Eye has summer fun with 'Race,' 'Brother'

Its broadcast rivals are wilting in the heat, but CBS is living it up this summer in the cabana.

Last week, the return of popular unscripted franchises “Big Brother” and “The Amazing Race” helped the Eye record comfortable primetime victories in key demos in addition to its routine triumph in total viewers.

Similar to the final standings for the 2003-04 television season that ended in May, CBS last week was the only network to improve upon its performance of a year ago — up a hearty 17% in adults 18-49, according to Nielsen.

Overall, though, the six broadcast nets combined for just 36% of the adults 18-49 primetime audience last week (down from last year’s 40 share), with ABC, NBC, UPN and the WB off 10% or more and Fox slipping by 9%.

Through six weeks of the summer season, the broadcasters have totaled the same 36 share in the key demo, dragged down by ratings losses of 20% or more by Fox and UPN. CBS is up 4% in 18-49 and is seeing increases in other key categories.

With a good mix of repeat scripted and original unscripted offerings, the Eye net dominated the upper echelons of the program rankings, claiming seven of the top 10 shows in adults 18-49 and 25-54 — including the top five in the latter.

Leading the way were Thursday drama “CSI” (5.0/15 in adults 18-49, 5.8/16 in adults 25-54), which was the week’s most-watched program overall with 14.83 million viewers, and repeats of Monday hits “CSI: Miami” (5.7/15 in 18-49, 14.00m), “Everybody Loves Raymond” (4.1/12 in 18-49, 12.24m) and “Two and a Half Men” (4.0/11 in 18-49, 12.45m).

Throw in Thursday’s “Without a Trace,” and CBS possesses the summer’s top three dramas and top two scripted comedies in 18-49.

And giving the net a demo jolt on Tuesday were the 90-minute premieres of “Amazing Race 5″ (4.3/12 in 18-49, 10.30m) and “Big Brother 5″ (3.8/12 in 18-49, 9.55m), both winning their slots in key categories (Daily Variety, July 8).

NBC, meanwhile, ran second in 18-49 (2.5/8) and 25-54 (2.8/8) but edged out Fox for the lead in the 18-34 demo (2.4/8 vs. 2.3/8).

Net gave extra exposure to rookie drama “Las Vegas,” which played four times on the Peacock sked and ranked as the No. 1 program in 18-49 on Friday (2.2/7) and Sunday (3.0/8). Also delivering solid ratings were “Will & Grace” (3.2/10 in 18-49, 6.76m) and a pair of “Friends” repeats — likely the last NBC airings for the laffer until the series finale is rebroadcast.

And among alternative programming, the finale of “For Love or Money 3″ hit its strongest ratings of the summer (3.8/11 in 18-49, 8.80m) and Tuesday’s “Last Comic Standing” (4.1/11 in 18-49, 8.39m) held up well opposite increased CBS competish.

Fox continues to generate tepid ratings outside of Wednesday, where “Simple Life 2″ again stood out (4.7/14 in 18-49, 9.57m). In its intended fall timeslot of Friday at 9, relocated drama “The Jury” again struggled (1.2/4 in 18-49, 2.87m).

And ABC got decent numbers out of comedies “My Wife and Kids” and “Drew Carey” on Wednesday but was saddled with low ratings for Thursday’s firstrun drama “Stephen King’s Kingdom Hospital” (0.9/3 in 18-49) and Sunday’s unscripted spec “Great Domestic Showdown” (1.8/5 in 18-49).

The network evening newscast race saw NBC’s “Nightly News” (2.4 rating) reassume its lead last week over ABC’s “World News Tonight” (2.3) in the key 25-54 demo as Peacock heir apparent Brian Williams subbed for Tom Brokaw.

USA led among the ad-supported cable networks, with its 1.0 rating in adults 18-49 matching UPN and edging out the WB (0.9) for the week. Sunday’s premiere of “The 4400″ was a big success (2.8/8 in 18-49, 7.41m), topping ABC, CBS and Fox programming in key demos from 9 to 11.

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