Rivals close on net's heels

ABC is halfway home to a November sweeps demo victory but left the door open for CBS — and perhaps even NBC — after the Alphabet’s “Day Break” opened to nothing-special scores.

The Taye Diggs drama did OK coming out of the “Dancing With the Stars” finale, but it has big shoes to fill since it will be replacing “Lost” on the sked the final two Wednesdays of the ratings period. And CBS looks poised to move to the lead on the night thanks to its winning crime dramas “Criminal Minds” and “CSI: NY.”

Wednesday also saw “Medium” return to the NBC sked with numbers similar to “Day Break.”

Through two weeks of the four-week sweep period (Nov. 2-29), Nielsen reports ABC was in the lead among adults 18-49 with a 4.2 rating/11 share (down 2% in rating vs. last year), followed by NBC (4.0/11, up 21%), CBS (3.8/10, down 16%) and Fox (2.8/7, down 10%). CW (1.5/4) is flat compared with the WB last year.

CBS, which is going almost exclusively with its regular programs this month, leads in total viewers (12.9 million to 12.4 million for ABC).

ABC has held up well despite the loss of “Monday Night Football,” while the addition of “Sunday Night Football” has helped NBC become the only net to improve vs. a year ago through two weeks.

And football could very well decide the month’s winner in the 18-49 demo.

While ABC will go without “Dancing With the Stars” and “Lost” the rest of the month, NBC could make the race interesting with two more big NFL numbers (Chargers-Broncos this week and Colts-Eagles on Nov. 26).

And CBS’ best shot at catching ABC is Sunday’s NFL overrun.

The Indianapolis Colts-Dallas Cowboys matchup (set for 4:15 p.m. ET) has the potential to become the highest-rated football game of the season, and if it extends to 7:30 or later, the Eye’s chances for a sweeps victory improve considerably since anything past 7 p.m. would be included in the net’s overall averages.

Alphabet will also benefit from football on Nov. 25 with what’s expected to be a highly rated college contest between USC and Notre Dame.

Fourth-place Fox won’t really be a factor for the month, although it’s sure to generate big ratings on Nov. 27 and Nov. 29 for its two-part O.J. Simpson special, “If I Did It.”

Don’t be surprised to see rival nets juggle their skeds on these nights, with young shows like Monday’s “Heroes” on NBC or Wednesday’s new “Day Break” possibly moving back to 10 p.m. to avoid taking a big hit.

Looking at Wednesday’s action, Emmitt Smith’s victory on “Dancing With the Stars” averaged a 7.1 rating/19 share in adults 18-49 and 27.52 million viewers overall from 8 to 9:02 — down in demos from the most recent finale but the largest audience to date for any episode of the franchise.

“Dancing” goes out as a top-10 performer for the season in both 18-49 and 25-54 and a top-5 skein in total viewers. Wednesday’s finale, in fact, was the most-watched telecast on television this fall, beating out the prior night’s performance edition.

It will be interesting to see how ABC skeds “Dancing” for its spring edition, as the format it adopted this fall would put it opposite Fox’s megahit “American Idol” on Tuesday.

One option would be to keep the results show on Wednesday but shift the performance edition to Monday.

As for “Day Break,” from 9:02 to 11 p.m. Wednesday it averaged a 3.6 rating/9 share in adults 18-49 and 10.16 million viewers overall, putting it on par with NBC’s two-hour season premiere of “Medium” (3.5/9 in 18-49, 9.44m) and well behind the CBS combo of “Criminal Minds” (4.9/13 in 18-49, 16.48m) and “CSI: NY” (5.2/14 in 18-49, 16.18m).

Coming out of “Dancing,” “Day Break” saw ratings declines as expected throughout its telecast but did maintain its 18-49 share with its final three half-hours. From 10 to 11, it outperformed the last four episodes of “The Nine” in the time period.

So while not a great bow, its numbers were credible. Show will air regularly at 9 beginning next week, behind new gamer “Show Me the Money.”

Opposite “Dancing” at 8, it was a demo draw for second between CBS’ “Jericho” (2.9/8 in 18-49, 9.34m) and Fox’s “Bones” (2.9/8 in 18-49, 7.83m), followed by NBC’s “Biggest Loser” (2.8/7 in 18-49, 6.37m) and CW’s “America’s Next Top Model” (2.2/6 in 18-49, 4.71m).

The “Loser” score, like the “Medium” bow from 9 to 11, repped NBC’s best deliveries in the time period this season. “Medium” is slated to air regularly at 10 beginning next week.

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