Fox, ABC earn top honors; strong bow for NBC's 'Voice'

In a busy week that featured the year’s biggest capture, wedding and series premiere, it was a pair of reality vets — Fox’s “American Idol” and ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” — that topped primetime’s ratings race.

“Idol” claimed the week’s top two spots in the adults 18-49 rankings (7.1 rating/20 share, 22.32 million viewers on Wednesday and 5.7/17, 19.60m) while “Dancing” ranked fourth (4.7/13) and moved ahead of “Idol” to claim the largest overall aud of the week for the first time this season, according to Nielsen.Elsewhere, NBC had reason to be very pleased with the two-hour launch of singing series “The Voice,” which posted the season’s best series premiere in the 18-49 demo (5.1 rating/13 share, 11.77 million viewers overall).

How “The Voice” fared in its second outing last night will go a long way toward predicting its long-term prospects, but indications are that the show is the real deal. Not only did it grow throughout its premiere Tuesday, but a repeat the next night also provided the net with pretty good numbers (2.2/6, 6.15m).

Outside of primetime, Friday’s coverage of the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton averaged 22.77 million viewers from 6 to 7:15 a.m. ET on 11 broadcast and cable networks. Interest remained fairly strong in primetime Friday, where CBS led the 8 o’clock hour with “Royal Wedding: Modern Majesty” (1.8/7 in 18-49, 8.79m) and ABC was above average from 9 to 11 p.m. with its “20/20″ on the nuptials (1.6/5, 6.78m).

And the frame ended with news of Osama bin Laden’s capture and death by U.S. Navy SEALs. Nielsen estimated the audience for President Obama’s 11:35 p.m. ET speech to be about 56.5 million.

Overall for the week of April 25-May 1, Fox led in 18-49 with a 2.7 rating/8 share, followed by ABC (2.2/6), NBC (2.0/6), CBS (1.9/5), Univision (1.3/4) and top cabler TNT (1.1/3). Fox also led in adults 25-54 (3.1/8), while ABC scored a rare victory in total viewers (8.66 million to 8.43 million for CBS).

Of note at the broadcast nets, NBC’s 53-minute episode of “The Office,” in which Steve Carell made his exit, was the week’s No. 1 scripted program in demos (4.2/11 in 18-49, 8.42m), logging its best score since January. And the Peacock’s “Celebrity Apprentice” (3.1/8, 8.65m) was Sunday’s No. 1 show in 18-49.

Aside from “Dancing,” ABC was led by “Grey’s Anatomy” (3.7/9, 10.67m). Also, it was a good third-week showing for Wednesday laffer “Happy Endings” (2.1/5, 5.17m), which benefited from repeats on CBS and NBC to grow about 15% week to week.

CBS was paced by Thursday’s “The Big Bang Theory” (3.3/10, 10.71m) and Wednesday’s “Survivor” (3.2/9, 11.32m), both cracking the top 10 despite facing Fox’s “Idol.”

Thursday’s “2011 Billboard Latin Music Awards” on Telemundo averaged 2.35 million viewers, the largest aud in the kudocast’s 13-year history on the net.

In cable, USA remained on top in total viewers, but TNT led in demos thanks to the NBA Playoffs. Top game of the week was Tuesday’s Los Angeles-New Orleans contest (2.8/9, 5.84m), and TNT’s entire first round (23 games) averaged a record 4.18 million viewers, up 32% vs. last year; ESPN averaged 3.67 million viewers for its eight first-round games, up 20% vs. last year.

Thursday’s combined viewership for the first round of the NFL Draft on ESPN (2.9/8, 6.00m) and NFL Network (0.5/1, 1.04m) was down 15% vs. last year. This isn’t bad, though, considering it aired a week later this year, putting it in sweeps and up against “American Idol,” Carell’s farewell on “The Office” and a new “Grey’s Anatomy.”

With no NBA competish for the first time, HBO’s “Game of Thrones” hit highs in its third week Sunday (1.1/3 in 18-49, 2.44m). And on the same night, USA’s “Law and Order: CI” kicked off its final season with good numbers (1.4/3, 5.10m).

MTV’s “The Real World” drew its largest aud in three years (1.4/4, 2.53m) with an episode that featured the reveal of one contestant’s porn past; it beat all TV nets Wednesday at 10 p.m. in adults 18-34 (2.2/6).

And “RuPaul’s Drag Race” on Logo wrapped its third season Monday with 585,000 viewers — about six times the average first-quarter primetime aud for the young gay-themed cabler.

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