Fox maintains primetime dominance

Fox stayed on top in primetime last week, but CBS bounced ahead of the other nets thanks to strong weekend numbers for college basketball.

The Eye, which was also impressive Monday with its firstrun comedies and the return of “CSI: Miami,” pulled to within shouting distance of Fox in key demos and nearly caught it in total viewers.

Overall, according to Nielsen estimates that include “live plus same-night DVR playback,” Fox prevailed in the adults 18-49 demo for a 12th straight week with a 3.7 rating/10 share, followed by CBS (3.1/9), ABC (26/7), NBC (2.3/6) and Univision (1.6/4).

Fox also led in adults 25-54 (4.2/10 to 3.7/10 for CBS), those 12-34 (3.5/10 to 2.8/8 for CBS) and total viewers (9.9 million to CBS’ 9.5 million), winning in the latter category for a network-record 11th straight week.

In a change from other weeks this season, the hourlong Wednesday results show of “American Idol” was the frame’s top program (9.8/25 in 18-49, 25.74 million viewers overall), edging past Tuesday’s 91-minute performance show (9.7/25, 24.76m).

“Idol” has easily ranked as the top series every week since it kicked off its seventh season in mid-January, but the show has dipped some this season.

Looking at Nielsen live plus same day (DVR playback) estimates, the Tuesday performance show is down 7% in total viewers and 10% in adults 18-49 vs. the same point last season. Its decline is steeper in adults 18-34 (15%), while it has held up better among adults 50-plus (off 1%).

Last week, “Idol” again had a halo effect on the shows skedded alongside it, as a special Tuesday episode of laffer ” ‘Til Death” (4.3/11, 10.00m) had its best showing of the season, and Wednesday’s “Moment of Truth” again led its hour with its season finale (4.0/12, 10.05m).

At CBS, the net’s Monday comedy lineup got a boost from a guest spot by Britney Spears on “How I Met Your Mother,” which hit some series highs (4.5/12, 10.67m) and was the net’s top comedy in 18-34. “Two and a Half Men” (5.2/13, 14.23m) was also on the high end, and “CSI: Miami” matched or set season bests in its first new seg of 2008 (4.9/12, 16.06m).

On Monday of the current week, meanwhile, “The New Adventures of Old Christine” hit a season high (4.5/11 in 18-49, 12.57m), with its season finale guest starring Jason Alexander.

As for basketball, action on Thursday (3.9/10 in 18-49 during primetime), Friday (3.2/11) and Saturday (3.7/12) was all on par with the same week last year, with the net winning Friday and Saturday and finishing a close second on Thursday.

Highlighting the frame for third-place ABC was “Dancing With the Stars” (5.1/13 in 18-49, 20.52m) as well as Sunday’s nonscripted firstruns “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” (4.5/11, 12.96m), “Oprah’s Big Give” (3.9/9, 11.36m) and “Here Come the Newlyweds” (3.0/8, 7.26m).

Another standout was Tuesday’s “Primetime: What Would You Do?” (3.1/8 in 18-49, 9.92m), which took advantage of its “Dancing” lead-in to hit season highs with its finale. Not so hot for the net were firstrun dramas “Men in Trees” on Wednesday (1.4/4, 5.62m) and “Eli Stone” on Thursday (1.9/5, 6.53m), while comedy “Miss Guided” did OK in its second try, leading off Thursday (2.1/6 in 18-49, 5.74m average for its two segs).

NBC was paced by a strong finale for “The Celebrity Apprentice” (Daily Variety, March 31), which was Thursday’s top show in both 18-49 (4.5/12) and total viewers (12.13m), spiking by more than 40% in various categories vs. the franchise’s most recent finale nearly a year ago.

Also performing well was Tuesday’s “Biggest Loser” (3.1/8, 7.84m) and Friday’s “Dateline” (3.2/10, 10.63m), with the latter newsmag hitting a 14-month timeslot high for the Peacock.

CW was paced by “America’s Next Top Model” (1.7/5, 3.53m) and “Smallville” (1.6/5, 3.86m).

On cable, Nickelodeon’s “Kids’ Choice Awards” (7.45 million) was the week’s top draw in total viewers (see story, page xx), while MTV claimed the top two 18-49 scores of the week for nonscripted hits “The Hills” on Monday (2.8/7 in 18-49, 4.79m for its season preem) and “America’s Best Dance Crew” (2.3/6, 4.94m for its first-season finale).

Lifetime Movie Network drew the largest aud in its 10-year history with two-part movie “The Capture of the Green River Killer,” which opened to 2.05 million viewers Sunday and closed with 2.40 million Monday of the current week. Conclusion of the pic, which starred Tom Cavanagh, drew 1.1 million adults 25-54 and 911,000 adults 18-49 — also bests for the net.

ESPN kicked off the baseball season in winning fashion with its opening-night game between Atlanta and Washington (1.4/4, 3.66m) — the most-watched regular-season baseball game on the net not featuring Boston or either of the New York teams since 1998.

In its third week, HBO’s miniseries “John Adams” remained steady at 2.15 million viewers on Sunday, while Showtime averaged 768,000 for the season-two preem of “The Tudors.”

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