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Fox firstruns help forge tie atop ratings

Original segs boosting net

Fox kept its foot on the accelerator last week, earning its ninth straight primetime ratings victory among young adults to catch ABC for the season lead heading into the homestretch.

One advantage Fox has at this time of year, which is marked by numerous repeats on other nets, is that all its top shows are consistently airing original episodes. “American Idol” and “24” didn’t start their seasons until January, and the red-hot “House” has aired only one repeat since that time as well.

For the April 17-23 frame, according to Nielsen, Fox comfortably led in the adults 18-49 demo with a 4.1 rating/12 share, followed by CBS (3.3/9), ABC (2.8/8) and NBC (2.4/7).

The Murdoch net also edged out CBS for the 25-54 lead (4.4/12 to 4.3/11) and cruised among auds 12-34 (3.5/12), while CBS ruled once again among total viewers (11.9 million).

Through Sunday, with about a month to go in the season, Fox and ABC were tied in adults 18-49 with a 4.0 rating (equating to roughly 5.2 million viewers) — and they’re expected to stay there for a while.

Daily Variety projects Fox to finish at a 4.1, although it might not get there until the final night of the season (“American Idol” finale). ABC will need a stronger-than-expected showing in the May sweep to round up to a 4.1.

Last week, “American Idol” editions on Tuesday (11.4/32 in 18-49, 28.44 million viewers overall) and Wednesday (11.3/30, 27.63m) were easily the top shows in key demos as well as total viewers, with Tuesday’s “House” (8.8/22, 22.64m) the No. 1 scripted program in 18-49 for a second straight week.

Also for Fox, Wednesday’s “Unanimous” (5.7/15 in 18-49, 13.24m), by retaining about half its lead-in from “American Idol,” has emerged as the season’s No. 1 new program in 18-49.

ABC’s week was paced by the net’s record-setting 13th straight Sunday victory in 18-49, accomplishing it this time with recap shows of hits “Grey’s Anatomy” (6.2/15, 14.56m) and “Desperate Housewives” (6.1/14, 15.72m).

“Alias” did OK in its return on Wednesday (2.7/8 in 18-49, 7.49m from 8-10 p.m.), but two of the net’s rookie dramas, “Invasion” (2.6/7, 7.11m) and “Commander in Chief” (2.1/6, 7.69m), face important weeks after less-than-stellar scores (Daily Variety, April 24).

Another new hour, Monday’s “What About Brian” opened to decent numbers (3.2/8, 7.13m) but then fell off to start the current week (2.6/7, 5.38m).

CBS, with a lot of its top shows in repeat, was paced by “Survivor: Exile Island” (5.5/18, 16.26m) and rebroadcasts of dramas “CSI” (5.5/15, 18.88m) and “CSI: Miami” (5.1/12, 16.33m).

Tuesday’s combo of “The Unit” (4.4/11, 15.62m) and “NCIS” (3.6/10, 15.90m) continue to look good, placing second to Fox’s hot shows.

On the comedy side, Monday of the current week saw “Old Christine” (3.8/9, 11.81m) retain an OK 81% of its “Two and a Half Men” 18-49 lead-in (4.7/12, 14.47m), near what “Out of Practice” was achieving at the end of its Monday run last fall.

NBC, like CBS, aired repeats of many key shows, and was paced by a new installment of hit gamer “Deal or No Deal” on Monday (4.5/13 in 18-49, 15.32m).

Net’s coverage of the “Miss USA Pageant” settled for third-place numbers Friday (2.2/7 in 18-49, 7.75m), and the weeklong “Celebrity Cooking Showdown” was a bust, wrapping Saturday (1.0/3, 2.81m).

In adults 18-34, Spanish-language broadcaster Univision (1.7/6) again finished ahead of UPN and the WB (both 1.4/4). The finale of “Alborada” (The Dawn) averaged a 2.4/9 in 18-34, making it the No. 1 show of the night on any network; it also tied ABC’s “Primetime” for the 18-49 lead in the 9:30 half-hour (2.5/8).

Among ad-supported cable nets, USA was again on top in 18-49 (0.89 rating), 25-54 (0.95) and total viewers (2.55 million), with TNT a solid second thanks to a boost from first-round NBA playoff action on Sunday.

Outside of primetime, a couple of vet programs hit milestones the last couple of days.

CBS Par Domestic Television’s “Judge Judy” racked up its 500th consecutive week as the top-rated half-hour courtshow in syndication, a streak that stretches back to its September 1996 debut.

And NBC’s “Meet the Press With Tim Russert” won the Sunday morning public affairs ratings battle for the 260th straight week, marking a record five years on top.

Outside of primetime, a couple of vet programs hit milestones the last couple of days.

CBS Par Domestic Television’s “Judge Judy” racked up its 500th consecutive week as the top-rated half-hour courtshow in syndication, a streak that stretches back to its September 1996 debut.

And NBC’s “Meet the Press with Tim Russert” won the Sunday morning public affairs ratings battle for the 260th straight week, marking a record five years on top.

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