Eye peaks with pigskin

NFL keeps CBS at the top

The ouster of the two-time defending NFL champs Saturday powered CBS to another weekly ratings triumph in key demo categories.

Saturday night’s victory by the Denver Broncos over the New England Patriots packed in a huge audience to rank as the week’s top primetime program in both adults 18-49 (9.8 rating/27 share) and total viewers (26.25 million).

Week also saw great returns for Fox’s “24” (Daily Variety, Jan. 17) and the WB’s “Beauty and the Geek” (Daily Variety, Jan. 16) plus some good sampling for ABC Thursday comedy “Crumbs.”

On the other end of the spectrum, UPN barely registered for its Wednesday bow of sudser “South Beach,” and ABC’s Monday comedy “Emily’s Reasons Why Not” opened meekly (Daily Variety, Jan. 11).

Overall for the Jan. 9-15 frame, CBS ruled in adults 18-49 with a 4.5 rating/12 share, with Fox (4.2/11) and ABC (4.1/10) not too far behind. NBC was a distant fourth (3.2/8), while the WB (1.5/4) moved ahead of UPN (1.1/3) for the first time in 10 weeks.

CBS has now placed first in the key demo for 10 of the past 15 weeks.

The Eye also won for the 13th time in 15 weeks in adults 25-54 (5.6/13) and for the 16th time in 17 frames in total viewers (14.88 million).

In addition to its best Saturday in four years with the football game, CBS had a good Monday, when “Two and a Half Men” (5.9/14 in 18-49, 17.20m) hit a season high and each of the net’s other comedies had their second best score of the campaign.

And on Wednesday, “Criminal Minds” matched its best regular-slot delivery to date (4.8/11, 15.92m), with its closest finish yet opposite ABC’s slot-leading “Lost” (8.5/20, 20.56m).

Second-place Fox, like CBS, benefited significantly from NFL playoff action. The concluding 73 minutes of the Carolina Panthers’ victory over the Chicago Bears spilled into primetime Sunday, racking up a monster 14 rating in 18-49.

That provided a nice lead-in to the fifth-season launch of “24,” whose two episodes on Sunday averaged a 7.0 rating/15 share in 18-49 and 16.25 million viewers overall — the drama’s best-ever numbers.

And Tuesday’s “House,” starring recent Golden Globe winner Hugh Laurie, had its best showing since its season premiere (5.7/14 in 18-49, 14.83m).

ABC was paced as usual by top-10 skeins “Desperate Housewives” (9.5/20 in 18-49, 22.52m), “Grey’s Anatomy” (8.6/20, 18.97m), “Lost” (8.5/20, 20.56m) and “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” (6.4/14, 15.56m). And net improved its standing on Thursday with “Dancing With the Stars” (4.6/12, 17.36m), which led into new Jane Curtin/Fred Savage comedy “Crumbs” (3.6/9, 11.81m).

The unscripted hoofing competish is also helping boost circulation to the net’s newsmags on Thursday and Friday, with both “Primetime” (3.0/8 in 18-49, 9.15m) and “20/20” achieving season highs (3.4/10, 9.98m).

NBC could boast of its best Thursday of the season, with a live “Will & Grace” helping get things started (4.4/12, 9.69m) and “Four Kings” looking solid in its second week (4.5/12, 9.12m). Then at 9, “My Name Is Earl” won in 18-49 (5.9/14, 12.49m) and “The Office” (5.1/12, 10.27m) set a series high at 9:30.

Overall, NBC racked up the best 18-49 average (5.0) for a regular four-comedy block in 20 months (since CBS’ Monday in November 2004).

On the rookie drama front, both “Surface” on Monday (2.5/7 in 18-49, 8.36m) and “E-Ring” on Wednesday (2.3/6, 8.35m) looked weak, and Friday’s “Book of Daniel” (2.2/6, 6.87m) was down from its preem; latter ominously averaged 6.66 million viewers in its second half-hour.

The WB had a solid week as it welcomed back many of its key series. Biggest highlight was the strong start to the second season of “Beauty and the Geek” on Thursday (2.3/6, 4.95m), which was up over its first edition last summer and gave the net its best scores in the Thursday-at-9 hour in three years.

UPN did little except on Friday, where “WWE Smackdown” hit another season high (1.9/6 in 18-49, 5.29m) and won the night in adults 18-34 (2.2/8).

On the cable side, USA led in 18-49, 25-54 and total viewers, thanks in part to the Friday return of “Monk” (1.5/4 in 18-49, 5.40m). FX also did well with the season premiere Tuesday of “The Shield” (1.7/5, 3.42m).

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