Alphabet, Eye top early fall lineups

'Heroes' saves the day for NBC

ABC and CBS continue to be the best stories of the early going this season, each topping the rankings in key demos and getting good production out of young shows.

While the Alphabet made it three straight victories to start the season in adults 18-49, the Eye remains perfect for fall in adults 25-54 — a reflection of how tight the race is for the viewers advertisers love to reach.

NBC has made some noise, too, on the tail of CBS in adults 18-49, thanks to “Sunday Night Football” and registering the fall’s best-looking newbie in “Heroes.” And then there’s Fox, which is drooping more than usual at this point, and faces the prospect of the rest of the baseball postseason without any real marquee matchups.

For ABC, its strong start to the season has seen it dip just 2% in adults 18-49 vs. last year, when it had “Monday Night Football,” and increase a hearty 13% if you take sports out of the mix.

According to Nielsen, the season preem of “Lost” came in as the No. 3 program in 18-49, behind only the net’s “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Desperate Housewives.” Net is also doing well with its weekly 2½ hours of “Dancing With the Stars” and the new hours “Ugly Betty” and “Brothers & Sisters.”

CBS has seen its Thursday stronghold weaken some, but young shows like “Old Christine” and the new “Jericho” have improved key timeslots, and “Without a Trace” has lifted its Sunday considerably.

Looking at the Oct. 2-8 frame, the Alphabet’s 4.0 rating/11 share in adults 18-49 edged out CBS (3.8/10) and NBC (3.6/10) and was well ahead of Fox (2.7/8). By winning the first three weeks in 18-49, ABC matched last season as its strongest start in 13 years.

CBS edged past ABC for the adults 25-54 lead (4.8/12 to 4.6/12) and was again the most-watched network overall (12.5 million to 11.3 million for ABC). In the 12-34 demo, ABC bested runner-up NBC (2.9/10 to 2.6/9).

The new CW and Spanish-language Univision tied for fifth in both adults 18-49 (1.5/4) and 18-34 (1.7/5).

For ABC, “Grey’s Anatomy” (9.4/23 in 18-49, 22.80m), “Desperate Housewives” (8.6/20, 20.96m) and “Lost” (7.7/19, 18.82m) claimed the top three spots in the 18-49 rankings.

Net is seeing mixed results for the shows that follow them, though, with Sunday’s “Brothers & Sisters” looking the best (5.3/13, 13.01m) and placing No. 11 for the week in 18-49. It’s too early to read much into “The Nine” (4.6/12, 11.91m), which was unspectacular in its Wednesday bow, while “Six Degrees” is struggling behind “Grey’s” on Thursday (3.6/10, 9.11m).

Also, “Ugly Betty” (4.5/13, 14.26m) looked sharp in its second outing (Daily Variety, Oct. 9), and “Dancing With the Stars” won both its time periods.

CBS was paced by Thursday vets “CSI” (7.3/18, 21.51m) and “Survivor” (5.6/16 in 18-49, 15.83m), with the former ranking fourth in 18-49 and third in 25-54 despite facing “Grey’s.”

Wednesday’s “Jericho” (3.4/10 in 18-49, 10.83m) is the only first-year show to improve a timeslot for CBS (nearly 50% in some demos), but the net is getting nice contributions from some of its rookies from last year, including “The Unit,” “Old Christine” and “How I Met Your Mother.”

Among the freshman class, “Shark” (3.8/10, 13.75m) and “The Class” (2.7/8, 7.88m) slipped in their third outings, while the net was unhappy with “Smith” falling into third place on Tuesday (2.8/8, 8.38m) and quickly pulled the show from its sked.

NBC, which is up 15% in 18-49 through the first three weeks of the season, was led by “Sunday Night Football” (6.4/16 in 18-49, 15.14m), which has built by 9% over ABC’s “Monday Night Football” at this time a year ago. Net’s “ER” also continues to win its time period (6.1/17, 15.68m), and “Heroes” (5.5/13 in 18-49, 12.96m) held up well in its second seg.

“Friday Night Lights” (2.7/8 in 18-49, 7.17m) opened modestly on Tuesday, while “Kidnapped” hit a low on Wednesday (1.9/5, 5.15m) and will finish its run on Saturdays.

In a week when low-rated baseball games filled four of its seven nights, Fox was paced by Monday’s “Prison Break” (3.8/10 in 18-49, 8.99m), which narrowly led its slot in 18-49.

Its four early round baseball playoff contests settled for a 2.2/7 in 18-49 — down 37% from last year’s 3.5/10. And the postseason struggles could continue without the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers, two teams eliminated over the weekend.

Notable for the CW was a nice start on the net for Tuesday’s “Veronica Mars” (1.4/4, 3.37m), which retained 77% of its 18-34 lead-in from “Gilmore Girls” (1.7 vs. 2.2). Net is also solid with its returning shows on Wednesday and Thursday, while “WWE Smackdown” (1.4/4 in 18-49, 3.84m) topped all competish from 8 to 10 Friday in men 18-34 (2.0/8).

Univision was paced by Monday’s series finale of telenovela “Barrerra De Amor” (Barrier of Love), which drew 5.6 million viewers.

ESPN dominated the week among cable nets thanks to “Monday Night Football” (5.2/14 in 18-49, 12.90m for Philadelphia Eagles-Green Bay Packers) and Friday’s baseball playoff game between the Yankees and Detroit Tigers (2.0/7, 6.56m).

The season premiere of Sci Fi’s “Battlestar Galactica” (1.0/3 in 18-49, 2.16m) was down from the 3 million who tuned in for its second-season bow in July 2005.

* * *

On Monday of the current week, NBC’s “Heroes” impressed again (5.9/14 in 18-49, 13.34m), matching its premiere-week 18-49 rating and capturing its timeslot in most demos. It built on its winning lead-in from “Deal or No Deal” (4.4/12, 15.41m), which was on the rise and seemed to take advantage of Fox’s “Prison Break” airing a repeat (1.5/4, 4.07m).

NBC’s gains on the night included 10 o’clock drama “Studio 60” (3.7/9 in 18-49, 8.66m), which rose 9% week to week but remained well behind CBS’ “CSI: Miami” (5.7/14, 17.60m).

Also in the 10 o’clock hour, ABC’s “What About Brian” (3.0/8 in 18-49, 7.00m) bowed with numbers similar to the net’s other shows on the night: “Wife Swap” (3.2/9, 7.61m) and “The Bachelor” (3.1/7, 7.93m). In all key femme demos, this was the best showing in the slot for “Brian,” which aired just a handful of times on Monday in its initial run last spring.

CBS got some encouraging news from the flip of comedies “How I Met Your Mother” (3.4/10, 9.09m) and “The Class” (3.5/9, 9.34m) in the opening hour, with the combo up 6% week to week in 18-49. That led into a season high for “Two and a Half Men” (5.2/13, 16.38m).

The CW averaged a 1.1/3 in 18-34 for repeats of its comedy block, which had earned the same score with firstrun airings one night earlier; lineup will air originals beginning next week.

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