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Thursday sweeps ABC to demo win

'Anatomy,' 'Ugly Betty' popular on campus

ABC kicked off the February sweep in style Thursday, riding the best numbers in months for “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Ugly Betty” to the net’s first opening-night demo victory in at least 15 years.

It was the first Thursday since Nielsen began incorporating college dorm viewing into its national sample in a bid to more accurately reflect viewership among the youngest of adults — and most skeins seemed to benefit.

In addition to the ABC hits, other shows that are hot on campus –including NBC’s “My Name Is Earl” and “The Office” and CW’s “Supernatural” — were on the rise as well Thursday.

Setting the pace was “Grey’s Anatomy” (10.3 rating/24 share in adults 18-49, 24.18 million viewers overall from 9 to 10:03 p.m.), which posted its best numbers since its Thursday premiere on Sept. 21 and opened up the biggest advantage to date over CBS drama “CSI” (6.8/16, 21.49m).

“Grey’s” also achieved season highs in adults 18-34 (10.9/26) and women 18-34 (15.7/34), with its only higher rating in the latter coming in its post-Super Bowl airing a year ago.

Leading into “Grey’s” was the highest-rated “Ugly Betty” (4.7/12 in 18-49, 14.00m) since its series bow on Sept. 28. “Betty” hit series highs in adults 18-34 (4.4/12) and women 18-34 (6.5/17).

“Betty” finished in a virtual 18-49 tie for its hour, getting stiff competition from NBC’s comedy combo of “My Name Is Earl” (4.5/12 in 18-49, 10.69m) and “The Office” (5.0/13, 10.11m). “Office” hit a series high in adults 18-34 (5.7/15).

NBC moved to the lead in key demos at 10 with “ER” (5.0/13 in 18-49, 11.79m), which overcame a sizable lead-in disadvantage to top both CBS’ “Shark” (4.0/10, 14.08m) and ABC’s “Men in Trees” (3.5/9, 9.74m). “Shark” led the hour in total viewers.

ABC was up 75% in 18-49 over the opening Thursday of the February sweep a year ago (6.3/16 vs. 3.6/9), when “Dancing With the Stars” played there. It’s the first time the Alphabet has won the opening night of the February sweep since at least 1991, the start of Nielsen’s demo database.

CBS, which had “Survivor” and a stronger performance from its 9-11 p.m. dramas a year ago, was off 39% (4.7/12 vs. 7.7/20), but remained the night’s No. 1 network in male demos.

Eye should get a boost this week from the return of “Survivor.”

CW remained solid with “Smallville” (2.0/5, 4.91m) and “Supernatural” (1.4/3 in 18-49, 3.37m), with the latter up 14% vs. the previous week in adults 18-34 (1.6/4 vs. 1.4/4).

And although Fox remains a Thursday laggard, leadoff comedy “‘Til Death” (2.3/6 in 18-49, 5.47m) had its best showing since late September.

CBS swept each of Friday’s hours in Nielsen prelims with regular dramas “Ghost Whisperer” (3.3/10 in 18-49, 10.7 million) and “Numbers” (3.1/9 in 18-49, 10.8 million) and 9 o’clock spec “Super Bowl’s Greatest Commercials” (3.2/9 in 18-49, 10.1 million).

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