Show opened with best premiere numbers to date

ABC high-stepped to victory Monday night as “Dancing With the Stars” opened with its best premiere numbers to date.

Despite opposing tougher competish this time around and bowing at the start of daylight-saving time — when overall viewing levels drop off — the opener to Alphabet’s hoofing contest beat the season-three bow last September by 12% and the season-two start of January 2006 by 33%, according to Nielsen.

“Dancing” has emerged as television’s No. 2 reality show (behind a certain Fox singing skein), and ABC has not been as potent since “Dancing” ended its most recent season in November. Now, though, the net appears headed for a strong finish to the season.

In Nielsen nationals from 8 to 10:02 p.m., the premiere of “Dancing With the Stars” averaged a 6.4 rating/16 share in adults 18-49 and 21.8 million viewers overall — the net’s best demo delivery in the time period with regular programming (and excluding sports) in more than eight years.

And in total viewers, showing is the best for the Alphabet best under the same criteria in 15 years.

While skewing heavily female as usual, the broadly appealing show was television’s top-rated program Monday among adults 18-49, 25-54, 18-34, 50-plus and total viewers; it was also the top broadcast program in both kids 2-11 and 12-17.

Another two-hour “Dancing” seg airs next Monday, with the show’s first results program set for Tuesday at 9.

“Dancing” certainly put a hurt on the competish, especially CBS’ comedy block, which hit a firstrun season low. The Eye rebounded at 10 with “CSI: Miami” (5.4/14 in 18-49, 17.66m), which beat the combined scores of ABC’s “What About Brian” (2.5/7, 6.43m) and NBC’s “The Black Donnellys” (2.3/6, 5.53m).

NBC’s “Deal or No Deal” (4.3/11 in 18-49, 14.19m) was below average but held up pretty well with a two-hour seg that featured firefighters stepping in for the show’s female models opening the cases.

Fox held up well relative to its season averages with its more male-skewing dramas, “Prison Break” (3.5/9 in 18-49, 8.40m) and “24″ (4.6/11, 11.80m).

On cable, FX drama “The Riches” (1.4/4 in 18-49, 2.82m) slid about 25% from its good week-earlier premiere but still performed pretty well in demos. And at VH1, “I Love New York” continues to perform well (1.9/5, 4.20m) leading up to its April 2 finale.

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