Third straight big showing for drama; NBC football rolls

After three straight strong performances, ABC drama ”Once Upon a Time” is making its case as the hottest new show of the fall season. On a Sunday night otherwise dominated by NBC’s ”Sunday Night Football,” the fairy tale-themed series was the top entertainment series.

According to preliminary national estimates from Nielsen, ”Once Upon a Time” averaged a 3.7 rating/9 share in adults 18-49 and 11.4 million viewers overall in the 8 o’clock hour, standing as the timeslot’s No. 1 entertainment series in all categories. It retained more than 95% of its week-ago audience and provided the net with significant gains over last year’s ”Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” ”Once” tied Fox’s ”The Simpsons” as the No. 1 entertainment series Sunday in 18-49 while topping all dramas, reality shows and comedies in 25-54 (4.4/9); it also achieved a new high in adults 18-34 (3.3/9).

The rest of the night wasn’t as good for ABC, as ”Desperate Housewives” (2.8/6 in 18-49, 8.7 million viewers overall) followed with week-to-week declines, and 10 p.m. drama ”Pan Am” held steady (1.8/4 in 18-49, 5.2 million viewers overall) but continues to put up lukewarm numbers.

NBC easily won the night with its ”Sunday Night Football” matchup between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers, which averaged a 7.9 rating/18 share in adults 18-49 and 19.7 million viewers overall on the net’s stations from 8:30 to 11 p.m. ET. In final national averages for the full duration of the game, whose outcome was undecided until its conclusion at about 11:45 p.m. ET, look for at least an 8.5 rating and 21 million viewers overall.

Fox benefited from a huge NFL overrun, as the final half hour of the game between the New York Giants and New England Patriots should average well above a 10 demo rating and 27 million viewers overall, based on preliminary estimates. Following post-game show ”The OT,” ”The Simpsons” averaged a 3.7/9 in 18-49 and 8.0 million viewers overall, edging out ABC’s ”Once Upon a Time” for the 18-49 lead in the 8 o’clock half-hour. It was a big dropoff again, however, for new 8:30 p.m. animated comedy ”Allen Gregory” (2.1/5 in 18-49, 4.3 million viewers overall). The net then bounced back at 9 with ”Family Guy” (3.0/7 in 18-49, 5.7 million viewers overall), down a bit vs. last week, and ”American Dad” closed things out (2.5/6 in 18-49, 4.8 million viewers overall) up slightly week to week.

At CBS, ”60 Minutes” (2.2/6 in 18-49, 13.7 million viewers overall) and ”The Amazing Race” (2.6/6 in 18-49, 10.0 million viewers overall) were solid before the net dropped off with dramas ”The Good Wife” (2.1/5 in 18-49, 9.0 million viewers overall) and ”CSI: Miami” (1.9/5 in 18-49, 8.6 million viewers overall).

Preliminary 18-49 averages for the night: NBC, 6.3/15; Fox, 4.6/11; ABC, 2.4/6; CBS, 2.2/5; Univision, 1.2/3.

In total viewers: NBC, 16.3 million; Fox, 10.9 million; CBS, 10.3 million; ABC, 7.4 million; Univision, 2.9 million.

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