Fox rocks with bows

Season debuts for 'Idol,' '24' score

Fox put it all together last week, riding record starts for “American Idol” and “24” and big numbers for Sunday’s NFL conference championship to log one of its best weeks ever.

Its primetime averages (7.9 rating in 18-49, 19.24 million viewers overall) were the best for any broadcaster this season and the highest for the Murdoch net for any frame that didn’t include either the Super Bowl or the World Series, according to Nielsen.

Fox aired the top three primetime telecasts of the season in adults 18-49 last week, getting the net’s usual second-half rally off to a good start.

At roughly the halfway point of the season, ABC is on top in the 18-49 demo with a 4.0 rating, followed by CBS (3.9), Fox (3.4) and NBC (3.1). Fox gained three-tenths of a ratings point in one week.

In nonsports 18-49 averages, a better indicator of each net’s series strength, CBS is on top with a 3.9 rating (flat vs. last year), followed by ABC (3.7, up 3%), NBC (3.1, down 16%) and Fox (3.0, up 11%). The Eye also has it for the season in adults 25-54 and total viewers.

Among series, “American Idol” is poised to rank No. 1 in all key categories, while ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” is the top scripted skein in the 18-49, 25-54 and 12-34 categories, and CBS drama “CSI” is No. 1 in total viewers.

Among comedies, NBC’s “My Name Is Earl” ranks No. 1 in 18-49, CBS’ “Two and a Half Men” is on top in adults 25-54 and total viewers, and Fox vet “The Simpsons” has a grip on the 12-34 lead.

Looking at the week of Jan. 16-22, “American Idol” amazingly opened with even bigger numbers than last year (Daily Variety, Jan. 19), one day after “24” officially kicked off its season with highest-yet scores.

Fox also closed out the week with Sunday’s Seattle-Carolina NFC Championship game (13.8/32, 35.23m), which ranked behind only “Idol’s” Tuesday preem in 18-49.

Another football game, the Pittsburgh-Denver AFC Championship tilt, actually rated higher (14.3/39 in 18-49, 39.00m), but it aired prior to primetime Sunday. It’s the most-watched broadcast of the season.

It was also a good week on the cable side for Disney Channel and CMT, with its inaugural airing of the Miss America Pageant.

Disney Channel struck gold with another of its original movies on Friday, as “High School Musical” (1.2/4 in 18-49, 7.73m) set or approached several net records. It did a 13.3 national rating in kids 6-11 and a 12.6 rating in tweens 9-14.

From 8 to 10 on Friday, only ABC and CBS drew a larger audience. The original pic also drew sizable repeat numbers on Saturday (6.12 million) and on Sunday (4.86 million).

Disney Channel’s average weekly aud (3.19 million) was higher than all other cable nets as well as UPN.

And CMT effectively marketed its beauty pageant on Saturday, pulling in 3.07 million viewers — more than 8 times the net’s normal aud on the night. From 8 to 10, no cable net drew a larger aud. Of course, ABC dumped the pageant after the 2004 telecast netted an all-time low 9.8 million.

Elsewhere on the broadcast side, highlights included a week-three rise for ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” on Thursday (5.2/14 in 18-49, 18.98m), while the same night saw season highs for CBS drama “Without a Trace” (7.3/19, 23.12m).

“Love Monkey” did OK in its debut Tuesday for CBS (3.5/9 in 18-49, 8.63m), outperforming in 18-49 all regular Tuesday-at-10 Eye dramas since “Judging Amy” in May 2003.

But there was no good news for political dramas, as ABC’s “Commander in Chief” (2.4/5 in 18-49, 10.79m) hit another low Tuesday, and NBC’s “The West Wing” fared even worse on Sunday (1.9/4, 7.71m); latter vet will end its run in May.

* * *

On Monday of the current week, CBS comedy “Courting Alex” put up solid numbers with its premiere, and Fox unscripted skein “Skating With Celebrities” did OK in its bow.

Jenna Elfman starrer “Alex” (5.1/11 in 18-49, 14.90m) retained a healthy 88% of its demo lead-in from “Two and a Half Men” (5.8/13, 17.07m) — slightly better than “Out of Practice’s” bow in the slot last September. “Alex” delivered the highest demo scores of the season for CBS in the timeslot.

At Fox, “Skating With Celebrities” (3.7/9 in 18-49, 10.86m) placed third in 18-49 for its 8 o’clock hour — lagging the CBS comedy block and a perky perf by a repeat of ABC’s “Wife Swap” (4.0/10, 10.15m). This was the regular-slot series premiere for “Skating,” which had a special preview seg behind “American Idol” last Wednesday.

Net won the 9 o’clock hour in 18-49 with another strong showing from “24” (5.8/13 in 18-49, 10.86m), whose opening five hours this season are up 19% in 18-49 vs. a year ago.

Of note in the 10 o’clock hour was ABC’s “The Bachelor: Paris” (4.0/10 in 18-49, 10.15m). Although it remained third in 18-49, it continued its growth trend after a slow start two weeks earlier and led its hour in adults 18-34 (4.3/12, tied with CBS).

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