Music reality show dominates ratings

In a week when the Oscars and “Grey’s Anatomy” gave ABC its two highest ratings of the season, the net was still no match for a Fox lineup that featured five hours of “American Idol.”

The dominant music competish, expanding to three nights for the first of three weeks, combined with drama “24″ and a NASCAR overrun on Sunday to lift Fox to victory in all key demos. The Alphabet countered with its strongest week in more than a year, but it wasn’t nearly enough.

Overall, according to Nielsen estimates, Fox led the Feb. 19-25 frame with a 6.0 rating/16 in adults 18-49, followed by ABC at a 4.7/12, with CBS (3.2/8) and NBC (2.6/7) much further back.

Univision (1.8/5) again easily topped CW (1.2/3) for fifth place, with the Spanish net also moving ahead of CBS and NBC for the week among viewers under 35. It was paced by its annual awards show “Premio Lo Nuestro” (2.8/7 in 18-49, 6.34m), which performed well in its three hours on Thursday.

Fox also led in adults 25-54 (6.4/15), people 12-34 (5.2/16) and total viewers (15 million).

Leading the way as usual for Fox was “American Idol,” which comprised a whopping 34% of its sked.

Although the Academy Awards on ABC knocked “Idol” off its customary perch atop the weekly program rankings, two-hour performance segs on Wednesday (12.3/31 in 18-49, 30.46m) and Tuesday (11.8/30, 29.53m) ranked second and third.

“Idol’s” inaugural results-show of the season (the first of three consecutive Thursday airings) averaged a 9.1/23 in 18-49 and 24.44 million viewers overall to place in the weekly top five.

Show remains slightly ahead of its year-ago pace through six weeks.

Also for Fox, “24″ (5.1/12, 13.05m) continued to perform well despite tougher drama competition this season, and “America’s Most Wanted” (2.4/7 in 18-49, 6.26m) led its Saturday hour in demos with an edition devoted to the Zodiac killer.

At ABC, the Oscars (14.1 rating/33 share in 18-49, 40.17m) rose a bit in the nationals, gaining about 1.3 million viewers overall year to year. Biggest gain came among women 18-34, where this year’s 16.4 rating repped a 16% year-to-year rise and matching the best score for the kudocast in six years.

The awards show stands as the season’s most-watched entertainment program. The annual Barbara Walters spec kicking off Oscar night was also strong (4.7/12 in 18-49, 14.54m), delivering its best scores in five years.

The Alphabet rolled Thursday with “Grey’s Anatomy” (11.6/27 in 18-49, 27.39m), which logged its second best scores to date and delivered the biggest demo rating for a drama since ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” in October 2005. And that led into the first “Oprah Winfrey Oscar Special” (6.0/16, 15.45m) — the net’s best showing Thursday at 10 in about four years.

ABC’s highest-rated frame since Super Bowl week of 2006 also included season highs for Monday’s “Wife Swap” (3.7/10, 9.01m).

CBS was led by “CSI” on Thursday (6.8/16 in 18-49, 21.78m) and its Monday spinoff “CSI: Miami” (5.9/15, 19.23m), while comedies “Two and a Half Men” (5.3/12, 16.56m) and “Rules of Engagement” (4.9/11, 13.86m) remained potent.

Of note Thursday was rookie drama “Shark” (3.9/10 in 18-49, 14.19m) pulling close to NBC vet “ER” (4.1/11, 10.00m) in 18-49 while moving ahead in 25-54 (5.1/13 to 4.8/12).

NBC had a quiet sesh, but its “Heroes” (6.0/14 in 18-49, 14.06m) was the week’s No. 1 new program in many key demos. Net could also be pleased with how “The Office” (4.2/10 in 18-49, 8.25m) held up opposite “American Idol” on Thursday, pulling to within 2 shares of the Fox behemoth in men 18-34.

CW was led by “Friday Night Smackdown” (1.8/5 in 18-49, 5.42m) and “Gilmore Girls” (1.8/5 in 18-49, 4.05m), with “Smackdown” again hitting season highs in key demos.

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