The namesake host might have been sidelined by health problems this year, but ABC's "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve" special was one auld acquaintance that viewers didn't forget as 2004 gave way

The namesake host might have been sidelined by health problems this year, but ABC's "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve" special was one auld acquaintance that viewers didn't forget as 2004 gave way to 2005.

ABC easily won the battle of the New Year's Eve specials against NBC and Fox, even as ABC hastily recruited Regis Philbin to substitute for longtime host Clark, who suffered a stroke last month. NBC was competitive in the late-night hours with special New Year's-themed editions of "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" and "Late Night With Conan O'Brien."

The 10 p.m. primetime portion of "Rockin' Eve" averaged 8 million viewers and a 2.6 rating/10 share in the adults 18-49 demographic, according to preliminary estimates from Nielsen Media Research.

"Rockin' Eve" easily topped NBC's "New Year's Eve With Carson Daly" special (4.5 million, 1.7/6), and delivered its highest marks in three years.

After breaking at 11 p.m. for local ABC affiliate newscasts, "Rockin' Eve" returned at 11:30 p.m. and finished out its coverage of the revelry in New York's Times Square with an average 9.1 household rating/21 share in Nielsen's top 56 metered markets. (Final national ratings for the live late-night telecast won't be available until later this week.)

NBC's "Tonight Show" was a competitive No. 2 from 11:35 p.m.-12:35 a.m. with a 5.7/12 household average in the metered markets, which marked the show's highest numbers for a Friday telecast in nearly 18 months. From 12:35-1:35 a.m., "Late Night" (3.1/8) delivered its largest audience for a Friday edition since NBC carried the Winter Olympics in February 2002.

CBS sat out the New Year's special competition by running drama reruns in primetime Friday and a repeat of "The Late Show With David Letterman."

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