'90210' drops third of premiere audience

Fox’s “Fringe” opened to winning but unspectacular numbers on Tuesday, a night that saw viewership of CW’s “90210″ ease in its second outing.

But the story of the night was the boffo perf of the midseason finale of ABC Family’s “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” which topped “90210″ in key young demos and hit series highs.

Neither “Fringe” nor “90210″ — among the highest-profile rookies of fall — looks like a game-changer at this point, though the Fox series will have a chance to recruit new viewers beginning next week when megahit “House” becomes its lead-in.

The CW’s “90210″ looks to be a good addition to the net’s strong early-week slate of femme-focused dramas. And another CW rookie, dramedy “Privileged,” opened solidly behind “90210.”

As for “Fringe,” the latest drama from “Lost” co-creator J.J. Abrams averaged a 3.2 Nielsen rating/9 share in adults 18-49 and 9.13 million viewers overall for its expanded premiere, which aired from 8 to 9:35 p.m. with limited commercial interruptions.

While it led its timeslot in adults 18-49 and all key male demos, the result was underwhelming considering the show’s auspices and all of Fox’s tubthumping for it. Fox was likely hoping for a bigger bow but can now sit back and see how the series meshes with “House,” a show with which it seems to be thematically compatible.

The 18-49 aud for “Fringe” was evenly split along gender lines (3.3/9 in men and 3.2/9 in women) while it skewed a bit older than expected, earning a 2.5/8 in 18-34 and a 3.9/10 in 25-54. Audience grew a bit throughout, opening with a 3.1 rating at 8, hitting a 3.2 at 8:30, a 3.3 at 9 o’clock and a 3.4 for its final five minutes.

At CW, “90210″ (1.7/5 in 18-49, 3.24m) declined from its week-earlier preem by 35% in 18-49 and by 30% in the net’s target demo of adults 18-34 (2.1/6 vs. 3.0/9). A dropoff was not unexpected given that the recognizable title drew a lot of lookie-loos to the premiere, and its second week faced stepped-up competish from both “Fringe” and “Secret Life.”

At this level, “90210″ is performing nearly identically to the net’s Monday successes, “Gossip Girl” and “One Tree Hill.”

The good news for “90210″ is that “Secret Life” has ended its run. But the bad news is that Fox’s “House,” a huge draw among women 18-34, is invading the time period.

Following “90210,” new drama “Privileged” averaged a 1.2/3 in 18-49 and 2.64 million viewers overall — retaining 67% of its 18-34 lead-in (1.4/4 vs. 2.1/6) and roughly 80% in both women 18-49 and total viewers. As with “Fringe,” the pilot of “Privileged” will be rebroadcast on Sunday.

Night’s top cable program was ABC Family’s “Secret Life of the American Teenager” (1.8/5 in 18-49, 4.54m), which hit highs in numerous categories. It easily beat “90210″ in women 18-34 (3.7/11 to 3.1/9) and drew more than five times as many female teens (9.1/30 to 1.6/5).

In persons 12-34, “Secret Life’s” midseason finale (3.2/10) stands as ad-supported cable’s top scripted series of the 2007-08 season. Show will return in January for the second half of its first season.

Elsewhere, ABC had a solid night, with original episodes of nonscripted series “Wipeout” at 8 (2.9/8 in 18-49, 7.26m) and 9 (3.0/8 in 18-49, 6.97m) used effectively as counterprogramming. Head to head, “Wipeout” beat Fox’s preview of genre-similar “Hole in the Wall” (1.9/5 in 18-49, 4.05m) prior to the latter’s timeslot debut tonight at 8.

CBS was paced by a special 8 o’clock seg of “Big Brother” (2.6/7 in 18-49, 6.98m), which was on the rise as it nears its finale. And from 9 to 11, the annual special “Fashion Rocks” (1.9/5 in 18-49, 7.61m) significantly outperformed its recent performances on Friday nights.

And NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” was on the low side but remained competitive in demos with its two-hour episode (2.6/7, 11.61m), which stood as the night’s most-watched program overall.

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