College basketball brings in solid numbers

Monday’s overtime buzzer-beater between Kansas and Memphis in the NCAA men’s college basketball championship lifted the Eye network to its best numbers since the 2007-08 season fouled out thanks to the writers strike.

The overall numbers for March Madness may have been down this year, but the last lap of the college basketball tourney was a boon to CBS when it needed it the most.

Saturday’s semifinal action helped the Eye nearly end Fox’s three-month-long winning streak in adults 18-49 and — along with the firstrun return of some of its scripted hits — enabled CBS to win a frame in both adults 25-54 and total viewers for the first time since December.

On Monday, the net bagged its highest-rated program among young adults since September with the overtime title game between Kansas and Memphis.

Nielsen estimates that Kansas’ 75-68 victory averaged a 7.3 rating/19 share in adults 18-49 and 19.5 million viewers overall — nearly identical to the numbers for last year’s Florida-Ohio State matchup (7.2/19, 19.56m). And these days, it’s considered a big win if a net can match the previous year’s scores for any annual event.

Monday’s rating is also not a whole lot lower than January’s college football championship game on Fox between Louisiana State and Ohio State (8.2/21 in 18-49, 23.07m).

Demo rating for the NCAA men’s title game bested CBS’ Grammycast in February (6.5/16) and was higher than that for any series on the Eye since the season preem of “CSI” last September (8.2/19). It drew a big 26 share in men 18-49 and 25-54.

For the three-week tournament, CBS averaged a 5.6 household rating/12 share for all games, down from a 6.1/13 last year.

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Overall for the week ended Sunday, Fox narrowly led in adults 18-49 with a 3.5 rating/10 share to a 3.4/10 for CBS, while ABC (2.2/6) and NBC (2.0/5) were well behind the pacesetters. The Eye moved ahead of Fox in adults 25-54 (4.3/11 to 4.0/10) and total viewers (11.5 million to 9.6 million), while Fox remained on top in persons 12-34 (3.3/10 to 3.1/9).

Victory was CBS’ first in total viewers since January and its first in adults 25-54 since December.

Fox’s 13th consecutive weekly victory in adults 18-49 came courtesy of hourlong “American Idol” installments on Tuesday (9.6/26 in 18-49, 26.12 million viewers overall) and Wednesday (9.4/23, 24.84m) and nice showings for the unscripted skeins that aired alongside “Idol.”

Tuesday saw “Hell’s Kitchen” open by winning its hour in demos (5.5/13 in 18-49, 11.85m) with its strongest delivery to date. And a night later, “The Moment of Truth” again shined in the leadoff hour (4.1/12, 10.16m), posting strong numbers despite facing reality competish on ABC, CBS, NBC and CW.

“Truth” wraps its run as the season’s top-rated new program.

For CBS, the return of “CSI” on Thursday and a two-part “CSI: Miami” early in the week provided a lift. Thursday’s original version of the franchise was the week’s No. 3 program in demos (5.9/15, 20.58m), while the special Tuesday conclusion of a two-night “CSI: Miami” gave the net its best drama numbers in that night’s 10 o’clock hour (4.1/11, 14.23m) since “Judging Amy” in 2003.

Saturday’s college basketball semifinal game between traditional powers Kansas and North Carolina rated well (5.2/16, 14.40m), with CBS topping the combined demo delivery on the night of ABC, NBC and Fox.

Net also looked good with Monday comedies “How I Met Your Mother” (4.0/10, 9.50m), “Two and a Half Men” (5.4/13, 14.50m) and “Old Christine” (4.5/11, 12.57m), and “Ghost Whisperer” and “Numbers” won their slots Friday with their first original episodes of the year.

ABC was led as usual by “Dancing With the Stars” (5.1/13, 20.56m) and its results show (4.0/10, 17.28m), but the net also has to be pleased with Sunday’s season-finale perf of reality rookie “Here Come the Newlyweds” (3.2/8, 7.66m). It won at 10 o’clock in 18-49 for a sixth straight week and was on the rise week to week even though lead-in “Oprah’s Big Give” (3.2/8, 9.42m) was down.

Hurting the net, though, was a weak showing with some 10 o’clock firstrun fare, including “Men in Trees” on Wednesday (1.5/4 in 18-49, 5.46m) and “Eli Stone” on Thursday (1.6/4, 5.15m). Also, gameshow “Duel” was a dud in its return Friday (1.1/3, 3.82m).

NBC had a quiet week, repped in the top 20 only by Tuesday’s “Biggest Loser” (3.3/8, 8.17m) and Thursday’s firstrun return of “My Name Is Earl” (3.2/9, 7.53m). Net didn’t do much Sunday with its repurposed premieres of USA dramas “Monk” (1.5/4, 5.74m) and “Psych” (1.3/3, 3.98m).

Led by novelas “Al Diablo con los Guapos (Down With the Beautiful)” and “Pasion (Passion),” Univision ranked No. 3 for the week in adults 18-34 (1.9/6), behind only Fox and CBS.

Struggling CW, meanwhile, fell behind four cablers (TBS, USA, MTV and Spike) in its target 18-34 demo; bright spots remain reality staples “America’s Next Top Model” (1.9/6, 3.87m) and “Friday Night Smackdown” (1.5/5, 4.72m).

USA topped the week in cable behind Monday’s two hours of “WWE Raw” (averaging a 2.1/6 in 18-49, 5.55m), but MTV claimed the No. 1 show in 18-49 with Monday’s 10:30 p.m. seg of “The Hills” (2.6/7, 4.12m).

Spike moved up to second place for the week among cable nets in 18-49 thanks to its weekend run of “Star Wars” movies. “Episode I” set a Friday movie record for the net (1.1/3 in 18-49, 2.79m), “Episode II” did a bit better on Saturday (1.2/4, 3.35m), and “Episode III” made Spike the No. 1 cabler on Sunday in both 18-49 (1.8/5) and total viewers (4.24m).

Spike also drew a solid 1.3 million viewers and good male demos on Wednesday for the bow of its unscripted series “DEA.”

TNT notched good numbers itself for the “Lord of the Rings” pics, including “Return of the King” on Sunday (1.8/5, 4.02m).

At Bravo, “Make Me a Supermodel” never busted out in its first season but ended on a solid note (0.7/2 in 18-49, 1.34m), leading into the premiere of “Step It Up & Dance,” which averaged 826,000 viewers.

Other highlights for the frame included VH1’s “Rock of Love 2″ topping cable for Sunday’s 9 o’clock hour (1.9/5, 3.05m) and beating all broadcast programs in its timeslot among women 18-34 (3.7/10). And Disney Channel claimed cable’s most-watched scripted telecast of the week with Sunday’s “Wizard of Waverly Place” (4.64m).

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