ABC holds strong with 'Bachelor,' 'Beauty'

ABC put it all together last week, riding improved numbers for the Academy Awards and series highs for “The Bachelor” and “Lost” to its strongest delivery in more than a year.

Three hours of “American Idol” kept Fox on top in key demos, though, as the season leader in 18-49 prevailed in that category for the sixth time in seven weeks. CBS and NBC were well behind the leaders.

ABC is starting to pick up momentum, especially compared with its soft showing a year ago at this time when the effects of the writers strike were hampering the broadcasters. It has matched or exceeded its perf vs. the same frame in 2008 for six of the last seven weeks.

And with “Dancing With the Stars” set to return in less than two weeks, the net seems well positioned for a strong finish — especially if it can get some production out of its batch of new skeins, kicking off with “Castle” on March 9.

For the week, ABC’s 3.8 rating/10 share in adults 18-49 — its best since November 2007 — trailed only Fox’s 4.3/11. CBS ran third (2.5/7), followed by NBC (2.1/6), Univision (1.7/5) and USA (1.1/3).

Fox also led in adults 25-54 (5.1/12) and total viewers (11.8 million), while it and ABC tied in 18-34 (3.5/10).

The Academy Awards punctuated the week for ABC, earning a 12.1/29 in 18-49 and 36.31 million viewers overall — the top demo score for an entertainment telecast since an edition of “American Idol” one year ago.

The week got off to a good start, too, with season highs for “The Bachelor” (4.4/10 in 18-49, 12.52m), one of six top 10 programs for ABC during the week — its strongest showing in the rankings in more than three years.

Wednesday saw “Lost” (5.2/13 in 18-49, 11.41m) rack up its best 18-49 score since last April, and the net won Thursday with above-average scores for its medical combo of “Grey’s Anatomy” (5.9/15, 15.57m) and “Private Practice” (4.4/12, 11.16m).

And Friday continues to improve, with the net winning in demos from 9-11 p.m. with “Supernanny” (1.7/5 in 18-49, 5.12m) and “20/20″ (2.0/6, 7.23m).

Fox was led as usual by “American Idol,” whose two-hour seg was the week’s top series in all key categories (9.6/24 in 18-49, 25.37m). A night later, when the season’s first three finalists were chosen, also dominated (9.0/24, 24.79m).

“House” (5.2/13, 14.20m) and “24” (3.6/8, 14.20m) continue to click on Monday, and Thursday’s combo of “Bones” (2.9/8, 9.51m) and “Hell’s Kitchen” (3.2/8, 6.57m) have made the net more competitive on Thursday.

CBS was paced by Thursday’s “Survivor” (4.5/12, 13.59m) and “CSI” (4.4/11, 16.92m), with the former rising a tick from its premiere and dominating the 8 o’clock slot as usual.

Tuesday’s “The Mentalist” (3.7/9, 18.23m) continues to mesh well with “NCIS” (3.7/10, 18.06m), with the former again drawing more overall viewers than any scripted program on television during the week.

NBC’s standout performance came from Tuesday’s “Biggest Loser” (3.6/9 in 18-49, 8.88m), which logged the net’s best-ever showing opposite a two-hour “American Idol.”

MyNetwork again topped CW in total viewers (1.51 million to 1.22 million). The latter, which will be happy to see “America’s Next Top Model” return next week, paid the price for airing mostly all repeats.

Univision saw impressive numbers for Friday’s grand finale of “Fuego en la Sangre (Burning for Revenge)” (2.7/8 in 18-49, 6.61m), which was the night’s top-rated program in 18-49 and 18-34 (3.0/11).

USA cruised to victory among the cable nets, claiming five of cable’s top 10 programs among 18-49, including dramas “Burn Notice” (1.7/5 in 18-49, 4.68m), “Psych” (1.5/5, 4.83m) and “Monk” (1.4/4, 5.54m).

At Bravo, “Top Chef: New York” (1.9/5 in 18-49, 3.63m) hit season highs one week from its finale, drawing the second-largest aud to date for the franchise. One night earlier, the finale of “The Real Housewives of Orange County” wrapped with a 1.1/3 in 18-49 and 1.97 million viewers overall.

Monday’s battle of original movies targeting tykes went to Disney Channel’s “Dognapped” (4.62 million) over Nickelodeon’s “Spectacular!” (3.71 million), with the former also prevailing among the 6-14 crowd.

HBO drew just over 2 million viewers for Saturday’s premiere of Kevin Bacon starrer “Taking Chance” — the largest aud for an HBO film since “Something the Lord Made” in May 2004.

And final numbers for the cable red-carpet specs show E! averaging 3.38 million viewers from 6 to 8 p.m., and TV Guide Channel drawing 706,000 during the same period.

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