Fox races to the top

'Idol,' NASCAR set pace for demo victory

Fox lapped its rivals in primetime last week behind the final three hours of “American Idol” and a big tune-in for Sunday’s NASCAR race.

Net rolled during the May 23-29 frame, which included the final three nights of the broadcast season and May sweep, topping each of the other three major webs by a big 8 shares in adults 18-49, according to Nielsen. Its 5.1 rating/16 share was followed by NBC (2.8/8) and ABC and CBS at 2.6/8.

Fox’s 18-49 victory was so big that it also won easily in tangential demo categories like adults 25-54 (5.6 rating/15 share) and persons 12-34 (4.0/14) and cruised in total viewers (12.5 million), handing CBS (9.4 million) a rare setback.

Sesh was highlighted by strong early-week season finales, led by Wednesday’s “American Idol” (12.5/31 in 18-49, 30.27 million viewers overall), which was up 4% in 18-49 vs. its third-season finale last year.

On the same night, ABC’s “Lost” (7.8/19 in 18-49, 20.71m) went out with big numbers, and NBC’s “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” (5.0/12 in 18-49, 14.98m) won the 10 o’clock hour with its special off-night season ender.

Monday finale highlights were led by CBS’ “CSI: Miami” (7.3/18 in 18-49, 21.22m) and Fox’s “24” (5.1/14, 12.23m), while Tuesday standouts were Fox’s “House” (7.7/18 in 18-49, 19.52m) and NBC’s “Law & Order: SVU” (6.0/15, 16.38m).

It wasn’t a good week for a pair of tabloidy telepics, as ABC’s “Trump Unauthorized” on Tuesday (2.1/5 in 18-49, 5.55m) and CBS’ “Amber Frey: Witness for the Prosecution” on Wednesday (2.1/5, 7.46m) left their respective nets in fourth place.

On the other hand, newsmags began to make their summer rally: Friday’s “Dateline” on NBC and “20/20” on ABC joined CBS’ “48 Hours Mystery” on Saturday in winning their timeslots in adults 25-54.

Elsewhere during the week, Fox rolled Sunday with NASCAR’s Coca Cola 600 race from Charlotte, N.C. (3.9/14 in 18-49, 10.23m), which was up year-to-year by about 10% in key male demos and by a big 23% in total viewers.

At ABC, Monday spec “Nick & Jessica: Tour of Duty,” featuring Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson entertaining the troops in Iraq, settled for soft numbers (2.4/6 in 18-49, 6.06m) — a far cry from the duo’s Christmas spec last December (5.1/12, 12.40m). Net fared better Sunday with a repeat of “Desperate Housewives” (2.8/8 in 18-49, 7.43m), the night’s top entertainment program in 18-49.

NBC, whose week started with solid numbers for the first-season finale of psychic crime drama “Medium” (4.5/11 in 18-49, 11.79m) ended the frame with credible scores for its eighth airing of “Titanic” (2.3/7, 6.26m).

In between, Tuesday’s two-hour finale of “The Contender” performed well (3.8/9 in 18-49, 7.98m), up 35% in 18-49 vs. its regular-slot Sunday average and winning from 9 to 10 in men 18-34.

CBS ruled Thursday with its repeats of crime dramas, led by “CSI” (4.7/14 in 18-49, 16.10m), and like NBC generated solid Sunday Nielsens for a well-worn theatrical — the Ashley Judd thriller “Double Jeopardy” (2.3/7, 8.54m).

At UPN, limited-run series “Britney & Kevin Chaotic” (1.5/4 in 18-49, 3.05m) declined 30% in 18-34 from its hot week-earlier preem, leading into anemic scores for the bow of laffer “Bad Girl’s Guide” (0.8/2 in 18-49, 1.83m). Highlight of the week was Monday’s season finale of “Girlfriends” (1.9/5, 4.36m).

The WB was paced by Tuesday’s two-hour season finale of “One Tree Hill” (1.6/4 in 18-49, 3.61m), which ran second to Fox in femmes 12-34 (3.8/10).

Among ad-supported cable nets, TNT rose up to tie UPN for the week in adults 18-49 (1.2/3) and was fifth outright in total viewers (3.03 million). Three of its NBA Playoff contests topped 5 million viewers, led by Wednesday’s Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals between the Detroit Pistons and Miami Heat (2.4/6, 5.46m).

On Monday of the current week, A&E’s original movie “Faith of My Fathers,” based on the memoirs of Senator John McCain, averaged 3.7 million viewers — the cabler’s most-watched program in more than a year.

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