ABC wins night with monster 'Dancing'

Three nets placed their biggest new-show bets of the season on Monday, with CBS and NBC cashing in and Fox rolling snake eyes.

On the busy opening night of the 2010-11 television season — with five series preems, more than any other night this week — the Eye’s update of “Hawaii Five-0″ and NBC’s “The Event” drew solid sampling, but Fox’s Texas-set sudser “Lone Star” put up tiny numbers and may not last long in the important post-“House” timeslot. ABC won the night among the broadcasters behind “Dancing With the Stars,” which impressed by drawing a bigger and younger audience than it did in its bow last year.

Night also saw a pretty good start for CBS comedy “Mike and Molly” (in the 9:30 hammock between “Two and a Half Men” and “Hawaii Five-0″) and a passable bow for NBC’s 10 p.m. drama “Chase,” which still lagged dramas field by the competish.

Overall, the broadcasters combined for a smaller overall aud than last year, as the national penetration of digital video recorders has grown to 38% from 33% at the start of last season. The nets will have to wait a couple of weeks, when all DVR playback over the next seven days is tabulated, to get a true sense of how many people are watching their shows.

Biggest story of opening night based on Nielsen’s live-plus-same-day estimates was the wide ratings gap for the two new drama entries in the crowded 9 o’clock hour: Auds clearly opted for the high-octane thriller “The Event” (3.6 rating/9 share in adults 18-49, 10.88 million viewers overall) over the low-key “Lone Star” (1.3/3, 4.10m) — with the former growing in its second half-hour while the latter was declining.

The results were somewhat surprising, as industry predictions on Monday were all over the map. NBC has proven over the years that it can open a show, but “The Event” was saddled with a weak lead-in. “Lone Star” never seemed all that commercial but most thought it would make a good fit behind “House.”

On opening night, though, “Lone Star” was clearly rejected by auds, as Fox went from a 4.4 demo rating for “House” at 8:30 to a 1.4 with “Lone Star” at 9 (and then down to a 1.0 at 9:30). If the show’s ratings don’t improve next week, there’s reason to be believe that Fox could pull or move the fall’s best-reviewed new broadcast series.

“House,” meanwhile, is showing its age somewhat (4.2/11, 10.69m), down sharply from its two-hour bow of last year (6.7/16 in 18-49, 17.13m) but it still ranked as the night’s No. 1 drama in 18-49.

At NBC, “The Event” built on the half-hour (3.8 vs. 3.5 in 18-49) and exhibited an ideal gender balance (3.7 in men 18-49 and 3.5 in women 18-49). It improved sharply on its “Chuck” lead-in (2.0/6 in 18-49, 5.79m) and matched the Peacock’s best non-Olympics result in the timeslot in 19 months.

The net also did decently enough at 10 p.m. with “Chase” (2.3/6 in 18-49, 7.31m), which trailed dramas on CBS and ABC but still produced net’s top non-sports result in the timeslot since the premiere of “The Jay Leno Show” a year ago.

CBS opened the night well with “How I Met Your Mother” (3.6/10 in 18-49, 8.79m), dropped some at 8:30 with “Rules of Engagement” (3.1/8, 8.35m) before surging as usual at 9 o’clock with “Two and a Half Men” (4.9/12 in 18-49, 14.63m), which impressively kicked off its eighth season up vs. last year. “Men” was followed by “Mike and Molly” (3.9/10, 12.23m), which retained 80% of its lead-in and was the No. 2 entertainment series at 9:30.

And at 10, “Hawaii Five-0″ — premiering 42 years to the night that the original launched as a two-hour movie for the Eye — easily led the broadcast networks with a 3.9/11 in 18-49 and was the night’s most-watched new program overall with 14.2 million viewers; it held up pretty well in its second half-hour (dipping from a 4.0 to a 3.8 in 18-49). Though “Hawaii” was down from last year’s “CSI: Miami,” it’s worth noting that NBC (which aired “Leno” last fall) put up more of a fight this year with “Chase,” and “CSI: Miami” had a stronger lead-in last year from 9:30 laffer “The Big Bang Theory.”

Like “The Event,” CBS’ “Hawaii” succeeded in large part by bringing men to the hour — not an easy task opposite ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.” It did a 10 share in men 18-49 and a 13 share in men 25-54.

The Eye placed second to ABC among the broadcasters on the night in 18-49 and 25-54 while winning in all key male demos.

ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” was the night’s No. 1 broadcast program, averaging a 5.1 rating/13 share in adults 18-49 and 21.29 million viewers overall from 8 to 10 p.m. — up more than 20% from last year’s opening night when it had to contend with a highly rated two-hour “House.” The competition series, whose cast includes reality star Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino of MTV’s hot “Jersey Shore,” skewed younger than last year and hit a three-year fall high in adults 18-34 (3.9/11) while logging its highest teen score yet for the launch of a fall edition (2.8/10).

Also up on premiere night for ABC was third-year drama “Castle” (2.7/7 in 18-49, 10.70m).

CW aired the season’s second episodes of “90210” (0.9/3 in 18-49, 1.83m) and “Gossip Girl” (1.0/3, 1.84m), with the latter up vs. its premiere in several key categories.

ESPN won the night in demos with its “Monday Night Football” contest between the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers (6.1/17, 15.12m), which was up slightly over last year’s comparable game (Indianapolis-Miami).

It was a good night all around for the Disney family of networks, with an encore of 2006’s “High School Musical” on Disney Channel ranking as the No. 1 show in kids 2-11, ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” leading the way in teens 12-17, all adult female demos and total viewers, and ESPN’s football on top in adults 18-34, 18-49, 25-54 and all male demos.

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