Sluggish Sunday for Big Four

Most shows hit season lows; 'Family Guy' tops in demo

On a night when cable offered up a variety of appealing alternatives — including the NBA Playoffs on TNT, a “Burn Notice” movie on USA and the debut of “Game of Thrones” on HBO — most of the top Sunday shows on broadcast were at or near season lows.

The start of spring break for many schools across the country also contributed to drooping numbers at the major nets, which with the exception of Fox’s “The Simpsons,” aired all regular, firstrun programming. ABC narrowly won the night among adults 18-49, according to preliminary nationals from Nielsen, with CBS prevailing in total viewers.

For ABC, “America’s Funniest Home Videos” (1.6 rating/6 share in adults 18-49, 6.5 million viewers overall) was on the low side, leading into the return of “Extreme Makeover: Home Editoin” (1.9/5 in 18-49, 7.6 million viewers overall), which under-performed the recent average for “Secret Millionaire” in the 8 o’clock hour. The net’s below-average numbers continued at 9 p.m., where “Desperate Housewives” appeared to match a series low (2.7/7 in 18-49, 8.8 million viewers overall), though it was neck and neck with Fox’s comedies for the hour’s 18-49 lead. And at 10, “Brothers & Sisters” (1.7/4 in 18-49, 6.3 million viewers overall) was also low, finishing third among the broadcasters.

Fox’s male-skewing animation comedy lineup was likely affected by NBA playoff action — including a nail-biter contest between the big-market New York Knicks and Boston Celtics on TNT — with “Family Guy” (3.0/8 in 18-49, 6.0 million viewers overall) down about 10% week to week even though this week’s lead-in from “American Dad” (2.2/6 in 18-49, 4.7 million viewers overall) was stronger than last week’s “Bob’s Burgers.” Also for the net, a repeat of “The Simpsons” earned a 1.7/5 in 18-49 and 4.1 million viewers overall at 8 o’clock, and “The Cleveland Show” wrapped the night with a 2.3/6 in the demo while drawing 4.7 million viewers overall, down slightly week to week.

CBS, which won the night in adults 25-54 in addition to its rather easy victory in total viewers, started slowly with “60 Minutes” (1.3/5 in 18-49, 10.6 million viewers overall), followed by “The Amazing Race” (2.3/7 in 18-49, 8.7 million viewers overall), which led the broadcasters in the 8 o’clock hour despite week-to-week declines. “Undercover Boss” (1.9/5 in 18-49, 8.7 million viewers overall), which has cooled considerably in its second season, ran fourth in 18-49 among the broadcast nets in the 9 o’clock hour, but “CSI: Miami” picked up a bit from there at 10 (2.2/5 in 18-49, 9.8 million viewers overall).

NBC was below average as well with “Dateline” (0.9/3 in 18-49, 4.6 million viewers overall), “America’s Next Great Restaurant” (1.2/3 in 18-49, 3.7 million viewers overall) and “Celebrity Apprentice” (2.5/6 in 18-49, 7.4 million viewers overall), with the latter hitting a season low even though it again led in 18-49 for its second hour.

Ratings for Sunday’s cable programs will be released later today or early Tuesday.

Preliminary 18-49 averages for the night: ABC, 2.0/6; CBS and Fox, 1.9/5; NBC, 1.8/5; Univision, 1.0/3.

In total viewers: CBS, 9.5 million; ABC, 7.3 million; NBC, 5.8 million; Fox, 4.1 million; Univision, 2.9 million.

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