NLCS tough, but CBS still wins Thursday

Major League Baseball will head into the World Series next week with some ratings momentum, as Thursday’s Game 5 of the National League Championship Series posted strong numbers on a night that CBS, boosted in part by a stronger “CSI,” carried in all key categories.

Both of baseball’s best-of-seven League Championship Series have been extended to at least six games — a good thing for network carriers Fox and TBS, as ratings can often mushroom in such situations.

A victory on Saturday by the favored Philadelphia Phillies over the San Francisco Giants would set up a blockbuster Sunday evening of sports, pitting Game 7 of the NLCS on Fox against NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” matchup between the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers as Brett Favre returns to play in Green Bay as a vistor for a second time.

Game 6 of the American League Championship Series between the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees will air tonight on TBS; if a seventh game is needed to decide the series, it will air in primetime on Saturday.

Looking at Thursday’s game, Nielsen estimates that Fox’s stations averaged a 2.9 rating/8 share in adults 18-49 and 9.3 million viewers overall from 8 to 11 p.m., with the national result expected to rise and likely become baseball’s most-watched game of this postseason. Tuesday’s primetime Yankees-Rangers matchup on TBS had drawn the most viewers of this month’s playoffs (9.85 million).

Through Wednesday night, the combined LCS coverage on TBS and Fox was averaging 7.7 million viewers, the best average through six days of the round in the four years since the networks began sharing the League Championship Series coverage, up 5% over 2009.

Elsewhere in Thursday’s ratings action, CBS won even though leadoff hitter “The Big Bang Theory” (4.0/13 in 18-49, 12.9 million viewers overall) hit a season low. It was followed by “Bleep My Dad Says” (3.1/9 in 18-49. 10.9 million viewers overall), which continues to look good and won its half-hour. At 9, a “CSI” episode set in the world of hoarding grew to a 3.3/9 in 18-49 and 14.7 million viewers overall, with the crime vet drawing its largest overall audience since April while standing as the night’s most-watched program. “The Mentalist,” though, dipped week to week (2.9/8 in 18-49, 14.2 million viewers overall) and may have been affected by the end of the baseball game as well as the season finale of MTV’s “Jersey Shore,” which may have led the hour among adults 18-49.

At ABC, following a low-rated repeat of “Grey’s Anatomy” (1.2/4 in 18-49, 4.4 million viewers overall), the original episode at 9 p.m. (3.9/10 in 18-49, 10.8 million viewers overall) lost more than 10% week to week to post what’s believed to be its lowest-rated same-night fall score to date. “Private Practice” held up a bit better at 10 p.m. (2.8/8 in 18-49, 7.8 million viewers overall) but was still down.

NBC’s comedy block took a step back one week after stunts by its opening-hour comedies resulted in a ratings surge. “Community” (1.9/6 in 18-49, 4.6 million viewers overall) declined by 14% from last week’s space-themed episode but was still in line with its score in the timeslot a year ago, but “30 Rock” (2.2/7 in 18-49, 5.3 million viewers overall) tumbled by nearly 30% vs. last week’s live episode. And from 9 to 10 p.m., both “The Office” (3.4/9 in 18-49, 6.8 million viewers overall) and “Outsourced” (2.3/6 in 18-49, 4.9 million viewers overall) dropped week to week. “The Apprentice” held steady at 10 p.m. (1.3/4 in 18-49, 3.6 million viewers overall), but that merely left it in fifth place among the broadcast nets.

CW was back to originals, looking pretty good with its combo of sophomore hit “The Vampire Diaries” (1.6/5 in 18-49, 3.6 million viewers overall) and freshman “Nikita” (1.0/3 in 18-49, 2.8 million viewers overall). “Vampire” won its hour among females 12-34 (2.4/8).

Preliminary 18-49 averages for the night: CBS, 3.3/9; Fox, 2.9/8; ABC, 2.6/7; NBC, 2.1/6; Univision, 1.8/5; CW, 1.3/4.

In total viewers: CBS, 13.6 million; Fox, 9.3 million; ABC, 7.7 million; NBC, 4.8 million; Univision, 4.1 million; CW, 3.2 million.

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