CBS wins weekly ratings race

Network riding season highs for several series

CBS put it all together last week, riding season highs from several entertainment series as well as “60 Minutes” to notch its fourth demo victory in eight weeks this fall.

Most impressive for the Eye is its Tuesday combo of “NCIS” and “The Mentalist,” with the latter emerging as the season’s hottest newcomer. Last week the Simon Baker-topped drama pulled ahead of Fox’s timeslot rookie competitor, “Fringe,” for the first time.

Also clicking for CBS is sophomore laffer “The Big Bang Theory,” which hit series highs last week, and dominant Friday drama “The Ghost Whisperer,” which drew its largest audience in two years.

Overall, according to Nielsen estimates, CBS prevailed for the week of Nov. 10-16 with a 3.3 rating/9 share in adults 18-49, followed by ABC (3.1/8), NBC (2.9/8), Fox (2.7/7), Univision (1.6/4) and ESPN (1.3/3).

The Eye won by larger margins in both adults 25-54 (4.3/10 to 3.7/9 for ABC) and total viewers (12.3 million to ABC’s 10.5 million).

CBS also is running neck and neck with ABC for the November sweeps lead among adults 18-49. It’s also the favorite to win in both adults 25-54 and total viewers.

Leading the way for CBS last week was “60 Minutes” (6.3/16 in 18-49, 25.10m), which drew its best demo perf since January 2000 and its largest overall audience since January 1999 thanks to Steve Kroft’s interview with president-elect Barack Obama and future first lady Michelle Obama. The Sunday newsmag took advantage of a big NFL overrun (8.4/24 in 18-49 and 25.76 million viewers overall for the final half-hour of Pittsburgh-San Diego).

“60 Minutes” has now finished on top in overall viewers for a second straight week for the first time in nearly 16 years.

Elsewhere, Tuesday’s “NCIS” (4.0/10 in 18-49, 18.75m) logged its best demo numbers in more than a year and its largest overall aud in the show’s six-season history. That led into “The Mentalist” (4.0/10, 16.52m), which logged its best scores yet and beat its regular competish in 18-49 for the first time.

“The Big Bang Theory” kicked off Monday with its best ratings to date (3.9/10 in 18-49, 10.01m), winning in 18-49 and 18-34. And on Monday of the current week, “How I Met Your Mother” (4.4/11, 9.99m) and “Two and a Half Men” (5.3/12, 15.18m) hit season highs.

Friday saw “Ghost Whisperer” (2.9/10 in 18-49, 11.57m) win its hour by 6 shares in 18-49 — the largest margin for any show during the week. Skein logged its best demos in about a year and its largest overall aud since March 2006.

Overall, CBS claimed nine of the week’s top 20 programs in 18-49, compared with four each for ABC and Fox and two for NBC.

At ABC, “Desperate Housewives” (6.2/14 in 18-49, 16.84m) was the week’s No. 1 entertainment series in key demos, logging the show’s best numbers since its season preem in September.

Also high in the program rankings were “Grey’s Anatomy” (5.7/13, 14.90m), Wednesday’s “CMA Awards” (5.0/13, 15.90m) and Monday’s “Dancing With the Stars” (4.2/10, 18.69m). And on Friday, a Barbara Walters special centered on a transgender man who recently gave birth provided the net with a rare victory in the night’s 10 o’clock hour (2.2/7 in 18-49, 8.05m).

NBC claimed the week’s No. 1 program in “Sunday Night Football” (7.4/17 in 18-49, 19.27m), as its Dallas-Washington matchup generated the franchise’s second-best scores of the season.

On the downside, two rookie series that have been picked up for the rest of the season hit lows last week: “Knight Rider” (1.5/4 in 18-49, 5.34m) and “Kath & Kim” (2.1/5, 5.12m). But Friday soph “Lipstick Jungle” (1.4/4, 3.66m) was on the rise for a second straight week, perhaps improving its chances of sticking around.

Univision was paced by Thursday’s “Latin Grammy Awards” (2.4/6 in 18-49, 5.85m), and CW by “America’s Next Top Model” (1.9/5, 3.71m) and “One Tree Hill” (1.6/4, 2.99m).

ESPN led the cable pack behind “Monday Night Football” (4.6/12, 11.87m) and a Saturday college game featuring No. 1 Alabama against Mississippi State (1.8/6, 4.96m).

Auds predictably started moving away from cable news in the week following the presidential election. Whereas Fox News, CNN and MSNBC all finished among the top 10 cablers in adults 25-54 the week prior to the election, they finished in the bottom half of the top 20 last week (the first week after the election): Fox News ranked 11th, MSNBC was 17th and CNN 18th.

Fox News ran third among cablers in primetime among total viewers (2.49 million), behind only ESPN (3.43 million) and USA (2.61 million).

Among other highlights: HBO’s “True Blood” hit another high (1.5/3 in 18-49, 2.67m), and Lifetime movie “The Two Mr. Kissels” drew 4.17 million viewers to rank among the top 10 cable telecasts despite airing on little-watched Saturday.

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