Big Three break into programming for Bin Laden's death

NBC’s ”Celebrity Apprentice” and ABC’s ”Desperate Housewives” were the biggest draws among young adults on Sunday, a night whose preliminary Nielsen estimates are subject to revision due to breaking news.

ABC, CBS and NBC all pre-empted entertainment programming from at least 10:45 p.m. to midnight ET (7:45-9 p.m. PT) for news about the killing of Osama bin Laden and a statement from President Obama. ABC News stayed on the air longest, until 1 a.m. ET, with the net’s West Coast stations then airing ”Desperate Housewives” an hour later than usual, at 10.

The best example of how the news coverage affected viewing on the West could be found at NBC, where the network’s stations in both Los Angeles and San Francisco saw a notable surge in overnight household ratings during the 8 o’clock hour. Preempting low-rated reality show ”America’s Next Great Restaurant,” KNBC in Los Angeles went from a 2.3 household rating at 8 o’clock to a first-place 3.7 at 8:30 as more viewers became aware of the news; similarly the Peacock’s San Francisco station surged from a 1.6 to a 3.1.

Ratings for the evening’s other programs could be revised significantly by Nielsen when nationals are released Tuesday, but preliminary numbers suggest a tight race in 18-49 between ABC and NBC, while CBS prevailed in total viewers.

At ABC, ”America’s Funniest Home Videos” (2.1 rating/7 share in adults 18-49, 7.6 million viewers overall) was followed by ”Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” (2.7/7 in 18-49, 9.6 million viewers overall), ”Desperate Housewives” (3.0/7 in 18-49, 10.1 million viewers overall) and ”Brothers and Sisters” (2.1/5 in 18-49, 7.4 million viewers overall).

NBC opened with ”Dateline” (1.3/4 in 18-49, 5.5 million viewers overall), followed by ”America’s Next Great Restaurant” (2.0/6 in 18-49, 6.0 million viewers overall), whose huge preliminary gains week to week were primarily due to news preemptions in the West. Numbers for ”Celebrity Apprentice” figure to be fairly reliable (3.2/8 in 18-49, 9.1 million viewers overall), with the competition series standing as the night’s No. 1 show in 18-49 in the preliminary Nielsens.

At CBS, ”60 Minutes” (1.5/5 in 18-49, 10.6 million viewers overall) was followed by ”The Amazing Race” (2.5/7 in 18-49, 9.7 million viewers overall), the season finale of ”Undercover Boss” (2.2/5 in 18-49, 8.8 million viewers overall) and ”CSI: Miami” (2.1/5 in 18-49, 9.0 million viewers overall).

Fox, which on Friday scrapped plans to air its planned hurricane-themed episodes of ”The Cleveland Show,” ”Family Guy” and ”American Dad” due to the deadly storms that have ravaged the southern United States, was the only major network to stick with entertainment programming. A Fox spokesperson said the net gave its affiliates the option to carry President Obama’s speech, but was unsure how many stations went that route. In the preliminaries, Fox’s top program was an original ”The Simpsons” (2.9/8 in 18-49, 6.1 million viewers overall), which was followed by encores of ”The Cleveland Show” (2.2/6 in 18-49, 4.9 million viewers overall), ”Family Guy” (2.5/6 in 18-49, 5.3 million viewers overall) and ”American Dad” (2.1/5 in 18-49, 4.5 million viewers overall).

Preliminary 18-49 averages for the night: ABC, 2.5/7; NBC, 2.4/7; CBS and Fox, 2.1/6; Univision, 1.0/3.

In total viewers: CBS, 9.5 million; ABC, 8.7 million; NBC, 7.4 million; Fox, 4.6 million; Univision, 1.0 million.

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