Ratings Flash - Rick Kissell

ABC captured the primetime ratings race in key demo categories Thursday behind “Grey’s Anatomy” and a nice premiere for drama “October Road,” while NBC did OK with its two new premieres on the night.

According to preliminary nationals from Nielsen, ABC kicked off the night with “Ugly Betty” (3.4 rating/10 share in adults 18-49, 10.8 million viewers overall), which ran second among young adults but was on the low end with its first original episode in four weeks. “Grey’s Anatomy” (8.8/22 in 18-49, 22.4 million viewers overall), also lower than usual, dominated at 9 o’clock, leading into a good start for “October Road” (5.8/16 in 18-49, 14.3 million viewers overall) — the season’s No. 3 drama premiere in adults 18-49, behind ABC’s “Brothers & Sisters” and NBC’s “Heroes.”

Fox was looking smart with the regular timeslot debut of “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader” (4.5/13 in 18-49, 12.2 million viewers overall), which won the 8 o’clock hour in adults 18-49 with the net’s best regular-program average in the slot since “World’s Wildest Police Videos” in March 1999. It then fell off at 9 with an hour of repeat segs of “Family Guy” (2.6/7 in 18-49, 5.8 million viewers overall), airing on the night for the first time this season.

CBS could finish in second in some categories with opening-night coverage of the men’s NCAA college basketball tournament, which averaged a 3.5/9 in adults 18-49 from 8-11 p.m. — down from the preliminary 4.0/11 of last year. Daylight Savings Time could be a factor in the dropoff as last year’s tournament began during Standard Time.

At NBC, an hour of “The Office” newpeats (repeat episodes supplemented by previously unseen footage) averaged a decent 2.8/8 in 18-49 and 6.6 million viewers overall, followed by an original “Scrubs” at 9 (2.8/7 in 18-49, 6.4 million viewers overall) and the series premiere of “Andy Barker, P.I.” at 9:30 (2.4/6 in 18-49, 5.8 million viewers overall), which came in on par with previous slot occupant “30 Rock.” Closing out the night, the premiere of drama “Raines” ran third for the 10 o’clock hour (2.9/8 in 18-49, 10.3 million viewers overall) but built on its lead-in.

CW was above average with original episodes of “Smallville” (2.0/6 in 18-49, 4.6 million viewers overall) and “Supernatural” (1.4/4 in 18-49, 3.5 million viewers overall).

Preliminary 18-49 averages for the night: ABC, 6.0/16; CBS, 3.5/9; Fox, 3.5/9; NBC, 2.7/7; CW, 1.7/5; Univision, 1.7/5.

In total viewers: ABC, 15.8 million; CBS, 9.6 million; Fox, 9.0 million; NBC, 7.7 million; CW, 4.1 million; Univision, 3.7 million.

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