strong start in what promises to be a fiercely competitive "sweeps" month for television networks.

The musical "Annie" and the game show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" held off leprechauns, government agents and rock 'n' rollers on Sunday, giving ABC a big night in the Nielsen Media Research ratings.The 26 million viewers for "Annie" gave it the largest audience of any Disney movie since "Cinderella" two years ago. "Millionaire" drew just under 26 million viewers, its biggest audience ever.

In household ratings, CBS won the week with a 9.1 rating and 15 share. NBC had an 8.9-14 share, ABC had an 8.7-14 and Fox had a 6.4-10. But ABC actually had more people watching, during an average prime-time hour, than any other network. ABC also narrowly edged NBC among 18- to 49-year-old viewers, the demographic most sought by advertisers.

Final ratings returns showed "Millionaire" beating Fox's season premiere of "The X-Files," as well as NBC's "The Magical Legend of the Leprechauns" and CBS's "Shake, Rattle & Roll."

Among the second tier of networks, the WB's 2.9 rating and 4 share narrowly edged newly competitive UPN's 2.7 rating and 4 share. Pax TV had a 0.8 rating and 1 share.

A rating point represents 1,008,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation's estimated 100.8 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show. For the week of Nov. 1-7, the top 10 shows, their networks and ratings were 1. "ER," NBC, 19.5; 2. "Friends," NBC, 15.5; 3. (tie) "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," ABC, and "NFL Monday Night Football: Seattle at Green Bay," ABC, 14.9; 5. "Wonderful World of Disney: Annie," ABC, 14.2; 6. "Frasier," NBC, 14.0; 7. "60 Minutes," CBS, 13.4; 8. "NFL Monday Showcase," ABC, 13.0; 9. "The Practice," ABC, 12.7; 10. "Jesse," NBC, 12.2.