Game gets Peacock a touchdown

The highest-rated primetime football game of the television season put NBC in the Nielsen end zone for the first time last week, with the Peacock holding off ABC and CBS for the lead among young adults.

Fox, on the other hand, ran a distant fourth and is counting the days until January, when postseason football, “American Idol” and “24” will make it more competitive.

For NBC, its “Sunday Night Football” matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots (8.6 rating/21 share in adults 18-49, 21.95 million viewers overall) stood as the No. 3 program of the week among the 18-49 crowd, trailing only ABC heavyweights “Grey’s Anatomy” (9.1/20, 21.02m) and “Desperate Housewives” (9.0/20, 22.65m)

This made it the No. 2 football telecast this fall, behind only the Colts-New York Giants contest on Sept. 10 (prior to the start of the TV season).

Overall, according to Nielsen estimates, NBC’s 4.0 rating/11 share in adults 18-49 edged out ABC’s 3.9/11 and NBC’s 3.8/10. Fourth-place Fox averaged a 2.6/7, followed by Univision (1.5/4), CW (1.4/4) and ESPN (1.4/4). Peacock’s victory ended ABC’s winning streak at six weeks.

CBS remained on top in both adults 25-54 (4.9/12) and total viewers (12.8 million) for the seventh straight time to start the season.

For NBC, which is now up 15% in 18-49 vs. the first seven weeks of last season (3.8/10), football was key but it wasn’t the net’s only highlight.

Monday drama “Heroes” hit another high (6.5/15 in 18-49, 14.89m) and remains the season’s No. 1 new program in key demos, and gamer “Deal or No Deal” won its Monday slot (4.8/13, 16.90m) and was considerably stronger than usual on Thursday (4.7/11, 13.22m).

Also, vets “Law & Order: SVU” (4.7/13, 13.36m) and “ER” (5.7/15, 13.85m) led their timeslots.

Not so hot were Wednesday half-hours “30 Rock” (1.7/5, 4.61m) and “Twenty Good Years” (1.5/4, 4.10m), which combined for a sixth-place 18-49 finish.

ABC claimed six of the week’s top 15 telecasts among adults 18-49. In addition to “Desperate” and “Grey’s,” “Lost” (6.5/16, 16.07m) and “Dancing With the Stars” (5.3/15, 20.51m) also excelled and led their slots in demos.

Rookie standouts were Sunday’s “Brothers & Sisters” (5.4/13, 13.53m) and Thursday’s “Ugly Betty” (4.4/11, 13.62m), but the net continues not to do much in the 10 o’clock hour on either Wednesday with “The Nine” (2.8/7, 6.52m) or Thursday with “Six Degrees” (3.1/8, 7.40m).

CBS was led by “CSI” (7.0/16, 20.77m), “CSI: NY” (5.4/15, 16.64m) and “Survivor” (5.4/14, 15.30m), but also had success Friday, where “Ghost Whisperer” matched its season high (3.6/11, 11.12m) and “Close to Home” was on the high side (3.0/9, 11.57m).

Also, Wednesday’s “Criminal Minds” (5.0/12, 16.97m) hit a regular-slot high in demos and bested a firstrun seg of ABC’s “Lost” in total viewers for the first time.

There wasn’t much to crow about over at Fox, where the return of some entertainment series following a baseball layoff produced anemic results.

Net ran sixth in 18-49 on both Thursday (where “The OC” logged a weak 1.5/3 in its return) and Friday (where “Vanished” did a 1.0/3), and Tuesday’s “Standoff” was also a dud (2.0/6, 4.94m).

One shining exception was “House” (5.8/16, 14.18m), which was a winner in its return to the 9 p.m. slot.

The CW picked things up a bit, as its Monday laffer lineup, Thursday’s “Smallville” (2.1/5, 5.01m) and Friday’s “WWE Smackdown” (1.6/5, 4.63m) each hit highs in various categories. Net continues to outperform what the WB was doing last year by about 6% in adults 18-34.

Univision had its biggest week of the season thanks to Wednesday’s “Latin Grammy Awards” (2.7/7 in 18-49, 5.69m).

And on the cable side, ESPN rolled to victory behind “Monday Night Football” (4.6/12 in 18-49, 11.88m) and the highest-rated Thursday college game of the season (2.3/6, 6.40m for the matchup of top-five teams Louisville and West Virginia).

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