NEW YORK — "Secret Millionaire" paid off handsomely for ABC.
The short-run series, in which a wealthy person goes undercover in a community and rewards someone doing good work, reached 12.7 million viewers for its debut on ABC during a busy night of reality TV on Sunday, the Nielsen Co. said.
That crushed NBC's hope to start a franchise in that time slot, "America's Next Great Restaurant." That series was seen by only 4.6 million people. "Secret Millionaire" also had a larger audience than CBS' two established reality shows on Sunday night, "Undercover Boss" and "Amazing Race."
Donald Trump, who doesn't like to lose, had 7.9 million viewers for the premiere of a new "Celebrity Apprentice" session on NBC Sunday.
There was little advance indication that "Millionaire" would start so strongly. The show, with the same production company, ran as six separate one-hour specials on Fox in December 2008, where it averaged 6.7 million viewers, Nielsen said.
ABC promoted the second run aggressively. The stars of Sunday's episode, millionaire motivational speaker Dani Johnson and the women running a soup kitchen in Knoxville, Tenn., were featured on Oprah Winfrey's talk show.
Meanwhile, television's most popular comedy last week was CBS' "Two and a Half Men," even though it was airing a rerun because star Charlie Sheen's troubles forced a stop in production. Warner Bros. Television said Monday that it was firing Sheen.
Three editions – instead of the usual two – of "American Idol" helped Fox win the ratings race last week with an average of 11.6 million viewers (6.5 rating, 11 share). CBS had 10 million viewers (6.2, 10), ABC had 6.6 million (4.1, 7), NBC had 5.5 million (3.5, 6), the CW had 1.6 million (1.0, 2) and ION Television had 1.2 million (0.8, 1).
Among the Spanish-language networks, Univision led with an average of 3.8 million viewers (1.9 rating, 3 share), Telemundo had 1.3 million (0.7, 1), TeleFutura had 780,000 (0.4, 1), Estrella had 220,000 and Azteca 200,000 viewers (both 0.1, 0).
NBC's "Nightly News" topped the evening newscasts with an average of 9.3 million viewers (6, 12). ABC's "World News" was second with 8.5 million (5.7, 11) and the "CBS Evening News" had 6 million viewers (4, 8).
A ratings point represents 1,159,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation's estimated 115.9 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show.
For the week of Feb. 28-March 6, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: "American Idol" (Thursday), Fox, 25.26 million; "American Idol" (Wednesday), Fox, 22.77 million; "American Idol" (Tuesday), Fox, 21.39 million; "NCIS," CBS, 19.21 million; "NCIS: Los Angeles," CBS, 15.67 million; "Criminal Minds," CBS, 14.37 million; "Secret Millionaire," ABC, 12.67 million; "60 Minutes," CBS, 12.24 million; "Two and a Half Men," CBS, 11.63 million; "The Good Wife," CBS, 11.38 million.
ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co. CBS is owned by CBS Corp. CW is a joint venture of Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS Corp. Fox and My Network TV are units of News Corp. NBC and Telemundo are owned by General Electric Co. ION Television is owned by ION Media Networks. TeleFutura is a division of Univision. Azteca America is a wholly owned subsidiary of TV Azteca S.A. de C.V.