Alphabet souped up

Net boasts six-week demo win streak

A short World Series prevented Fox from tasting victory for the first time last week as ABC and CBS again finished on top in the ratings wars.

As they have for each of the first six weeks of the season now, the Alphabet prevailed among adults 18-49 while the Eye had it in the 25-54 demo as well as total viewers.

ABC’s six-week winning streak in 18-49 (which includes one tie with CBS) is the best for any net since NBC finished on top for the first six weeks of the 1999-2000 season. The Alphabet last started a season this hot in 1977-78, and the net’s in-season 18-49 winning streak is its longest in 6½ years.

Through six weeks of the season, the major nets are running flat compared with last season, averaging a 40 share in adults 18-49 during primetime. Leader ABC is flat, second-place CBS is down 3%, third-place NBC is up 12% and fourth-place Fox is off 9%.

Fox figured to have a good shot at erasing its year-to-year declines after the World Series was even at one game apiece a week ago, but the Fall Classic lost its momentum when the St. Louis Cardinals finished off the best-of-seven series in just five games by winning three straight at home.

Fox won all five nights of the World Series in 18-49 (including games last week on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday), but it’s clear that pro football is now king when it comes to popularity on television.

Primetime NFL telecasts ranked third (NBC) and fourth (ESPN) for the frame among adults 18-49, with both games involving the popular Dallas Cowboys. The highest-rated World Series contest came in 10th.

Overall for the week of Oct. 23-29, according to Nielsen estimates, ABC’s 3.9 rating/11 share in adults 18-49 led the way, with CBS (3.6/10) and NBC (3.5/10) in a tight battle for second and Fox remaining fourth (3.5/10) for a sixth straight frame.

The CW placed fifth (1.5/4), followed closely by ESPN in one of its biggest weeks ever (1.4/4) and Spanish-language net Univision (1.3/4).

ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” was the week’s No. 1 program in both adults 18-49 (8.3/19) and total viewers (21.24 million), and the net’s “Dancing With the Stars” also ranked in the top 10 with both Tuesday’s performance show (5.4/14, 20.69m) and Wednesday’s results program (5.1/14, 20.02m).

And Sunday’s “America’s Funniest Home Videos” (3.4/9 in 18-49, 11.40m) had its best demo delivery since February and its largest overall audience since November 2004.

Not looking so good was Wednesday’s “The Nine” (2.9/8 in 18-49, 7.77m), which retained just 41% of its demo lead-in from “Lost” (7.1/17, 17.09m), with the latter up week to week to rank as the frame’s No. 2 program in 18-49.

Standouts for CBS included the “CSI” franchise, each of which led their hours: Monday’s “CSI: Miami” (6.1/15, 17.93m), Wednesday’s “CSI: NY” (5.6/15, 17.42m) and a repeat of Thursday’s original version (5.0/13, 16.83m).

It was good news and bad news for the net’s opening hour of comedy Monday, as “How I Met Your Mother” again looked good in the leadoff slot (3.6/10, 9.59m) but lead-out rookie “The Class” (2.9/7, 7.95m) sagged.

Wednesday drama “Criminal Minds” (4.4/11, 16.77m) continues to have a good sophomore year, drawing its largest overall aud to date, and Friday’s “Ghost Whisperer” (3.1/10, 10.88m) matched its season high in 18-49 with a Halloween-themed episode.

NBC was paced by “Sunday Night Football” (6.8/17, 17.32m for Cowboys-Panthers) and hot first-year Monday drama “Heroes” (6.3/15, 14.45m), the week’s No. 4 program in 18-49 and No. 1 in 18-34 (6.6/17).

On Friday, gamer “1 vs. 100” was a solid No. 2 in its regular 8 o’clock slot (2.9/9, 9.75m), and “Las Vegas” kicked off its season with solid numbers (3.1/9, 9.33m), placing second to the World Series in demos. “Law & Order” (2.6/8 9.02m) fell to third in 18-49, though.

Fox’s lineup consisted mostly of the World Series and repeats. Net is back in firstrun mode this week.

In addition to usual standouts “America’s Next Top Model” and “Gilmore Girls,” the CW also received season-high demo scores from “Veronica Mars” (1.5/4 in 18-49 and 1.8/5 in 18-34). Also, “One Tree Hill” logged its largest overall aud of the season (3.67 million) and its highest 12-34 delivery (2.4/7) since May 2005.

Univision was again paced by “La Fea mas bella” (Betty the Ugly), the No. 1 program on TV among adults 18-34 in its Friday at 8 timeslot (2.5/9).

* * *

On Monday of the current week, NBC’s “Heroes” (6.5/15 in 18-49, 14.89m) rose a couple of ticks week to week to establish highs for a second straight airing. It dominated the night’s middle hour, again racking up the best regular-slot demo score for any rookie skein of the past two seasons.

A special airing of “Friday Night Lights” (3.5/9, 8.26m) behind “Heroes” at 10 performed a bit better than regular slot occupant “Studio 60” one week earlier. These were the best scores to date for “Friday,” which beat out ABC’s “What About Brian” (2.8/7, 6.08m) but finished well behind a repeat of CBS’ “CSI: Miami” (4.3/11, 14.47m).

At Fox, “Prison Break” (3.6/9 in 18-49, 8.94m) was up week to week in its second airing following a baseball hiatus, placing second to NBC’s “Deal or No Deal” (4.8/13, 16.90m). Following “Prison,” though, “Justice” (2.1/5, 6.52m) is faring about the same as former slot occupant “Vanished.”

The CW had its best Monday of the season, led by “Everybody Hates Chris” (1.4/4, 3.58m) and “Girlfriends” (1.5/4, 3.13m).

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