NBC's 'Heroes' loses some steam

CBS and ABC led the charge on the first night of the 2008-09 TV Season, which saw the Big Four and CW collectively post ratings gains over last season’s opening night.

The Eye narrowly won Monday night among young adults — its first such triumph to kick off a season in six years — behind “CSI: Miami” and its comedy block, although newcomer “Worst Week” bowed modestly. And while the Alphabet prevailed in total viewers with “Dancing With the Stars,” NBC’s “Heroes” opened softer — likely paying the price for being off the air for nine months.

Thanks to growth at CBS and CW, the five English-language broadcasters as a group were up vs. the opening night of last season by 8% in 18-49 and by 7% in total viewers. These increases came even though 28% of the homes in Nielsen’s national sample now include DVRs, up from 20% at the start of last season, giving more viewers the option of watching programs on their own timetables.

Fox wasn’t much of a factor on Monday with its dramas, “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” and “Prison Break,” which have been airing for a couple of weeks already. CW’s young-skewing sudsers held up nicely in their fourth week.

For CBS, “The Big Bang Theory” (3.6 rating/10 share in adults 18-49, 9.32 million viewers overall) and “How I Met Your Mother” (4.0/10, 9.79m) looked good in their returns, with the latter locking up its best preem scores to date. “Two and a Half Men” followed with nice year-to-year gains (5.3/12, 14.48m), but the net fell off at 9:30 with the debut of “Worst Week” (3.8/8, 10.87m).

Because the Eye is so strong on the night overall, though, CBS figures to be willing to give “Worst Week,” the only single-camera laffer in its comedy block, a chance to find a larger aud.

Finishing out the night, “CSI: Miami” (5.2/12, 17.23m) had a strong opener, improving by double-digit percentages vs. last year’s preem despite facing more drama competish on the other major nets.

CBS edged ABC for the night’s lead in 18-49 (4.5/11 to 4.4/11), with NBC a close third (4.2/10), while the Eye and Alphabet tied in adults 25-54 (5.6/13). ABC led comfortably in total viewers (17.2 million to 13.2 million for CBS).

At ABC, the seventh edition of “Dancing With the Stars” (5.3/13 in 18-49, 21.34m) won its timeslot from 8 to 10 p.m., though it declined by 9% in 18-49 vs. last year’s 90-minute opener. Combined with “Boston Legal,” it gave ABC its largest aud on the opening Monday of the season in nine years (since 1999, when “Monday Night Football” was going strong).

NBC kicked things off with a “Heroes” recap show (2.6/7 in 18-49, 6.00m), followed by the skein’s third-season premiere from 9 to 11 (5.0/12, 10.09m). Though a solid score and in line with the show’s last original episode in December, it came in about 20% lower than the second-season debut last year.

“Heroes,” which was easily the night’s top entertainment series in adults 18-34 (5.5/14), is one of six programs on NBC and ABC that didn’t return with original episodes following the writers strike settlement last winter. It’s been a challenge for these nets to promote the shows since they’ve essentially been off the air for nine months.

Next week, “Chuck” kicks off the night and leads into “Heroes” for NBC, while the bow of new 10 o’clock show “My Own Worst Enemy” is still a few weeks off.

Fox’s “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” (2.3/6 in 18-49, 5.89m) and “Prison Break” (2.5/6, 5.84m) were both up slightly week to week, though they combined for a distant fourth-place finish among the broadcasters.

CW’s “Gossip Girl” (1.6/4, 3.33m) and “One Tree Hill” (1.5/3, 3.14m) held onto most of their core auds, placing third for the night in women 18-34 (3.6/9). “Gossip” logged its second best 18-34 score to date (2.4/7).

ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” was again a big factor on the night (5.0/13 in 18-49, 11.88m for San Diego-New York Jets), winning in male demos. Through four games, the franchise’s average viewership (13.32 million) is up 27% vs. last year.

All data are based on Nielsen “live plus same-day” estimates, which include same-night DVR playback until 3 a.m. And each 18-49 ratings point this season reps 1.3197 million viewers.

Fall Primetime Schedule 2008-09

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