Country crooners nab massive audiences

The 41st annual Country Music Association Awards dominated the primetime ratings scene on the opening Wednesday of the November sweep, lifting ABC to victory with its strongest demos on the night this season.

According to preliminary Nielsen nationals, the “CMA Awards” averaged a 5.4 rating/14 share in adults 18-49 and 15.9 million viewers overall from 8 to 11 p.m., on par with its performance on a Monday night a year ago. The 5.4 demo rating repped a 42% improvement over what ABC has been averaging (3.8) in winning Wednesday this fall.

Among the top 10 overnight markets, the “CMAs” not surprisingly fared best in the South, garnering a 21 household share in Dallas, a 17 share in Atlanta and a 16 share in Houston. Host city Nashville led the way among all of Nielsen’s 56 metered markets with a 29 share.

Elsewhere, CBS ran second thanks to solid performances from crime dramas “Criminal Minds” at 9 (3.8/9 in 18-49, 14.5 million viewers overall) and “CSI: NY” (3.5/10 in 18-49, 12.9 million viewers overall) — the top shows of the night behind the CMAs. It was slower going in the opening hour for the Eye with “Kid Nation” (2.1/6 in 18-49, 8.1 million viewers overall).

Fox ran second or third in various categories with comedies “Back to You” (2.2/6 in 18-49, 6.4 million viewers overall) and “Til Death” (2.4/6 in 18-49, 6.5 million viewers overall) and reality show “Kitchen Nightmares” (2.9/7 in 18-49, 6.4 million viewers overall). “Kitchen” ran second in the 9 o’clock hour among adults 18-34 (3.0/8).

NBC again didn’t do much with unscripted series “Phenomenon” at 8 (2.2/6 in 18-49, 6.1 million viewers overall), and “Bionic Woman” fell to its lowest score to date at 9 (2.7/7 in 18-49, 6.4 million viewers overall). Fellow rookie drama “Life” held up better at 10 (2.6/7 in 18-49, 6.4 million viewers overall), though it remained in third place.

CW was strong in the opening hour with “America’s Next Top Model” (2.5/7 in 18-49, 5.1 million viewers overall), which ran second to the CMAs in 18-49 and younger demos and drew its best 18-34 score (2.9/8) in four weeks. “Gossip Girl” followed at 9 (1.2/3 in 18-49, 2.5 million viewers overall), retaining 55% of its 18-34 lead-in from “Model” (1.6/4) and placing fifth.

Preliminary 18-49 averages for the night: ABC, 5.4/14; CBS, 3.1/8; NBC, 2.5/7; Fox, 2.4/6; Univision, 1./5; CW, 1.5/4.

In total viewers: ABC, 15.9 million; CBS, 11.5 million; NBC, 6.3 million; Fox, 6.0 million; Univision, 4.0 million; CW, 3.1 million.

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