CW struts its stuff in bow

CBS captured the night in key broader measures

Looks like young adults know where to find the CW on their remotes.

A huge sigh of relief could be heard in the exec suites of Burbank and Brentwood on Thursday when opening-night numbers came in for the nascent net. Its “America’s Next Top Model” bowed bigger than ever, actually winning Wednesday among adults under 35 and dominating in the New York market.

CBS captured the night in key broader measures, meanwhile, with its drama lineup of the returning “Criminal Minds” and “CSI: NY” — Wednesday’s top two shows — and a pretty good start for new small-town/mushroom-cloud drama “Jericho.”

News wasn’t as good for NBC’s new “Kidnapped,” which struggled to a third-place finish in its premiere.

For the CW, a merger of sorts between CBS Corp. (UPN) and Warner Bros. (the WB), Wednesday’s launch was the culmination of a months-long marketing plan. More than 70% of “Top Model” viewers Wednesday night were watching the hit show on a different channel than in previous seasons.

“We were prepared for the worst and pleasantly surprised at the outcome,” CW Entertainment prexy Dawn Ostroff said. “It was really hard to bring everyone in. I thought we’d start off slow, and our goal was by the end of the season to get all the viewers back.

“But to have grown on ‘Top Model,’ that was beyond our expectation.”

Ostroff credited the CW’s stronger batch of stations (having cherry-picked several top WB and UPN affils), as well as the net’s “strategic marketing.”

“We looked at each market and created a very specific campaign to migrate ‘Top Model’ viewers from the old UPN affiliate to the new CW station,” she said. “Next week, we’ll be doing the same thing with ‘Gilmore Girls.’ ”

According to national in-home viewing estimates from Nielsen for Wednesday, “America’s Next Top Model” averaged a 2.6 rating/7 share in adults 18-49 and 5.26 million viewers overall kicking off its seventh edition. While it placed fourth in these categories, it moved to the timeslot lead in adults 18-34 (3.2/10), peaking at 9:30 with a 5.4/14.

Show set or matched preem records in both 18-34 and 18-49.

Best story of the night for CW came in Gotham, where Nielsen People Meter data shows former WB station KPIX generating a huge 7.6 rating/25 share in women 18-34 — topping ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox combined.

“Model” also won in its core femmes 18-34 demo in Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Atlanta and Detroit.

The net’s strategy of opening premiere week with only its two established UPN shows (“Top Model” and tonight’s “WWE Smackdown”) looks to be a smart one.

Although there’s no guarantee things will run smoothly next week, it will likely be easier for the net to get people to former WB shows like “Gilmore Girls” and “Smallville” since roughly 63% of CW affils (including seven of the top 10 markets) had been WB stations.

Given the CW’s perf in its key adult 18-34 measurement Wednesday night, Ostroff said she was more sure than ever that her net is filling a demo void.

“We can become a very successful network going after this demo,” she said.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, the Eye had it in 18-49, 25-54 and total viewers on the strength of season preems for “Criminal Minds” (4.5/12 in 18-49, 15.65m) and “CSI: NY” (5.0/14, 16.11m). Both led their slots and were up vs. last year (when they faced ABC’s drama preems), with “Minds” logging its best demo score since March 8.

CBS also kicked off the night well with “Jericho,” a serialized tale of a Kansas town dealing with the fallout of a nuclear incident. Skeet Ulrich-fronted skein averaged a 3.4/10 in 18-49 and 11.66 million viewers overall. Demo delivery was the best for a regular Eye skein in the slot since March 2003 (“Star Search”).

Skein finished behind only the results show of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” (3.7/11, 15.03m) and pulled to within a tick of “Dancing” in adults 25-54 (4.5 to 4.6). It also led its hour in male demos.

“Jericho” improved on CBS comedies in the 8 o’clock hour a year ago by a hefty 45% in 18-49 and by 64% in 25-54. Show also seemed to make for a better lead-in for the Eye’s other dramas on the night.

At NBC, “Biggest Loser” launched to respectable numbers from 8 to 10 (3.1/9, 7.18m), growing with each half-hour, but auds didn’t show up for the net’s “Kidnapped” (2.8/8 in 18-49, 7.59m). It ran a distant third in its slot, came in 30% below “Law & Order” in the hour last year and declined 7% in 18-49 during its second half-hour (2.9 to 2.7).

Peacock’s Wednesday lineup will eventually see “Loser” shift to a one-hour format from 9 to 10, preceded by new comedies “30 Rock” and “20 Good Years.”

ABC, whose dramas “Lost” and “The Nine” roll out Oct. 4, kicked off the season with a nice repeat number for last May’s “Grey’s Anatomy” season finale (3.8/10 in 18-49, 10.52m) in advance of its season opener last night.

And then there was Fox, which fell to fifth place for the night in 18-49. Both “Bones” (2.5/8, 7.55) and “Justice” (1.9/5, 5.58m) hit lows against the tougher competish.

(Michael Schneider contributed to this report.)

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