ABC beats CBS in ratings race

In an ultracompetitive final Sunday night of the May sweeps, ABC barely nudged past CBS as the two-hour “Desperate Housewives” finale was strong enough to edge a two-hour “Survivor” finale, followed by a one-hour reunion special.

ABC (3.6 rating/10 share in the 18-49 demo) saw “Housewives” earn a 4.7/12 while the last “Survivor” scored a 4.2/11. Both shows, however, had their lowest finales in each of their respective histories — “Housewives” down 24% from last year’s closer and “Survivor” down 5% from the last cycle ending in December. CBS (3.5/10), a winner in total viewers for the 12th consecutive Sunday, was followed by Fox (2.4/7), while NBC (1.3/4) was a distant fourth.

The last eight minutes of the “Survivor” finale — where James Thomas won the $1 million prize — bled into the 10 p.m. hour, so when the official Nielsen numbers arrive later today, the two-hour “Survivor” should rise. It’s doubtful, however, it will give it a big enough bump to defeat “Housewives.”

ABC, which won every Sunday of the May sweeps, began the night with a two-hour “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” season finale (2.4/7, 7.6 million viewers) that won the 7 p.m. hour but lost at 8 p.m. to “Survivor.”

Also at 7, “60 Minutes” (1.5/5, 9.9 million viewers) slipped a bit from last week but was easily the most-viewed show during the hour.

Fox delivered an 8-to-10 p.m. animation block of original episodes — “The Simpsons” (2.9/8, 5.8 million viewers), “King of the Hill (2.6/7, 5.1 million viewers), ““Family Guy” (3.7/9, 7.3 million viewers) and “American Dad” (2.8/7, 5.6 million viewers) — that was strong enough to withstand the second hour of “Dateline” (1.4/4, 6.6 million viewers) and the first hour of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live: Just Shorts” special (1.4/4, 3.4 million viewers). Over the two-hour period, “SNL” averaged a 1.5/4, 3.7 million viewers.

Preliminary 18-49 averages for the night: ABC, 3.6/10; CBS, 3.5/10; Fox, 2.4/7; NBC, 1.3/4; Univision, 1.2/3; CW, 0.3/1.

In total viewers: CBS, 11.8 million; ABC, 10.7 million; Fox, 4.8 million; NBC, 4.8 million; Univision, 3.4 million; CW, 1.3 million.

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