Finale engages 15.5 million viewers overall

Three hours of “The Bachelor” provided ABC with its strongest night of the season in key demos, with the conclusion of season 13 delivering the franchise’s best numbers in more than five years.

According to preliminary nationals from Nielsen, “The Bachelor” averaged a 5.4 rating/13 share in adults 18-49 and 15.5 million viewers overall for its two-hour finale from 8 to 10 p.m. and then a huge 6.7/16 in the demo and 17.5 million viewers overall for the “After the Final Rose” special from 10 to 11. This is the best demo delivery for a “Bachelor” finale since May 2004, while its overall audience is the show’s largest since November 2003.

And the “After the Final Rose” program notched its best-ever ratings. ABC knew it had some good drama in the special, opting to air an additional hour of it tonight.

CBS had a solid night to place second, including the season debut of “Rules of Engagement” (3.9/9 in 18-49, 11.9 million viewers overall), which had the tough task of facing off against the concluding portion of “The Bachelor.” The net’s other comedies — “The Big Bang Theory” (3.9/10 in 18-49, 10.9 million viewers overall), “How I Met Your Mother” (4.2/10 in 18-49, 11.1 million viewers overall) and “Two and a Half Men” (4.9/11 in 18-49, 15.4 million viewers overall) — were all in line with their recent performances, and “CSI: Miami” was a bit low at 10 (3.8/9 in 18-49, 13.3 million viewers overall), settling for a rare second-place finish.

At NBC, “Chuck” (2.4/6 in 18-49, 6.6 million viewers overall) picked up slightly, perhaps due to the absence of Fox’s “24,” but the net’s “Heroes” (3.2/7 in 18-49, 7.0 million viewers overall) and “Medium” (2.4/6 in 18-49, 7.3 million viewers overall) were both below average.

Fox went with two hours of “24,” which built in rating from its first hour (3.1/8 in 18-49, 10.4 million viewers overall) to its second (3.5/8 in 18-49, 11.8 million viewers overall), finishing third in its timeslot.

Preliminary 18-49 averages for the night: ABC, 5.8/14; CBS, 4.1/10; Fox, 3.3/8; NBC, 2.7/6; CW, 0.5/1.

In total viewers: ABC, 16.1 million; CBS, 12.7 million; Fox, 11.1 million; NBC, 7.0 million; CW, 1.1 million

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