NBC, CBS top soft week

Powered by their strong Thursday lineups, NBC and CBS were the standout performers in primetime last week as the November sweep got under way — but it was a soft week overall for broadcasters.

With a dearth of new hits, declines for veteran series and without postseason baseball for the first week this season, the six broadcast nets declined a troubling 12% in adults 18-49 vs. their week-six results of a year ago and by 16% in adults 18-34, according to Nielsen.

All six nets showed year-to-year declines in the 18-49 demo, with UPN holding up the best (off 6%) and the WB the worst (down 21%). Combined, the six-net share of the 18-49 pie fell to 48 from 53 in the same week last season.

Picking up the slack on the cable side were male-skewing nets like ESPN, TNT and Spike — all of which showed up among the week’s top five basic cablers in adults 18-49, and delivered year-to-year gains.

For the week of Oct. 27-Nov. 2, which included the opening four nights of the November sweep, NBC was primetime’s comfortable leader in adults 18-49 (4.4/12), and also led in 25-54 (4.9/12) and 18-34 (3.7/12).

CBS was solid as well, placing second in 18-49 (3.6/10), pulling to within a tick of NBC in 25-54 (4.8/12) and running away from the pack in overall audience (13.71 million viewers).

ABC and Fox tied for third in 18-49 (3.4/9), down 13% and 17% respectively vs. a year ago. It was Fox’s first full week since baseball, but most of its new shows failed to ignite much viewer interest.

Overall, NBC drama “ER” ranked as the week’s No. 1 program in 18-49 (9.7/25), while CBS drama “CSI,” also airing on Thursday, was No. 1 among total viewers (27.35) and a close No. 2 in 18-49 (9.5/23).

For NBC, it was another balanced week, as the net placed first or second in 18-49 on six nights and accounted for 11 of the week’s top 30 programs in the demo.

“Friends” remained the top comedy in 18-49 despite year-to-year declines (9.0/24), “Third Watch” relocated to Friday with a timeslot victory (3.2/11 in 18-49, 10.49m), and the net improved various timeslots in the early going of sweeps by preempting rookie series “Coupling,” “Miss Match” and “The Lyon’s Den.”

Comedies “Whoopi” and “Happy Family” continue to deliver solid Tuesday ratings for the net, and “Whoopi” is also holding up pretty well with Saturday repeats.

CBS won the week in men 25-54, powered by a strong Thursday behind “Survivor” and “CSI.” The reality adventure series topped an original seg of NBC’s “Friends” in both 25-54 and total viewers for the first time in 2½ years.

Monday comedies “Yes, Dear” and “Still Standing” also hit season highs.

And four of the Eye’s five first-year skeins still on the air are delivering the goods, with Tuesday’s “Navy NCIS” (2.9/8 in 18-49, 13.50m) matching or setting highs in key demos last week. Friday drama “The Handler” (1.8/6 in 18-49, 7.94m) is sagging, though.

ABC, third or fourth in most key measures, had its share of highlights, including a season high for “NYPD Blue” (4.2/11 in 18-49), another strong perf by Wednesday’s “The Bachelor” (top show of the night in 18-49, 6.3/16), and a dominant perf on Tuesday at 8 from “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” (5.0/14 in 18-49), which drew its largest aud in 12 years (13.21m).

On the downer side, “L.A. Dragnet” continues to have a tough time on Saturday, falling to fourth for its hour (1.5/5 in 18-49), behind dramas on NBC and CBS and college football on ESPN.

Fox settled for a third-place 18-49 tie for the week despite an NFL overrun that dominated the early part of Sunday prime ,and nice fall debuts for “That ’70s Show,” “The OC” and “The Simpsons.”

“Tru Calling” did OK in its Thursday debut (1.9/5 in 18-49, 4.88m), but new comedies “A Minute With Stan Hooper” (3.6/10 in 18-49, 7.11m) and “Arrested Development” (3.3/8 in 18-49, 7.98m) both tripped out of the gate.

The WB topped UPN in adults 18-34 for a sixth straight week to start the season, but its advantage was shaved to 6% (1.7/5 vs. 1.6/5). UPN aired two nights of repeats, and the WB one.

UPN, the only broadcaster to take advantage of the end of baseball and increase its male aud week-to-week, got a jolt from Thursday’s “WWE Smackdown” (2.5/6 in 18-49, 5.95m), which hit season highs and its best male demos in more than 1½ years.

The WB continues to show gains on Wednesday with its combo of “Smallville” and “Angel,” but is down most everywhere else.

Spike moved up to the No. 5 position for the week among ad-supported cablers in adults 18-49, led by the finale of “Joe Schmo” on Tuesday, which was the week’s top entertainment series on cable (Daily Variety, Oct. 30), and by another strong showing for Monday’s WWE wrestling.

ESPN’s pro football game between the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings on Sunday delivered the largest aud for a cable sports program this year (10.99 million) and grabbed 18 and 19 shares in male demos.

TNT’s Sunday airing of the original “Matrix” was cable’s top-rated movie of the week (2.0/5 in 18-49, 4.40m).

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