NBC crime drama topples rivals in demos at 10

Fox’s “American Idol” dominated the primetime ratings race on Wednesday, down only slightly week to week and in line with its performance on the comparable night a year ago. Also of note closing out the night was a big demo victory for NBC’s “Law and Order: SVU” at 10.

According to preliminary nationals from Nielsen, “American Idol” dominated Wednesday’s opening hour with an 8.9 rating/24 share in adults 18-49 and 24.9 million viewers overall — roughly doubling the combined demo delivery of ABC, CBS and NBC in the hour. It was off just 3% in 18-49 vs. last week’s two-hour Wednesday average and in line with the comparable night a year ago (the third Tuesday). It was followed by “Human Target” (2.6/7 in 18-49, 9.3 million viewers overall), which hit a one-year high despite fumbling away much of its lead-in.

With “Idol” scaling back to an hour and “Target” dropping off, shows on competing networks figured to benefit at 9 o’clock — especially ABC’s “Modern Family,” which surged to record numbers for a repeat episode (3.5/9 in 18-49, 9.2 million viewers overall) and stood as the night’s top-rated scripted program in 18-49. The net then fell off at 9:30 with an original episode of “Cougar Town” (2.7/7 in 18-49, 6.6 million viewers overall). NBC also took advantage of the release of “Idol’s” audience at 9 p.m., as two-hour gameshow “Minute to Win It” (2.4/6 in 18-49, 7.7 million viewers overall) spiked from a 1.6 in its first half-hour to a 3.4 in its final half-hour, when it ranked No. 1 in key categories. CBS aired a repeat of “Criminal Minds” in the hour (2.2/6 in 18-49, 9.7 million viewers overall), running fourth in 18-49 and first in total viewers.

The 10 p.m. drama battle went in demos to NBC’s “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” (2.9/8 in 18-49, 8.8 million viewers overall) over ABC’s “Off the Map” (1.8/5 in 18-49, 5.3 million viewers overall), which was flat week to week, and CBS’ “Blue Bloods” (1.6/5 in 18-49, 11.2 million viewers overall), which tumbled 24% opposite tougher competition. “SVU” carried the hour comfortably in both 18-49 and 25-54, winning in the latter for the 10:30 half-hour over “Blue Bloods” by a 44% margin (3.6 vs. 2.5); “Blue Bloods” still led with ease in total viewers.

Earlier in the evening, ABC went with back-to-back repeats of “The Middle” (1.7/5 in 18-49, 6.9 million viewers overall at 8 p.m. and 1.8/5 in 18-49, 6.5 million viewers overall at 8:30), while CBS aired another low-rated installment of “Live to Dance” (1.0/3 in 18-49, 4.8 million viewers overall). Both networks should give Fox’s “Idol” a tougher battle in coming weeks, as ABC brings back original episodes of its comedies and CBS returns “Survivor” on Feb. 16.

CW aired special off-night repeats of “Smallville” (0.4/1 in 18-49, 1.2 million viewers overall) and “Supernatural” (0.4/1 in 18-49, 1.0 million viewers overall); these shows make their firstrun Friday returns tomorrow night.

Preliminary 18-49 averages for the night: Fox, 5.7/15; NBC, 2.6/7; ABC, 2.2/6; CBS, 1.6/4; Univision, 1.5/4; CW, 0.4/1.

In total viewers: Fox, 17.1 million; CBS, 8.6 million; NBC, 8.1 million; ABC, 6.6 million; Univision, 3.9 million; CW, 1.1 million.

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