Halloween special nabs 12.5 million viewers

The annual “Treehouse of Horror” episode of Fox’s “The Simpsons” generated the show’s best demo score in nearly five years on Sunday, a night that also saw good numbers for ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” and NBC’s “Sunday Night Football.”

Now in its 20th season, “The Simpsons” (6.2 rating/15 share in adults 18-49, 12.5 million viewers overall) racked up the best demo score of the night, according to Nielsen prelims. It fared even better, of course, in adults 18-34 (7.3/20) and teens (4.2/12).

Overall, it was the best 18-49 score for the animated vet (excluding its post-Super Bowl airing in 2005) since January 2004, and its largest total audience since February 2004.

Also for Fox on Sunday, “King of the Hill” followed with its best ratings in about a year (prelim 4.3/10 in 18-49, 8.6 million), while “Family Guy” (prelim 5.0/11, 10.0 million) and “American Dad” (prelim 3.7/8, 7.2 million) logged their highest scores in 10 months.

Fox certainly benefited from an NFL overrun funneling viewers into primetime, but its primary game was lopsided and ended around 7:20 p.m. in the East, making the numbers for its 8-10 p.m. animated block especially impressive.

Elsewhere, NBC’s “Sunday Night Football,” a tight game between the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots, averaged a prelim 5.3 rating/13 share in 18-49 and 14.2 million viewers on Peacock affils from 8:30 to 11 p.m., with the nationals expected to come in at least 10% higher. This is likely to be the highest-rated “SNF” contest since Sept. 28.

At ABC, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” (prelim 3.8/9 in 18-49, 11.7 million) was in line with its recent scores, seeing a big jump at 8:30 when “The Simpsons” ended. “Desperate Housewives” was the top entertainment series at 9 o’clock (prelim 5.8/13, 15.8 million), and “Brothers & Sisters” closed out the night with average scores (3.4/9 in 18-49, 9.7 million viewers overall).

CBS, without a football overrun, had a quiet night in the prelims, getting similar scores from “60 Minutes” (2.7/7 in 18-49, 14.4 million viewers), “Amazing Race” (2.8/7, 9.8 million) and “Cold Case” (2.6/6, 11.6 million). The net then fell off some at 10 with “The Unit” (2.3/6, 9.0 million).

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