NBA playoffs knock 'Gladiators' off pedestal

With “American Idol” continuing to give ground, Fox is seeing its weekly ratings advantages diminish.

In the penultimate full week of the season, Fox did win for an 18th straight time among young adults, but both CBS and ABC were within striking distance. The Eye tied Fox for the lead in adults 25-54 and won in total viewers for a third straight frame, while the Alphabet ran second in 18-49 with its best average (excluding Oscar week) since late November.

Fox will win the season easily in all categories, though it’s worth noting that CBS would likely have prevailed in total viewers had it not been for the writers strike. The Eye has drawn the most overall viewers since the beginning of April.

Overall for the May 5-11 frame, Nielsen estimates that Fox led among adults 18-49 with a 3.3 rating/10 share, with ABC (3.0/9) and CBS (2.9/8) not far behind. NBC ran a distant fourth (1.9/5), closer to fifth-place Univision (1.6/4) or sixth-place TNT (1.2/3) than to any of its Big Four rivals.

In total viewers, CBS (10.6 million) was well ahead of ABC (9.5 million) and Fox (8.9 million).

As for “American Idol,” it remains comfortably television’s top-rated program, with Tuesday’s performance episode (8.4/23 in 18-49, 21.76m) and Wednesday’s results show (8.2/21, 22.87m). Still, the skein’s two hours were down a combined 18% in 18-49 rating vs. the same week a year ago (8.3/22 vs. 10.1/28).

Also pitching in for Fox were Monday’s “House” (a slot-leading 5.1/13 in 18-49, 13.48m) and Tuesday’s “Hell’s Kitchen” (5.2/13, 11.00m), which retained a best-yet 62% of its “Idol” 18-49 lead-in.

And NASCAR’s Darlington 500 race on Saturday (2.7/10 in 18-49, 7.81m) won the night for Fox, easily topping ABC’s coverage of the Cleveland-Boston NBA playoff game (1.7/6, 4.70m).

At ABC, “Grey’s Anatomy” (6.4/16 in 18-49, 16.03m) bounced back from its firstrun Thursday low of the previous week to stand as the frame’s top-rated scripted program. “Desperate Housewives” (5.6/14, 15.43m) and “Lost” (4.7/13, 10.78m) also placed in the top 10, and “Brothers & Sisters” (3.8/10, 10.69m) held on to a bit more of its “Housewives” lead-in than usual with its season finale.

Net’s news division did only so-so numbers for Wednesday spec “Audition: The Barbara Walters Story” (2.0/5, 7.47m), which featured Charles Gibson chatting with Walters about her just-released autobiography.

CBS moved up in the ranks thanks to Sunday’s finale of “Survivor: Fans vs. Favorites” (4.4/12 in 18-49, 12.98m); although it was the lowest-rated finale to date for the long-running franchise, it gave the net a big boost on the night.

The Eye could also point to its Thursday drama “Without a Trace” (3.8/10, 14.67m), which was up week to week and retained more of its lead-in from “CSI” (5.0/13, 18.07m) than in recent weeks. And “Two and a Half Men” was easily the week’s top-rated half-hour comedy (4.9/12, 13.61m).

NBC had one of its worst weeks in memory, as even top shows like “Law & Order: SVU” (3.6/10, 10.53m) and “The Office” (3.6/9, 7.16m) were sub-par. Not helping was gamer “Deal or No Deal,” which struggled with its two-hour segs on Monday (2.3/6 in 18-49, 8.49m) and Wednesday (1.9/5, 7.27m).

The Peacock also stumbled on Monday of the current week, as “American Gladiators” returned to action with easily its lowest scores (1.9/5 in 18-49, 4.99m); of course, it didn’t help that the male-skewing skein bowed opposite the NBA playoffs on cable as well as shows ending or nearing the end of their seasons on the broadcast webs.

CW had a typical week, led by “America’s Next Top Model” (2.0/6, 4.02m) and “Smallville” (1.5/5, 3.99m). Sunday remains a struggle, though, as “Everybody Hates Chris” again got the net’s comedy block off to a slow start (0.5/1, 1.27m).

And MyNetwork was up vs. the same week a year ago (0.4 vs. 0.3 in 18-49 and 1.18 million viewers overall vs. 810,000), led by Tuesday series “Jail” (0.8/2, 1.71m).

In cable, four of the week’s top six telecasts among adults 18-49 were NBA playoff games, led by Tuesday’s Boston-Cleveland contest on TNT (2.3/7 in 18-49, 4.87m) and Thursday’s New Orleans-San Antonio game on ESPN (2.2/7, 4.95m).

Also doing well were USA’s airing of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” on Saturday (2.2/7 in 18-49, 5.63m) — which beat ABC, CBS and NBC on the night — and MTV’s Monday skein “The Hills” (2.0/5, 3.33m).

TNT bested USA in 18-49, 25-54 and total viewers, though USA made it close in the popular vote thanks to movies and “WWE Raw.”

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