Sports, new hits could spur rare growth

Ten weeks into the new season, the networks are holding their own — and with some help from sports, could be headed for their first year-over-gains in some time.

According to Nielsen’s “most current” season-to-date estimates, the English-language broadcast nets combined are flat or up a tick in all key ratings categories vs. last year.

Fox, leading the season in adults 18-49 at this juncture for the first time, is up an impressive 17% vs. last year. A six-game World Series featuring the New York Yankees certainly helped, but Fox also has made ratings strides on other nights.

While “So You Think You Can Dance” hasn’t done much in its first fall edition, it has helped keep the midweek lights on while allowing Fox to focus on its new entries. “Glee” has been one of the season’s hottest newcomers, and “Family Guy” spinoff “The Cleveland Show” has added a spark to the net’s Sunday animation lineup, which is up year to year.

And with some college bowl games, “American Idol” and football’s NFC Championship on its sked in January, Fox also appears positioned to maintain its 18-49 edge the rest of the way.

CBS, roughly flat for the season, has the best shot at sticking close to Fox thanks to its upcoming telecast of the Super Bowl combined with the most consistent sked week in and week out. It also should win in adults 25-54 and total viewers.

While the “CSI” franchise has cooled, “NCIS” remains a powerhouse and spinoff “NCIS: Los Angeles” has followed with good numbers of its own.

Comedies and reality vets “Suvivor” and “Amazing Race” also have shined for the Eye, which will likely make tweaks on only Friday and Sunday.

ABC, which has a comedic pulse thanks to its “Modern Family”-led Wednesday lineup, appears destined for a third-place finish but could top CBS some weeks down the stretch. It will benefit from college football’s championship game and the final season of “Lost.”

And NBC, even with its highest-rated season yet of “Sunday Night Football” and more than two weeks of Winter Olympics ahead in February, will finish fourth once again.

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