Fox does a number with ‘Idol’

Net wins week for first time in their history

As “American Idol” wrapped up, Fox cleaned up.

Three hours of gaudy “Idol” finale numbers on Tuesday and Wednesday helped the net score some historic ratings finishes last week — including victories in every key demo breakdown.

The two-night finale of “Idol,” this summer’s breakout hit, produced the week’s top two rankings in adults 18-49 (10.7/30 and 9.3/24), total viewers (22.77 million and 18.69m) and most other demos, according to Nielsen. Wednesday’s “Idol” gave Fox its best series scores on any night since a January 2000 episode of “Malcolm in the Middle.”

It’s also the first time in network history that Fox has won a week in both adults 18-49 and total viewers without the help of the World Series or Super Bowl.

Fox topped second-place CBS by 57% in adults 18-49 — its largest victory margin ever for a week without major sports help — and more than doubled second-place NBC’s score in adults 18-34.

But Fox’s week wasn’t all “Idol,” as it had five of the frame’s top 10 shows in 18-49. Net scored big on Monday with theatrical repeat “There’s Something About Mary” and on Sunday with an NFL overrun and comedy repeats.

Net must now hope that its heavy summer circulation will help it launch its new series this fall, some of which premiere next week.

CBS was a solid second in adults 18-49, adults 25-54 and total viewers, thanks to two bonus episodes of “CSI” and a big sports Saturday (college football and U.S. Open tennis) that gave the net its first outright demo victory on the night since March. “Big Brother 3” also drew its largest Thursday aud of the summer (9.79m).

NBC fell to third in adults 18-49 for the first time since December but did claim 11 of the week’s top 30 programs in adults 18-49, led by a summer-best score for “Friends” (4.9/16). Net’s Tuesday “Dateline” also continues to shine, ranking as the No. 1 newsmag in adults 18-49 (3.6/10) and 25-54 (4.2/10) for an eighth straight week.

ABC, hampered by six hours of low-rated news series “In Search of America,” remained fourth in most categories. Net’s biggest successes came from movies on Thursday and Sunday and “America’s Funniest Home Videos” on Friday.

ABC’s sister network ESPN had a great week, as NFL games on Sunday (12.10m) and Thursday (10.80m) ranked among the week’s top 15 most-watched programs, and in the top 10 among adults 18-49.

Sunday

CBS won in viewers with an unusual lineup consisting of U.S. Open tennis, a two-hour “60 Minutes” and a repeat of “Everybody Loves Raymond.” Fox led in adults 18-49 behind a 31-minute NFL overrun (8.8/30) and a repeat of “The Simpsons” (4.8/14).

ESPN’s pro football game between the Dallas Cowboys and first-year Houston Texans was primetime’s No. 1 program in adults 18-49 (5.5/15), while HBO’s “Sex and the City” wrapped its season with merely average numbers (7.37m, 3.9/10 in 18-49).

Saturday

CBS’ combo of college football and tennis easily won, with the latter’s U.S. Open women’s final (7.89m, 2.9/10) down about 25% from last year’s record-setting perf. Nothing else on the nets really clicked, although Fox’s “America’s Most Wanted” matched its best 18-49 rating since June (2.7/9).

TNT’s “Chevy Monte Carlo 400” auto race averaged 5.7 million viewers, while two new episodes of TLC’s “Trading Spaces” also did well, averaging 4.4 million.

Friday

ABC won the first two hours with “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” but NBC squeaked ahead for the night thanks to the 10 p.m. episode of “Law & Order: SVU” (11.16m, 3.6/12 in 18-49). “SVU” topped the combined ABC-CBS output in the hour, with the Eye’s “NFL Kickoff Concert” bombing (3.06m, 1.1/4).

Fox’s repeat of “Starship Troopers” didn’t do much (4.88m, 1.8/6) but led the night in men 18-49 (2.1/8).

Thursday

CBS easily led the broadcasters behind “Big Brother 3” (9.79m, 4.4/14 in 18-49) and two repeat hours of “CSI.” The 10 p.m. “CSI” (14.93m, 5.3/15) easily topped NBC’s “ER” repeat (7.61m, 3.5/10), although the medical drama saw its best scores since June.

Elsewhere, NBC’s “Friends” racked up its top ratings since the May sweep (10.68m, 4.9/16) and ABC grabbed its largest Thursday 8-10 p.m. aud since April with a repeat of theatrical “The Edge” (6.87m).

The Giants-49ers NFL opener scored big for ESPN (10.80m, 5.0/15), winning the night in men 18-49 (7.9/23) and men 18-34 (7.5/25).

Wednesday

Two-hour finale of “American Idol” gave Fox its strongest non-World Series Wednesday in adults 18-49 (10.7/30) since May 1994 and its best ever in total viewers (22.77m).

At 9, CBS’ “Big Brother” held up OK (9.20m, 3.9/10).

Tuesday

Penultimate episode of “American Idol” delivered Fox’s highest series ratings ever in the 9 p.m. hour among adults 18-49 (9.3/24), adults 18-34 (10.2/29) and total viewers (18.69m).

Comedy special “The 40th Anniversary of the Improv” performed well in the 8 o’clock hour for NBC (7.83m, 3.0/9), placing second to Fox’s one-hour “That ’70s Show” repeat.

CBS fell to fourth place in total viewers with sluggish repeat scores for its legal-eagles drama trio.

Monday

Fox won Labor Day in adults 18-49 (4.4/11) as “There’s Something About Mary” more than tripled the net’s regular-program average this summer. Movie also significantly outperformed its premiere on Fox in May 2001.

CBS won big in viewers with “Raymond” (14.28m) and a 10 p.m. “CSI” (13.44m).

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