Fox news surges past CNN

Peacock, Eye notch top ratings

A balanced Peacock eked out a victory over Fox last week among adults 18-49, while CBS was back on top in total viewers, thanks to its Monday and Thursday lineups.

Fox, with two hours of “American Idol,” remained very competitive, but ABC once again struggled to distant fourth-place finishes. And on the cable side, Fox News Channel opened up a wider lead on CNN, with both nets atop the rankings for a third straight week.

According to national estimates from Nielsen Media Research for the week of March 31-April 6, NBC edged past Fox in adults 18-49 (4.3/12 vs. 4.2/11) and also prevailed in adults 25-54 (5.0/12). CBS drew the largest audience overall (12.1 million).

Pacing the Peacock was Thursday laffer “Friends,” which ranked as the frame’s No. 1 program in adults 18-49 (9.8/27), besting two hourlong segs of “American Idol” (9.7/24 on Wednesday and 9.6/26 on Tuesday) and CBS drama “CSI” (9.4/23).

NBC didn’t clinch the week in 18-49, though, until its strong Sunday, when “Dateline” (2.9/9), “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” (5.7/13) and a Katie Couric special on the “Central Park Jogger” (5.3/13) all led their slots. Net won the night for the first time since October.

The Peacock also did well with its new Friday sked, which saw “America’s Most Talented Kid” (first-place 3.6/12 in A18-49) improve on its week-earlier preem and “Ed” (3.8/11) and “Law & Order: SVU” (5.6/17) both dominate their hours.

CBS, which cruised to victory on Monday behind “Everybody Loves Raymond” (6.7/16 in adults 18-49) and “CSI: Miami” (6.6/17), also shaved NBC’s advantage on Thursday to 12% while pulling ahead on the night in adults 25-54 and winning easily in total viewers.

“CSI,” which returned after a two-week Thursday hiatus with an original seg that was the week’s most-watched program (26.37 million), has moved ahead of NBC’s “ER” for the season in adults 18-49 and now ranks as TV’s No. 1 drama in the key demo (9.8 vs. 9.7) — the first time the Peacock’s medical drama has been No. 2 since it premiered.

“CSI” became the most-watched drama last season and moved to the top in adults 25-54 earlier this season. “ER” maintains a slim advantage over “CSI” as the top drama among viewers under 35.

At Fox, “Idol” rocked to its best Wednesday numbers since its second week in January and lead-out comedy “Wanda at Large,” in its second try, again won the 9:30 slot (6.6/16 in A18-49, up a tick week-to-week). But Sunday laffer “The Pitts” (3.4/8 in 18-49) retained a soft 72% of its lead-in from “Malcolm in the Middle” and is looking shaky.

Net won in adults 18-34 for the 10th straight week and has opened up a 10% advantage over NBC for the season in this younger demo.

ABC struggled through another week, with a lineup of low-rated performers like the since-canceled drama “Miracles” and limp-performing reality skeins like “All-American Girl” and “Are You Hot?”

On the positive side was a solid bow for Tuesday laffer “Lost at Home” (3.9/10 in adults 18-49). And second-year laffer “According to Jim,” in its new Tuesday-at-9 slot, became the first comedy since “Home Improvement” in March 1998 to defeat an original episode of NBC’s “Frasier” in 18-49 (4.2/10 vs. 3.6/9).

The WB remained ahead of UPN in the 18-34 demo (1.5/5 vs. 1.2/4), with Sunday drama “Black Sash” performing respectably in its second outing and Friday laffer “Grounded for Life” building slightly on its repeat “Reba” lead-in.

In the evening news race, “NBC Nightly News” (10.84 million) again outdrew ABC’s “World News Tonight” (9.85m) and the “CBS Evening News” (7.33m). The Tom Brokaw-hosted program (3.4/13 in adults 25-54) has won or shared the demo lead all 28 weeks this season.

In primetime cable action, No. 1 Fox News (4.52 million, up 3% week-to-week) opened up some distance on No. 2 CNN (3.40 million, down 8%), with MSNBC (1.68m, down 12%) ranking sixth among all cablers after placing fourth the previous week. All three newsies posted year-to-year gains of 200% or better.

TNT ranked No. 3 among cablers in both total viewers and adults 18-49, although TNN’s Monday wrestling program was the top entertainment program on cable (2.2/6 in A18-49, 4.82 million viewers overall).

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