Network tops weekly ratings with fall classic

Four games of the World Series delivered a ratings grand slam for Fox last week, helping the net post one of the fall’s most lopsided victories in five years.

And the current week should be pretty big as well, since Monday’s victory by the Phillies means the Fall Classic will be extended to at least a sixth game tonight.

Rival nets aren’t expected to adjust their Wednesday skeds in light of the sixth game, but don’t be surprised to see some late maneuvering on Thursday if a seventh and deciding game is needed that night. Even in a sweeps period, it wouldn’t make much sense for shows like ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy,” CBS’ “CSI” and NBC’s “The Office” to air original episodes opposite an event that could draw nearly 40 million viewers.

Looking at Nielsen nationals that include same-night DVR playback for the week ended Sunday, Fox rolled in adults 18-49 with a 4.8 rating/13 share, with ABC a distant second (2.7/8), followed by CBS (2.3/6), NBC (1.9/5), Univision and ESPN (both 1.2/3) and CW (1.1/3).

Fox’s 4.8 is the highest fall rating for any net since CBS in November 2004. And the 78% victory margin for Fox over ABC is the largest for any network in the fourth quarter since Fox blew away the competish in October 2004 with the American League Championship Series between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.

Fox also rolled in adults 25-54 (5.3/13), persons 12-34 (4.2/13) and total viewers (14.7 million).

This year’s World Series between the Yankees and defending champion Philadelphia Phillies got off to a strong start on Wednesday (6.3/17 in 18-49, 19.51 million viewers overall), rising more than 30% above last year’s opener between the Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays.

Baseball also won on Thursday with Game 2 (5.8/16, 18.90m) and Saturday with Game 3 (4.7/16, 15.40m) before posting its best numbers with Sunday’s fourth game (7.8/20 in 18-49, 22.76m).

The Sunday game benefited from a massive lead-in courtesy of the late-afternoon NFL contest between the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers. Game, in which Vikings QB Brett Favre returned to Green Bay as a visiting player for the first time, averaged 29.8 million viewers — the second most ever for a regular-season NFL game on Fox, behind only a 1995 game between Dallas and San Francisco (32.1 million).

And in the final half-hour (7-7:30 p.m. ET), in which the Packers’ comeback bid fell short, Nielsen estimates that an aud of just under 39 million tuned in.

Elsewhere, ABC had its best frame in four weeks as its female-skewing “Grey’s Anatomy” (5.2/13 in 18-49, 13.74m) and “Desperate Housewives” (5.0/12, 14.08m), airing opposite the World Series, were the top entertainment series in 18-49. And Wednesday laffer “Modern Family” continues to look good (3.7/9, 9.33m), ranking 11th for the week in 18-49.

Monday drama “Castle” hit season highs (2.5/7 in 18-49, 9.99m), and overall, the net’s Monday-through-Thursday 10 p.m. dramas, benefiting from NBC’s switch from dramas to Jay Leno, are up 16% in 18-49 vs. last year.

Not so hot is Friday’s 9 p.m. entry “Ugly Betty” (1.1/4, 4.26m), which is struggling on its new night between “Supernanny” (1.3/4, 4.67m) and “20/20″ (1.7/6, 7.33m).

CBS was led in 18-49 by “The Big Bang Theory” (3.8/9 in 18-49, 10.85m), which ranked 10th for the week even with a repeat. The net also aired other repeats, including “NCIS” (3.3/9, 16.70m), which was still the week’s most-watched scripted skein.

Sunday drama “Three Rivers” continues to sag (1.6/4, 7.70m), dropping sharply from its “Amazing Race” lead-in (1.6/4, 7.70m).

NBC had easily its lowest-rated week of the season as top show “Sunday Night Football” was preempted opposite the World Series and replaced by low-rated theatrical repeat “National Treasure” (1.7/4, 4.65m).

Net’s best news came Tuesday, where “The Biggest Loser” (3.7/10, 9.67m) won its slot in demos. Also, Thursday newbie “Community” (2.1/6, 5.32m) posted its best numbers since moving to the leadoff slot.

“The Jay Leno Show” continued its gradual decline, averaging a 1.46 rating in 18-49 and 5.04 million viewers overall and ranking third among the Big Three each night. It had averaged a 1.54 demo rating the previous week and a 1.66 two weeks ago.

The CW awakened from its quiet fall with five shows — “One Tree Hill,” “America’s Next Top Model,” “Vampire Diaries,” “Supernatural” and “Smallville” — matching or setting season highs in key demos.

Net matched its best Monday of the season in 18-34 (1.8/5) and had its best Thursday in the demo (1.9/5) since March 2007. Thursday saw rookie hit “Vampire Diaries” (2.0/6 in 18-49, 4.18m) achieve highs in numerous categories with its Halloween-themed episode.

ESPN led the cable pack behind “Monday Night Football” (5.2/13 in 18-49, 12.77m for Philadelphia-Washington). Also of note in sports was a strong start to the NBA season for TNT on Tuesday (1.7/5, 4.02m for Boston-Cleveland).

USA’s Friday newcomer “White Collar” (1.2/4 in 18-49, 5.08m) retained 94% of its overall premiere audience, tying NBC’s “Leno” in the demo while beating it in total viewers.

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