Reality shows bring in big numbers with finales

A pair of reality skeins — NBC vet “The Apprentice” and MTV newbie “America’s Dance Crew” — impressed in their season finales Thursday night opposite college hoops action on CBS.

At NBC, “The Celebrity Apprentice” was the night’s No. 1 telecast (4.5 rating/12 share in adults 18-49, 12.13 million viewers overall), bagging the Peacock’s highest demo rating in the slot since premiere week and its largest overall aud (nonsports) since November 2006, according to Nielsen estimates.

Airing from 9 to 11 p.m., the seventh season of “Apprentice” racked up the top-scoring finale for the franchise since the conclusion of “The Apprentice 4” in December 2005 and was up a big 41% in 18-49 vs. its most recent finale (3.2/8) on a Sunday last April. It built sharply with each half-hour, peaking at a 5.1/14 in the demo and 13.2 million viewers overall in the 10:30 half-hour, when Piers Morgan was crowned the winner.

“Celeb Apprentice” finished its season with overall gains vs. the most recent “Apprentice” of 24% in 18-49 rating (3.6 vs. 2.9) and 27% in total viewers (9.1 million vs. 7.2 million). This was the first celeb edition of the Donald Trump-hosted reality contest, but it won’t be the last: NBC has picked up the series for next season.

At MTV, the finale of “America’s Best Dance Crew” (2.3/6 in 18-49, 4.94m) scored week-to-week gains of 50% or more in various categories, winning the 10 p.m. hour among women 18-34 (4.1/12) and teen demos and finishing second to basketball on CBS in adults 18-34 (3.4/10) and males 12-34 (3.1/10).

Program is MTV’s highest rated of the first quarter in both male demos and total viewers.

College basketball, meanwhile, averaged a 3.9/11 in 18-49 and 10.02 million viewers in primetime, up slightly vs. the same night last year and good for second place to NBC in most broad categories, while winning in adults 18-34 and all male demos.

CBS also took Friday and Saturday with basketball, but a standout on Friday was NBC’s “Dateline” (prelim 3.2/10 in 18-49, 10.5 million viewers overall) from 9 to 11 p.m., which featured Matt Lauer’s interview with families involved in a strange case of mistaken identity involving a survivor of a deadly car crash in Indiana.

This was NBC’s best demo result in the time period since December 2006 and the highest-rated “Dateline” on any night since last June.

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