NBC and CBS benefit from gridiron action

CBS and NBC dominated the top of the program rankings last week and split the week’s key primetime ratings races.

Football, of course, played a key role as NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” was easily the top program, and CBS benefited from an NFL overrun bleeding into primetime. The Peacock also got a nice boost from the finale of “The Biggest Loser,” while the Eye was paced by a series high for hot laffer “The Big Bang Theory.”

Best news for Fox came courtesy of season highs for “Glee” and “Bones,” while ABC’s “Modern Family” ended fall on a high.

The first full frame of December, meanwhile, was also another good one for cable, with Showtime’s “Dexter” and E!’s “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” wrapping impressively, and TNT’s “Men of a Certain Age” bowing to nice numbers.

Looking at the Dec. 7-13 frame, Nielsen estimates that NBC averaged a 2.8 rating/8 share in adults 18-49, with CBS (2.7/8) close on its tail — and likely to pull ahead when final DVR playback info is released in a couple of weeks. They were followed by Fox (2.2/6), ABC (2.0/6), Univision (1.3/4) and ESPN (1.2/4).

CBS held the edge over NBC in both adults 25-54 (3.5/9 to 3.3/9) and total viewers (10.6 million to 8.8 million), and the Peacock and Fox tied among persons 12-34 (2.0 rating).

For NBC, “Sunday Night Football” (7.8 rating/20 share in adults 18-49, 20.88 million viewers overall for the wild Eagles-Giants contest) dominated Sunday’s action, placing as primetime’s top program of the week in 18-49 for the 11th time in its last 13 telecasts.

Also for the Peacock, “Biggest Loser” wrapped its eighth edition with the franchise’s best scores in four years (5.0/13 in 18-49, 13.45 million viewers overall), and “The Office” (4.2/11 in 18-49, 8.51m) won its Thursday timeslot in 18-49 and stood as the week’s No. 1 scripted program in adults 18-34 (5.0/14).

“The Jay Leno Show” delivered its highest weekly 18-49 average in nine weeks and its biggest total-viewer average in 10 weeks. Show rode the coattails of “Biggest Loser” on Tuesday to deliver its best scores on this night (2.9/8 in 18-49, 8.33m) since premiere week.

CBS claimed the week’s top two scripted skeins in Monday laffers “The Big Bang Theory” (5.6/13 in 18-49, 14.38m) and “Two and a Half Men” (5.0/12, 14.84m), with the former achieving a series high and the latter a season-best delivery.

Also hitting a season high in demos was “Survivor” (4.2/12 in 18-49, 13.25m), and “Old Christine,” “The Mentalist” and “Cold Case” all drew their largest overall audiences of the season.

Fox, which continues to stand as the only net up across the board for the season, was shut out of the week’s top 10 programs but was led by “Family Guy” (3.7/9 in 18-49, 7.66m) and “Glee” (3.7/9, 8.13m). Latter posted series highs across the board and also outperformed its special post-“American Idol” preview of last May in teens (3.2/11).

Net also saw “Bones” hit a season high on Thursday (3.1/9, 10.90m) and did OK on Monday with “Carrie Underwood: An All-Star Holiday Special” (2.3/6, 8.55m).

ABC suffered by airing repeats of its Thursday dramas, and laffer “Better Off Ted” (1.5/4, 3.82m) performed weakly on Tuesday.

Better news could be found elsewhere, including Tuesday’s premiere of “Disney Prep and Landing” (4.1/11 in 18-49, 12.04m) and Wednesday’s “Modern Family” (3.8/10, 9.67m), with the latter logging its best 18-49 score in 10 weeks and its largest 18-34 score yet (3.5/10).

CW aired mostly repeats but opened the week with solid numbers for “One Tree Hill” (1.2/3 in 18-49, 2.57m) and “Gossip Girl” (1.2/3, 2.21m).

In cable, it was a good week for Disney, as ESPN, Disney Channel and ABC Family were three of the four most-watched primetime nets.

ESPN led the cable pack as usual behind “Monday Night Football” (5.3/14 in 18-49, 13.48m for Green Bay-Baltimore) — the week’s No. 3 primetime program in 18-49 — and record numbers for Saturday’s “Heisman Trophy Presentation” (1.9/6 in 18-49, 5.99m), which was TV’s No. 1 program among young adults during the 8 p.m. hour.

ABC Family’s original movie “Santa Baby 2 Christmas Maybe” (1.2/3 in 18-49, 3.80m) stands as the top cable pic of the fall in 18-49, and Disney Channel’s preem of “Phineas and Ferb Christmas Vacation” was the week’s No. 3 scripted cable telecast in total viewers (a series-high 5.21 million).

TNT had good news Monday with the premiere of “Men of a Certain Age” (1.6/4 in 18-49, 5.40m), which built in demos on its lead-in from “The Closer” (1.4/4, 6.18m), which aired an original seg for the first time since summer. “Men” became ad-supported cable’s top new series launch of the calendar year in adults 25-54 (2.1/5).

On Sunday, Showtime’s “Dexter” (1.3/3 in 18-49, 2.58m) hit series highs with its season finale, and E!’s “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” wrapped with very impressive numbers (2.4/6, 4.12m).

And Hallmark Channel drew 3.69 million viewers for its premiere of Billy Ray Cyrus telepic “Christmas in Canaan,” contributing to one of the net’s top weekly averages to date (2.17 million).

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