Auds befriend Eye

CBS surpasses 'Must-See' block Thursday

Conventional wisdom had CBS taking take control of Thursday nights after “Friends” bid adieu next spring. Well, the Eye isn’t waiting.

On the second Thursday of the November sweep, all three of the Eye’s programs set in-season highs, powering the net to a first-place tie with NBC in adults 18-49 and dominant outright victories in adults 25-54 and total viewers. It’s the first time since records were initially kept in 1987 that CBS has been on top in 18-49 for a November sweep Thursday.

One night later, although not quite as momentous an achievement, ABC racked up its first November 18-49 victory on a Friday in three years courtesy of its “TGIF” comedy block and Barbara Walters’ chat with Martha Stewart on “20/20.”

Despite not winning outright on Thursday and Friday, as it did a year ago in both cases, 18-49 sweeps leader NBC remains the most consistent net in the demo. It has placed first or second in 18-49 on each of the first 10 nights of the sweep.

Fox remains the laggard among the Big Four, although it did win Saturday.

According to Nielsen, CBS and NBC tied for Thursday’s 18-49 lead (8.2/21), the best score for the Eye’s regular lineup on the night in nearly a year and the lowest November result in years for the Peacock.

‘CSI’ tops

Most impressive was 9 o’clock’s “CSI,” which posted its best results since last November and drew the largest aud for any telecast this season (29.65 million). It topped its NBC-ABC-Fox competish combined in both adults 25-54 (13.0/28 vs. 11.3/25) and total viewers (29.65m vs. 24.26m), and was in a virtual dead heat with the other three nets in 18-49 (10.5/26 vs. 10.6/26).

Also for CBS, “Survivor: Pearl Islands” (8.1/21 in 18-49, 21.44m) delivered its strongest ratings since its 90-minute preem, and 10 o’clock drama “Without a Trace” hit season highs (6.0/16 in 18-49, 18.45m).

NBC was paced by “Friends,” which led in 18-49 at 8 (9.2/25), and “ER,” which remained in control at 10 (9.1/24, 20.04m).

Elsewhere on the night, ABC’s “Threat Matrix” (2.0/5 in 18-49) drew its largest overall aud yet (8.10 million) and the WB’s “Steve Harvey’s Big Time” posted its second-best women 18-34 score in nine outings (1.9/5).

And in a good sign for UPN, “WWE Smackdown” (2.4/6 in 18-49, 5.81m) posted its second straight week of improved numbers, this time its best male 12-34 score (4.3/13) since December.

On Friday, ABC took five of six half-hours in 18-49, led by the best score for “20/20” (prelim 4.1/13, 13.8m) in more than 18 months. Newsmag topped “Third Watch” on NBC (prelim 3.1/10 in 18-49, 9.4 million) and “The Handler” on CBS (prelim 2.3/7 in 18-49, 7.9 million).

ABC laffers lead

ABC comedies also led their slots in prelim 18-49 results at 8 with “George Lopez” (3.1/11), at 9 with “Hope & Faith” (3.8/12) and at 9:30 with “Life With Bonnie” (3.2/10). “Hope” delivered the skein’s best numbers since its preem with a seg featuring guest star Regis Philbin.

CBS was again solid at 8 with “Joan of Arcadia” (prelim 2.8/10 in 18-49, 11.3 million), which led its hour in 25-54 and total viewers for a seventh straight week. And at 9, “JAG” (prelim 2.6/8 in 18-49, 13 million) moved ahead of NBC’s “Miss Match” in 18-49 (2.2/7) and was in a virtual tie with ABC for the hour’s 25-54 lead.

It was a soft return to the sked after one week off for “Miss Match,” which posted its lowest 9 o’clock scores yet.

The WB’s “Reba” (1.7/6 in 18-49) moved ahead of Fox’s “Wanda at Large” (1.5/5) for the first time at 8, as Fox again ran a distant fourth for the evening.

Net fared better on Saturday as “Cops” and “America’s Most Wanted” combine for a nightly victory in 18-49 (2.9/9, best for them since April). CBS led in total viewers.

ABC didn’t do much with the net preem of “102 Dalmatians” (prelim 1.7/6 in 18-49, 6.2m).

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