'Idol's' absence boosts other nets

President Obama’s hourlong press conference Tuesday night averaged 40.35 million viewers on nine broadcast and cable networks, according to Nielsen estimates. While a sizable crowd, it’s much smaller than the 49.46 million who watched his previous news conference on Feb. 9 or the 52.37 million who gathered for his address to Congress on Feb. 24.

The president has been on a bit of a television blitz over the last week to update Americans on the economic crisis. An interview with Steve Kroft of “60 Minutes” on Sunday averaged nearly 18 million viewers, and an appearance on NBC’s “Tonight Show With Jay Leno” three days earlier logged the latenight’s highest overnight household rating in four years (11.2/26 share).

Nielsen did not break out individual broadcast network ratings for the Obama press conference since it ran sans commercials, but Fox News led among the cable news nets from 8 to 9 p.m. with 3.4 million viewers. CNN ran a distant second (2.3 million), followed by MSNBC (1.8 million).

Elsewhere on Tuesday, a night when the news conference forced Fox to preempt its planned two-hour installment of “American Idol,” rival nets enjoyed success with their reshuffled lineups.

Following Obama, NBC led among young adults from 9 to 11 p.m. with “The Biggest Loser” (4.1 rating/11 share in adults 18-49, 9.83 million viewers overall), which weighed in with its best score in eight weeks. It built with each half-hour, peaking at 10:30 p.m. with a 4.6/12 in 18-49.

CBS led in both adults 25-54 and total viewers from 9 to 11 p.m. with its crime dramas “NCIS” (4.0/10 in 18-49, 17.83 million viewers overall) and “The Mentalist” (3.9/10 in 18-49, 17.62 million viewers overall), which were a bit above average despite airing an hour later than usual.

ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” results show (3.9/10 in 18-49, 16.12 million viewers overall from 9 to 10:02 p.m.) was up sharply from the previous week when it faced “American Idol,” and that led into improved scores at 10 o’clock for the season finale of “Primetime: What Would You Do?” (2.6/7 in 18-49, 7.96 million viewers overall).

Fox, the usual Tuesday night leader with “American Idol,” ran a distant fourth at 9 o’clock with a special “House” repeat (1.6/4 in 18-49, 4.02 million viewers overall). And CW’s “Reaper” hit a season high at 8 o’clock (1.1/3 in 18-49, 2.70 million viewers overall), airing opposite news coverage on the other broadcast networks.

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