Net closes in on NBC for season lead in 18-49

CBS is ending fall with a pretty big bang.

While NBC remains the lone growth generator among the Big Four nets this fall, the ascending Eye has trimmed its year-to-year losses by winning in key demos for the third time in the last five weeks. And as the most balanced of the broadcasters, CBS is poised to overtake surprise season leader NBC in the adults 18-49 demo soon after the Peacock’s hugely popular “Sunday Night Football” wraps its run.

The Eye dominated the program rankings last week, claiming 13 of the top 16 non-sports series in adults 18-49 — including No. 1 comedy “The Big Bang Theory” (5.4 rating/17 share in adults 18-49, 16.74 million viewers overall) and No. 1 drama “Criminal Minds” (3.1/8 in 18-49, 12.01m). It also was tops among the Big Four in the demo on five of seven nights.

Overall for the Dec. 10-16 frame, CBS won in adults 18-49 with a season-high 3.1 rating/9 share, well ahead of NBC (2.3/7), with Fox (1.6/4), ABC (1.5/4) and Univision (1.3/4) barely appearing in the Eye’s rear-view mirror.

CBS also claimed the largest margins of victory for any net during any week this fall in both adults 25-54 (4.0 rating to a 2.8 for runner-up NBC) and total viewers (11.9 million to 7.3 million for NBC).

And at the roughly one-third mark of the season, CBS is within two-tenths of NBC in adults 18-49 (2.9 to 3.1) and has moved into sole possession of leadership in adults 25-54 (3.8 to 3.7). The Eye also padded its lead in total viewers last week and is now about 3 million ahead of both ABC and NBC.

CBS continues to click on Thursday, where “The Big Bang Theory” dominated its slot and “Two and a Half Men” (4.1/12, 13.34m) again retained a good chunk of that lead-in. On Wednesday, “Criminal Minds” (3.1/8, 12.01m) has been fall’s most consistent drama performer, and was tops among all hours in 18-49 for the week for the first time this season.

CBS was also strong over the weekend with holiday programming winning on Friday and Saturday and a huge football overrun on Sunday (10.4/29 in 18-49, 32.00m for the final 55 minutes of Steelers-Cowboys) that helped propel “60 Minutes” (4.9/12, 19.63m) to season highs. And behind it, the finale of “Survivor” did well (3.2/8, 11.46m) opposite the big football game and was up 10% over the conclusion of last spring’s edition.

NBC fared well early with “The Voice” (3.8/10 in 18-49, 12.33m on Monday) and closing the frame with “Sunday Night Football” (8.7/22, 23.23m for 49ers-Patriots), with the latter logging its best numbers since the opening Sunday of the football season.

Another highlight was Tuesday drama “Parenthood” (2.0/6, 5.73m), which led its hour in demos. But it was mostly slow going for stripped Howie Mandel gameshow “Take It All,” which opened decently Monday (2.2/5, 7.12m) behind “The Voice,” but dipped to a 3 share on nights when it didn’t have that strong lead-in.

Fox and ABC had quiet weeks, with the former led by “The X Factor” on Wednesday (2.7/8, 7.79m) and the latter by “Modern Family” on the same night (4.2/11, 10.94m). The Alphabet’s “Scandal” (2.4/7, 7.14m) delivered good scores for its fall finale Thursday despite a preemption in Philadelphia for Eagles football.

In cable, ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” (5.5/15, 14.48m) led the way even with a lopsided result in what was expected to be a competitive showdown between the Patriots and Texans.

Discovery had a big Tuesday, beating ABC and Fox in adults 18-49 and ruling as TV’s No. 1 network in men 18-49 (2.4/7) behind “American Chopper” (2.0/5 in 18-49, 3.91m) and “Amish Mafia” (1.7/5, 3.41m). And one night later, its combo of “Amish Mafia” (1.6/4 in 18-39, 3.64m) and “Moonshiners” (1.6/5, 3.43m) led all of cable in 18-49.

The week’s top scripted original series on cable was FX’s “American Horror Story” in 18-49 (1.3/4) and TNT’s “Rizzoli & Isles” in total viewers (3.79 million).

But in demos, repeats of TBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” beat all scripted originals. In fact, Tuesday’s 9:30 p.m. telecast pulled a 1.5 rating in 18-49 — matching an original seg of Fox’s “The Mindy Project” and handily beating ABC’s original “Don’t Trust the B in Apt. 23″ (1.0).

Also of note, Showtime saw strong season finales Sunday for “Dexter” (1.4/3 in 18-49, 2.75m) and “Homeland” (0.9/2, 2.29m), with both hitting all-time highs.

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