NBC's football wins Sunday; Fox animation solid

ABC’s period drama “Pan Am” had a nice takeoff Sunday night, matching or building on its lead-in from “Desperate Housewives” in all key ratings categories.

Of course, “Housewives” itself was down sharply as it kicked off its eighth and final season, and the Alphabet knows the night needs some refreshing. In addition to “Pan Am,” which now closes Sunday, the net next month will insert fairy tale drama “Once Upon a Time” into the 8 o’clock slot.

Looking at the preliminary Nielsen estimates for the night, Sony’s “Pan Am” averaged a good 3.1 rating/8 share in adults 18-49 and 10.9 million viewers overall for ABC — second to football in its 10 p.m. timeslot and up a bit vs. last year’s “Brothers & Sisters.” It also held up well in its second half-hour, dropping only slightly in 18-49 rating and overall audience while gaining 1 point in 18-49 share.

The “Pan Am” perf is all the more impressive considering that lead-in “Desperate Housewives” (prelim 3.1/7 in 18-49, 9.8 million viewers overall) shed about one-fourth of its young-adult audience from a year ago.

It’s tough in these DVR-dominated days for any drama series to do much better than a 3 demo rating in the 10 o’clock hour, which is increasingly being used by auds to play back programs from earlier that night or week. That makes the 3.1 for “Pan Am” one of the most impressive rookie ratings perfs for a drama during premiere week, which instead was dominated by comedy (Daily Variety, Sept. 26).

Earlier in the evening, a two-hour “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” did a prelim 1.8/5 in 18-49 and 7.1 million viewers overall, down a bit from last year. The long-running series will be shifting to Fridays next month to make room for “Once Upon a Time.”

Elsewhere, ratings for both NBC and CBS are iffy due to football.

NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts averaged a 7.2/17 in adults 18-49 and 17.8 million viewers overall on the net’s stations from 8:30 to 11 p.m., with these numbers expected to rise in the nationals once the full duration of the game and all West Coast viewing are accurately counted.

The Steelers’ 23-20 victory averaged a strong 13.2 household rating/21 share in the metered-market overnights — a slight increase over the 13.0/21 for last year’s New York Jets-Miami Dolphins game in the same week. NBC caught something of a break as the heavy-underdog Colts played well even without star quarterback Peyton Manning, and the game’s outcome wasn’t decided until the final minute.

At CBS, a roughly 30-minute football overrun in several markets (including New York) pushed back the start times of its primetime lineup. As a result, ratings for “60 Minutes” (roughly 2.6/7 in 18-49, 12.6 million viewers overall), “The Amazing Race” (roughly 3.0/7, 10.5 million), the time-period debut of “The Good Wife” (roughly 2.2/5, 10.5 million) and “CSI: Miami” (roughly 2.2/5, 10 million) are expected to change some in the nationals.

At Fox, following a football overrun from 7 to 8 p.m., “The Simpsons” kicked off its 23rd season nicely, with its prelim 3.8/10 in 18-49 (7.9 million viewers overall) second to football and up a tick vs. last year, when it was CBS that had the national NFL overrun into primetime.

“Simpsons” was followed by “The Cleveland Show” (prelim 3.1/7 in 18-49, 6 million viewers overall), on par with last year, “Family Guy” (prelim 4.1/9, 7.6 million), down about 10% from its hourlong opener of last year, and “American Dad” (prelim 3.0/7, 5.7 million), matching its year-ago opener.

The second-place Sunday showing in 18-49 for Fox clinched a weekly victory for the net in the demo — its first ever in premiere week. CBS, runner-up in 18-49, was projected to win in both adults 25-54 and total viewers.

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