Network moves to tie with CBS for demo lead

This is the time of the season that Fox pulls away from the competish.

With other nets shifting into repeat mode, the “American Idol” net is slamming down on the accelerator, last week claiming seven of the top 10 primetime programs.

In the adults 18-49 demo, Fox beat the combined primetime delivery of the next top two broadcast nets (CBS and NBC) and also outdrew the combined averages of the top nine basic cable networks.

And Fox has moved into a tie with CBS for the demo lead, and is expected to win the season in all under-50 categories with relative ease.

Looking at the March 5-11 frame, according to Nielsen estimates, Fox’s 5.6 rating/15 share in adults 18-49 (on par with the same week a year ago) was miles ahead of CBS (2.9/8), NBC (2.6/7) and ABC (2.4/7).

Fox also rolled in adults 25-54 (6.0/15), persons 12-34 (4.6/15) and total viewers (14.1 million).

As “American Idol” narrowed its field to 12, the music competish claimed the week’s top three spots in the rankings with performance shows Wednesday (11.2 rating/30 share in adults 18-49, 28.55 million viewers overall) and Tuesday (10.9/29, 27.95m) and a special results edition on Thursday (10.4/28, 27.52m).

Tuesday drama “House” (9.6/24 in 18-49, 24.40m) was the frame’s top scripted program, and is now up 37% among adults 18-49 and 53% among teens compared with this point in the season a year ago. It retained an impressive 88% of its 18-49 lead-in from “Idol” to beat the combined ABC-NBC-CBS-CW competish.

Also performing well was new Thursday regular “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” (8.0/20 in 18-49, 20.66m), which ranked No. 5 for the week in both 18-49 and 12-34.

And following “Idol” on Wednesday, new David E. Kelley drama “The Wedding Bells” got sampled by a sizable audience (5.2/13 in 18-49, 12.34m) before shifting to its regular Friday timeslot this week.

New comedy “The Winner” isn’t distinguishing itself on Sunday, averaging a 3.2/8 in 18-49 at 8:30 (between “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy”) and a 2.7/7 at 9:30.

In a week when each of the “CSI” shows aired in repeat, top performers for second-place CBS included Thursday’s firstrun “Survivor: Fiji” (4.6/12 in 18-49, 13.81m) — although it was beaten up by “American Idol” — and the Sunday drama tandem of “Without a Trace” (4.5/12, 17.53m) and “Cold Case” (4.1/10, 15.45m).

In its third week back, rookie Wednesday drama “Jericho” is looking shaky (2.2/6 in 18-49, 8.10m) but will try to bounce back tonight as “American Idol” moves out of its way.

NBC had a fairly quiet week after Monday, which it won with “Deal or No Deal” (5.4/14, 18.39m) and “Heroes” (6.6/15, 14.90m). On Sunday, the 9-11 p.m. combo of “Deal or No Deal” (3.8/9 in 18-49, 12.91m) and “The Apprentice: Los Angeles” (2.9/8, 7.46m) were on the high end.

ABC skidded to fourth place, as “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Desperate Housewives” were both in repeats. Leading the way was Wednesday’s “Lost” (5.6/15 in 18-49, 12.45m) and Sunday’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” (4.9/13, 13.95m), while “According to Jim” hit a season high on Wednesday (3.2/8, 7.55m).

CW’s highlights included a good start Tuesday for “Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll” (1.7/4 in 18-49, 3.93m), which gave the young net its best showing to date in the night’s 9 o’clock hour in key demos including adults 18-34 (2.1/6) and female teens (4.3/13).

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On Monday of the current week, a good night for cablers, FX’s new drama “The Riches” opened well at 10 (1.9/5 in 18-49, 3.84m) — edging out “Rescue Me” to stand as the net’s No. 2 premiere to date among young adults, behind only “The Shield.”

In adults 18-34, “Riches” (2.0/6) beat out competing ABC drama “What About Brian” (1.8/5) and was just behind NBC’s “The Black Donnellys” (2.2/6).

USA also scored with “WWE Raw,” which averaged a 2.3/6 in 18-49 and 5.8 million viewers overall from 9 to 11 p.m., while VH1′s “I Love New York” (1.7/4 in 18-49, 3.70m) and MTV’s “The Hills” (1.6/4, 2.81m) delivered in key demos as well.

And on the broadcast side, a two-hour “Deal or No Deal” led from 8-10 for NBC (4.8/13, 16.77m) but lead-out drama “The Black Donnellys” dipped further in its third try (2.5/7, 6.53m).

CBS didn’t do a whole lot with the return of “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” which placed third with new segs at both 8 o’clock (2.4/7 in 18-49, 7.59m) and 8:30 (2.9/8, 8.34m). Show will regularly air now at 8:30 behind “How I Met Your Mother,” which returns next week.

Net continues to do pretty well at 9:30 with “Rules of Engagement” (4.3/10 in 18-49, 11.47m) holding all of its demo lead-in from a repeat of “Two and a Half Men” (4.3/11, 12.71m).

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