Football bowls over Fox powerhouses

A Super frame for CBS

“American Idol” hit all the right notes, “House” went through the roof, and “Grey’s Anatomy” made its rivals blue, but nothing last week came close to the Super Bowl.

In a frame of exceptionally strong ratings for some of America’s biggest entertainment series, pro football’s championship game towered over all of them.

An estimated average audience of 93.18 million viewers — the third biggest turnout for a program in TV history — tuned in for the Indianapolis Colts’ 29-17 victory over the Chicago Bears on CBS. And the game’s 35.2 rating/70 share in adults 18-49 was the best for any program since the New England-Carolina Super Bowl on CBS in 2004 (35.7/72).

The Eye cruised to victory for the Jan. 29-Feb. 4 sesh with an 8.1 rating/20 share in adults 18-49, followed by Fox (4.6/11), NBC (2.8/7) and ABC (2.7/7). Delivery for CBS was the best since the last time it aired the Super Bowl in 2004 and the best for any net since ABC’s final turn with the big game last year.

The Eye also rolled in every other category — from kids and teens to women 25-54 — and in total viewers, it more than doubled runner-up Fox (23.6 million to 11.4 million).

The week’s big haul has helped CBS open up wider advantages over the other major nets in the closely watched adults 18-49 demo race for the season.

Through 20 weeks, CBS, with a 4.0 rating, was comfortably ahead of ABC, NBC and Fox — all at 3.5. Fox should continue to narrow the gap now that “American Idol” is looking stronger than ever, but it will remain in the Eye’s rearview mirror for a while.

CBS is off to a good start this week, too, thanks in part to a nice bow for laffer “Rules of Engagement.” The Eye is also hopeful that “Criminal Minds,” which hit series highs in a special post-Super Bowl airing on Sunday (10.0/25 in 18-49, 26.31m), can bring some of those new viewers over to its regular slot on Wednesday.

In addition to Super Bowl Sunday, CBS also was led by “CSI” (6.8/16 in 18-49, 21.49m) and “Shark” (4.0/10, 14.08m) on Thursday, and then won all three hours Friday with regulars “Ghost Whisperer” (3.2/10, 10.66m) and “Numbers” (3.1/9, 10.91m) and spec “Super Bowl’s Greatest Commercials” (3.2/9, 10.05m).

Fox was paced by more huge numbers for “American Idol,” with its segs on Wednesday (13.7/32, 31.85m) and Tuesday (13.5/33 in 18-49, 33.65m) ranking behind only the Super Bowl and its postgame show on CBS. Through six telecasts, the music talent show is up about 5% vs. the same time a year ago.

Shows airing alongside “Idol” also had a good week, led by series-record scores for “House” (11.1/27, 27.34m) on Tuesday (Daily Variety, Feb. 1). And on Wednesday, “Bones” (4.2/11, 12.40m) hit 11-month highs.

Highlights for NBC included the Monday tandem of “Deal or No Deal” (4.8/12, 16.92m) and “Heroes” (6.1/14, 13.63m) and Thursday skeins “My Name Is Earl” (4.5/12, 10.69m), “The Office” (5.0/13, 10.11m) and “ER” (5.0/13, 11.79m). “The Office” hit a series high in adults 18-34 (5.8/15).

Net also gave itself a bit of a boost by airing a commercial-free hour of “Grease: You’re the One That I Want” on Sunday opposite the Super Bowl. Nielsen did not include the lightly watched program in weekly averages because it was not supported by ads, so the Peacock’s week consisted of just 21 hours.

Leading the way for ABC was its potent Thursday tandem of “Ugly Betty” (4.7/12, 14.00m) and “Grey’s Anatomy” (10.3/24, 24.18m), both of which had their best showings since their season premieres (Daily Variety, Feb. 5).

Of note at the CW: “Gilmore Girls” (2.1/5 in 18-49, 4.27m) hit a one-year high in women 18-34 (4.1/10), and “Friday Night Smackdown” (1.6/5, 5.06m) drew its largest overall aud of the season.

In cable, USA, led by “WWE Entertainment,” “Monk” and “Psych,” led the week in key demos, while Bravo’s season finale of “Top Chef” (2.2/6, 3.90m) was the top program among adults 18-34 (2.5/7). Among all Bravo telecasts, only the season-two finale of “Project Runway” has fared better in key demos.

Lifetime did pretty well with “Angels Fall,” its first of four original movies based on Nora Roberts books. Pic ranked among the week’s top 10 cablecasts in adults 25-54 (1.4/3) and among the top five in total viewers (4.85 million).

And although they aired slightly outside of primetime, a pair of “Family Guy” episodes on Adult Swim ranked among the week’s top cable programs in adults 18-34.

* * *

On Monday of the current week, CBS prevailed with season-best results as anchor comedies “Two and a Half Men” (5.8/13 in 18-49, 17.68m) and “How I Met Your Mother” (3.9/10, 10.61m) achieved season highs.

And new entry “Rules of Engagement” (5.2/12, 14.83m) looked good in the 9:30 slot, logging the Eye’s best 18-49 score there since an episode of “Two and a Half Men” following the “Everybody Loves Raymond” series finale in May 2005.

“Rules,” starring Patrick Warburton, Oliver Hudson and David Spade, edged out Fox’s “24” for second place in 18-49. It retained about the same percentage of its “Men” lead-in as “Old Christine” in its bow in the slot last year.

NBC was a close second to CBS in 18-49 for the night and led among younger viewers thanks to slot-leading perfs from “Heroes” (6.4/14 in 18-49, 14.61m) and “Deal or No Deal” (5.0/12, 17.41m).

CBS carried the 10 o’clock hour as usual with “CSI: Miami” (5.8/15, 18.43m).

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