NBC, CBS duke it out as sweeps begin

Morning Ratings Flash - Rick Kissell

NBC and CBS waged another epic Thursday night battle to kick off the February sweeps, with the Peacock capturing the night in key demos and the Eye on top in total viewership, according to preliminary nationals from Nielsen. The two nets accounted for 46% of the adults 18-49 audience on the evening.

An expanded episode of NBC’s “Friends” kicked off the night with the top 18-49 score for any program Thursday (projected 11.3/30, 25.1 million viewers overall), besting the hourlong delivery of CBS’ “Survivor: All-Stars” (8.9/22 in adults 18-49, 23.1 million viewers overall).

CBS drama “CSI” ruled the 9 o’clock hour with some season highs (10.7/25 in adults 18-49, 29.6 million viewers overall) despite tough competish from the final hour of an expanded episode of NBC reality skein “The Apprentice” (projected 9.3/22 in adults 18-49, 18.6 million viewers overall), which remains a strong addition to the Peacock lineup.

And in the 10 o’clock hour, NBC’s “ER” (10.5/26 in adults 18-49, 22.3 million viewers overall) disposed of CBS drama “Without a Trace” (6.4/16 in adults 18-49, 19.4 million viewers overall). “ER” was down slightly vs. its February opener of a year ago, while the second-year “Trace” was up about 15% and delivered its best demo scores to date.

ABC was the strongest of Thursday’s also-rans, getting respectable numbers out of a special wedding edition of “Extreme Makeover” at 9 (3.4/8 in adults 18-49, 9.1 million viewers overall) and from 10 o’clock’s “Primetime” (3.1/8 in adults 18-49, 8.9 million viewers overall).

Fox was a distant fourth with “Tru Calling” (1.9/5 in adults 18-49, 4.9 million viewers overall) and a repeat of “My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance” at 9 (2.1/5 in adults 18-49, 5.2 million viewers overall).

Preliminary 18-49 averages for the night: NBC, 10.2/25; CBS, 8.7/21; ABC, 2.8/7; Fox, 2.0/5; UPN, 1.7/4; WB, 0.9/2.

In total viewers: CBS, 24.0 million; NBC, 21.3 million; ABC, 8.2 million; Fox, 5.1 million; UPN, 4.7 million; WB, 2.3 million.

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