Network still on top despite end of 'Idol'

A strong conclusion to “American Idol” enabled Fox to prevail among young adults for a 20th consecutive week — and stand as the only net to improve upon its perf for the same frame a year ago.

Fox also figures to set the pace this summer: “So You Think You Can Dance” got off to a good start, and “Hell’s Kitchen” continues to cook up winning scores on Tuesday.

Overall, according to Nielsen national estimates, Fox rolled to victory last week in adults 18-49 with a 4.5 rating/14 share, followed by ABC (2.6/8), CBS (2.1/6), NBC (1.6/5), Univision (1.4/4) and TNT (1.2/3). Net hasn’t lost in primetime’s most prized ratings category since early January.

Fox was also dominant in the tangential demos of adults 25-54 (5.2/15) and persons 12-34 (4.3/14) and cruised as well in total viewers (12.5 million to 8.5 million for CBS).

Topping the week, of course, was Wednesday’s “American Idol” finale (11.4/30 in 18-49, 31.66m), in which David Cook bested David Archuleta to become the megahit’s seventh champion. Despite a season in which the show’s overall averages were down — in some cases by double-digit percentages — the “Idol” conclusion retained 99% of its year-ago finale delivery in 18-49 (11.5/31) and saw a gain of 3% in total viewers (from 30.8 million).

Also for Fox, “Hell’s Kitchen” held up well opposite tough finales on Tuesday (5.2/13 in 18-49, 11.44m), and the net’s summer staple “So You Think You Can Dance” did the same on Thursday (3.5/10, 8.74m).

“Dance” came within 4% of its year-ago preem despite opposing the season finales of ABC’s “Ugly Betty” (2.8/9, 8.75m), which it beat, and “Grey’s Anatomy” (7.0/19, 18.09m), to which it ran second for the night.

Despite logging their best scores of the spring, the ABC skeins were down sharply vs. their conclusions of a year ago. Still, “Grey’s Anatomy” drew the best demo score for any scripted skein since Fox’s “House” in early February.

Also down for ABC: Tuesday’s “Dancing With the Stars” finale (5.4/14, 20.12m), although it ranked among the week’s top five programs in various categories.

CBS highlights included strong finales for laffers “Two and a Half Men” (4.8/12 in 18-49, 14.70m) and “Rules of Engagement” (4.3/10, 12.29m) and drama vet “CSI: Miami” (4.5/12, 16.26m). And on Tuesday, the two-hour finale of “NCIS” (3.4/9, 16.52m) was solid opposite imposing reality competish.

NBC’s struggles continued, as the net was shut out of the week’s top 20. “American Gladiators” wasn’t exactly ready for combat Monday in its return to the sked (1.7/5 in 18-49, 4.03m for its second outing back), and “Last Comic Standing” didn’t look that hot in its season premiere on Thursday (2.4/6, 5.86m).

In the evening news race, NBC’s “Nightly News” (2.1/9 in adults 25-54, 8.10m) opened up a bit of ground on ABC rival “World News” (1.9/8, 7.84m). The two newscasts were neck and neck in the May sweep (April 24-May 21), with both averaging a 2.0/8 in the demo and about 8 million viewers overall; CBS’ “Evening News” lagged for the month as usual with a 1.4/6 in 25-54 and 5.6 million viewers overall.

TNT was the week’s runaway cable leader in all key categories, led by its coverage of the NBA playoff series between the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs. Frame’s top two cablecasts were games between these Western Conference rivals on Wednesday (2.8/8 in 18-49, 6.19m) and Monday (2.7/8, 6.55m).

In hockey, Versus averaged a 1.0/4 in 18-49 and 2.35 million viewers overall on Saturday for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins — the best numbers in six years for a finals opener.

The week’s top cable entertainment series in key demos were Discovery’s “Deadliest Catch” (1.4/4 in 18-49, 2.51m) and VH1’s “Flavor of Love 3” (1.4/3, 2.92m).

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