Football fuels Fox win

Fox squeaked past its rivals last week in primetime thanks to a huge football overrun on Sunday, but it was season leaders ABC and CBS that shined brightest when it came to entertainment offerings.

The Alphabet’s “Desperate Housewives” and “Grey’s Anatomy” were the week’s top performers among adults 18-49, while CBS remained the most consistent network thanks in part to its boost on Tuesday from rookie “The Mentalist.”

The Simon Baker-fronted drama built on its “NCIS” lead-in in both demos and total viewers for the first time, becoming the first skein since ABC’s “Housewives” to stand as the week’s most-watched program in its rookie season.

Overall, according to “live plus same-day” Nielsen national estimates, Fox won in adults 18-49 with a 2.9 rating/8 share, followed by ABC and CBS at 2.8/8 and NBC at 2.6/7.

CBS led in adults 25-54 (3.6/9) and total viewers (10.9 million), while Fox held the advantage among persons 12-34 (2.4/7).

On Fox, Sunday’s lengthy Pittsburgh Steelers-Dallas Cowboys contest averaged a huge 11.3 rating/31 share in 18-49 and 30.11 million viewers overall during the 7 o’clock half-hour that kicks off primetime.

Fox also was represented well on the entertainment side by Tuesday’s “House” (5.0/14 in 18-49, 12.52m) and “Fringe” (3.6/9, 8.54m) and by a solid premiere on Wednesday for limited-run series “Secret Millionaire” (2.6/7 in 18-49, 7.36m for its two hours).

At ABC, “Desperate Housewives” (6.0/14 in 18-49, 16.09m) and “Grey’s Anatomy” (5.5/14, 15.28m) led the way, with the former delivering its best 18-34 score (5.3/13) since its season preem. And the same night saw “Brothers and Sisters” rack up its best scores in 10 weeks (3.9/9 in 18-49, 10.54m).

Net also was boosted by holiday specs including “Shrek the Halls” (3.3/9, 11.14m) and “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (3.8/9, 11.41m) as well as Saturday’s Big 12 college football championship game between Oklahoma and Missouri (2.9/9, 8.76m).

CBS was led by “CSI” (4.6/12 in 18-49, 17.48m), holiday perennial “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (4.2/12, 11.81m) and “Two and a Half Men” (4.0/10, 13.63m), with “Men” cracking the top 10 even as a repeat.

Also, Tuesday’s “The Mentalist” (3.8/9 in 18-49, 18.74m) continues to mesh well with lead-in “NCIS” (3.7/10, 18.52m).

“Sunday Night Football” was NBC’s top draw despite a below-average result (5.0/12 in 18-49, 13.29m for Baltimore-Washington), and Thursday’s “The Office” (4.4/11 in 18-49, 8.46m) was the week’s top comedy in 18-49, doubling up its soft lead-in, “Kath and Kim” (2.2/6, 4.91m).

Net’s “Life” (2.4/6 in 18-49, 8.15m) and “Law and Order” (3.0/8, 11.31m) were on the high side Wednesday, stepping up in the absence of crime-drama competish from CBS.

MyNetwork averaged 2 million viewers for the first time, drawing a larger overall audience than CW (1.7 million) for a second straight week. Its top program, “WWE Friday Night Smackdown” (1.3/4 in 18-49, 3.70m), matched its high on the network, topping NBC’s programming in 18-49 for a sixth straight Friday.

USA led the cablers thanks to “WWE Raw” on Monday (1.9/5 in 18-49, 9.97m for its two hours) and six episodes of “House” that ranked among the week’s top 25 cable shows in adults 18-49.

Elsewhere, Nickelodeon averaged a hearty 8.1 million viewers on Friday for its original pic “Merry Christmas, Drake and Josh,” which makes it the net’s most-watched live-action movie ever. It was the week’s top program, broadcast or cable, among kids 2-11 (4.3 million) and tweens 9-14 (2.9 million).

ABC Family saw a strong opening week for the net’s 11th annual “25 Days of Christmas” event, logging its largest average weekly audience on record among adults 18-34 (600,000). “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” kicked things off in a big way on Monday (1.4/3 in 18-49, 3.86m).

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