ABC, Eye starting strong

Alphabet scores 5th demo win

ABC was the top demo draw in primetime for a fifth straight frame last week, matching the best start for any net in five seasons.

Though CBS has been a close second in adults 18-49 each time, the Alphabet net prevailed once again in the industry’s most closely watched ratings category thanks to its strong returning shows and the emergence of rookie hit “Ugly Betty.”

No network has won five straight to start the season since NBC in 2001. Like the Peacock that year, the Alphabet’s run is expected to end in week six, which Fox should win with the World Series.

A big factor in ABC’s early-season success has been the strength of “Dancing With the Stars,” which comprises 2½ hours over two nights. Now in its third edition, show is hotter than ever and has helped compensate for the net’s loss of “Monday Night Football” — a top-10 performer for more than 35 years.

“Desperate Housewives” and “Lost” have lost some steam but remain among the biggest shows on television, while “Grey’s Anatomy” is enjoying its strongest season and has dominated its hour on Thursday.

Through five weeks of the season, according to Nielsen data, ABC is down just 2% vs. last year to lead all networks (4.1/11), with CBS a close second (4.0/11, even) and NBC a solid third (3.7/10, up 12%). But the story is especially impressive for ABC if you toss out sports: It’s up 10% in adults 18-49 vs. last year and 13% among adults 18-34.

Fox (3.0/8) is down 6% year-to-year but could erase those losses this week if the World Series extends to a sixth game as expected.

Looking at the week of Oct. 16-22, ABC’s 4.0 rating/11 share in adults 18-49 edged out Fox (3.8/11) and CBS (3.8/10), with Fox much more competitive than usual thanks to three strong baseball contests. NBC, without football for the first time this fall, ran fourth (3.2/9).

Just as ABC has started the season a perfect 5-for-5 in the 18-49 demo, CBS remained perfect in both adults 25-54 (4.8/12 to ABC’s 4.6/11) and total viewers (12.6 million to runner-up Fox’s 11.9 million).

The Alphabet’s “Grey’s Anatomy” (9.6/23 in 18-49, 22.05m) and “Desperate Housewives” (8.1/18, 19.71m) were the week’s top shows in 18-49, with Tuesday’s “Dancing With the Stars” hitting a season high (6.0/16, 21.25m) to place fifth in the demo and third in overall total viewers.

“Ugly Betty” continues to shine Thursdays at 8 (4.4/12, 13.17m), and “Brothers & Sisters” (4.9/12, 11.92m) was again the top drama in its Sunday slot among adults 18-49. “The Nine” stabilized on Wednesday (3.1/8, 8.21m), but again lost more than half of its “Lost” lead-in, while the net’s shakiest rookie, “Six Degrees” (3.5/9, 8.36m), held a season-low 36% of its 18-49 “Grey’s” lead-in.

“Men in Trees,” a show with some buzz despite airing on Friday, took a dip (1.7/5, 6.24m) and placed fourth in its timeslot. New comedy “Help Me Help You” (3.1/8, 10.32m) has held steady Tuesday at 9:30 behind “Dancing” but places fourth.

At CBS, first-year drama “Shark” (4.2/11 in 18-49, 13.71m) closed the demo gap with NBC’s slot-leading “ER” (5.6/15, 13.72m), retaining a best-yet 61% of its lead-in from “CSI” (6.9/16, 20.49m).

“Jericho” continues to perform solidly (3.1/9, 10.88m) despite a slight demo dropoff, but “The Class” (3.0/8 in 18-49, 8.45m) didn’t look as good relative to lead-in “How I Met Your Mother” (3.3/9, 9.05m) in its second try in the 8:30 slot.

Among returning shows, Friday’s “Numbers” hit a season high (3.5/11, 11.95m) and both “Criminal Minds” on Wednesday (4.5/11, 16.20m) and “Cold Case” on Sunday (4.3/10, 14.81m) closed the gap with their heavyweight ABC competitors.

At NBC, “Heroes” (5.7/13, 12.96m) remained in the top 10 in 18-49 and was again the week’s No. 1 series in men 18-34 (6.0/16). Also, Friday gamer “1 vs. 100” looks like a keeper after a second winning outing (3.7/12, 11.97m).

And while “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” hit a season low on Monday (3.1/8, 7.74m), there was encouraging news for modest performer “Friday Night Lights” (2.7/7, 6.55m), which rose week-to-week and hit a high in adults 18-34 (2.6/8).

Peacock’s “The Office” (4.1/10 in 18-49, 8.46m) was the week’s No. 1 comedy in adults 18-34 (4.3/12).

For Fox, Game 1 of the World Series was soft on Saturday (3.6/12 in 18-49, 12.84m), but Game 2 on Sunday (5.9/15, 18.16m) came in ahead of last year’s comparable contest. Thursday’s seventh and deciding game of the National League Championship Series also delivered (5.4/15, 16.53m).

Through five weeks, the CW has inched ahead of the WB’s five-week average in its target adults 18-34 demo (1.7 to 1.6), thanks to its best Tuesday average of the season (2.1/6) for drama pair “Gilmore Girls” and “Veronica Mars.” Friday’s “WWE Smackdown” matched its season high in 18-34 (1.6/6) and led from 8 to 10 among males 12-34 (2.4/10).

There were several standouts in cable, led as usual by ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” (5.6/15 in 18-49, 14.23m), which racked up good numbers for the Chicago Bears’ big rally against the Arizona Cardinals.

Also, the “Project Runway” finale set records for Bravo on Wednesday (2.6/7 in 18-49, 5.36m) — including an 11 share nationally in women 18-34 — and FX’s “Nip/Tuck” (2.2/6 in 18-49, 3.98m) had its best showing since September.

And Disney Channel’s Hauntoberfest programming really clicked with young viewers, especially Friday’s original movie “Return to Halloweentown” (1.5/5 in 18-49, 7.53m), which was the No. 1 program in its timeslot among viewers 12-34 (2.5/10).

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