Monday premieres score big for NBC, ABC

New shows are getting all the buzz, but returning skeins are getting the viewers. “Heroes” and “Dancing With the Stars” defied primetime gravity on Monday night by bowing to even bigger auds than they brought in a year ago.

As the returnees shine, the broadcast nets are still waiting for their first breakout hit of the new season. CBS’ “Big Bang Theory” performed pretty well Monday, and NBC’s “Chuck” was solid but unspectacular. NBC’s “Journeyman” underperformed in its bow, and Fox’s “K-Ville” took a tumble in its second week.

Year-to-year comparisons for all shows figured to suffer this fall as national DVR penetration nears 20% (up from about 9% at this time a year ago), but auds still turned out for their returning faves on the opening night of the season — even if they didn’t swarm to any of the newcomers.

All estimates reported Tuesday by Nielsen reflect live plus “same-day” DVR viewing by 3 a.m. Tuesday. It’s estimated the audience for certain shows, especially those that skew young and/or play early in the night, could rise by 10%-20% when Nielsen follows up with ratings that include all DVR playback within the first week of a telecast.

For the night, ABC, NBC and ESPN delivered similar 18-49 averages, and CBS wasn’t far behind. ABC, the only network to improve upon its delivery of a year ago, also easily drew the most viewers overall, averaging 15.4 million for the night.

(NBC’s average includes a preliminary result for “Heroes” as the net opted to delay reporting its final rating until combining Monday’s score with Saturday’s repeat, a new move allowed by Nielsen that has raised some eyebrows at rival nets.)

From 8 to 9:30 p.m., ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” averaged a strong 5.8 rating/15 share in adults 18-49 and 21.25 million viewers overall, up slightly from its two-hour debut on a Tuesday last season (when it bowed a week early and didn’t face as tough competition). It dominated the opening hour and then placed 1 share behind “Heroes” for the 18-49 lead at 9.

Although “Dancing” is a broad draw, it skews older and female, opening the door for the new shows in the 8 o’clock hour — both with geeky men front and center — to notch solid young-male ratings. (Apparently, they weren’t all in line for the new “Halo 3″ videogame.)

At NBC, “Chuck” (3.6/9 in 18-49, 9.21m) finished on par with CBS comedies in the hour, running second to ABC in key demos and coming in below what “Deal or No Deal” registered in the hour a year ago. Though not a great bow, it’s a fairly good start for a scripted hour kicking off the night in a tough hour.

In men 18-34, “Chuck” notched the best start for an NBC scripted skein in the time period (3.6/11) in 10 years.

At CBS, the premiere of 8:30 laffer “Big Bang Theory” (3.7/9 in 18-49, 9.52m) built in rating on its lead-in from “How I Met Your Mother” (3.3/9 in 18-49, 8.12m). Despite the addition of “Dancing” on the night, the hour’s average in 18-49 for CBS was down just 5% from last season’s combo of “Mother” and “The Class.”

In men 18-34, “Big Bang” drew the best premiere numbers for a CBS show in the time period (2.7/8) in six years.

At 9 o’clock, “Heroes” followed with a dominant 6.5/15 in 18-49 and 14.1 million viewers overall in preliminary nationals, up 10% from last year’s premiere (5.9/14 in 18-49). The sci-fi fave last year became the first NBC rookie drama to finish as a top-10 show in 18-49 since “ER” in 1994-95.

“Journeyman” (3.5/9 in 18-49, 9.16m) lost a big chunk of its “Heroes” lead-in at 10 o’clock, coming in well below the premiere of “Studio 60″ last season (5.0/13 in 18-49). It also declined 16% in 18-49 rating in its second half-hour (3.2 vs. 3.8).

Eye’s “Two and a Half Men” (4.8/11 in 18-49, 13.58m) held up well at 9, and “Rules of Engagement” (4.5/10 in 18-49, 12.23m) was an improvement at 9:30 over “Old Christine” a year ago.

“Rules” retained an impressive 94% of its 18-49 “Men” lead-in, likely benefiting from the flood of available viewers at 9:30 following the conclusion of ABC’s “Dancing.”

At 10, CBS’ “CSI: Miami” (4.6/12 in 18-49, 15.08m) was the broadcast leader in 18-49 but was down nearly 20% year-to-year despite lesser NBC drama competition.

“The Bachelor” closed out the night for ABC and looked pretty good (3.5/9 in 18-49, 9.23m) — up more than 10% in the demo vs. its bow on Monday a year ago (when it followed “Wife Swap”).

At Fox, which premiered its lineup a week earlier, “Prison Break” (3.1/8 in 18-49, 7.41m) remained down vs. last season but held up well week to week despite increased competition. Same can’t be said for new 9 o’clock drama “K-Ville” (2.3/5 in 18-49, 6.13m), which was down about 30% from its premiere score of the previous week. 

ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” matchup between Tennessee and New Orleans averaged a 4.5/12 in 18-49 and 10.79 million viewers overall, leaving the cabler a close No. 2 to ABC on the night in 18-49 and No. 1 in men 18-49 (6.6/18).

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