Already a force among older auds, network might win key demo in 2013

For all of CBS’ success and consistency over the past decade, one ratings achievement has eluded it: the adults 18-49 crown. But there’s good reason to think the Eye might be wearing that soon.

Already TV’s runaway leader in total viewers, and coming off a victory among adults 25-54, CBS is in prime position to take advantage of some vulnerability at Fox, which has won the young-adult demo derby for eight straight seasons. CBS will also benefit from airing both the Super Bowl and AFC Championship game in primetime, which could be enough to get the net over the hump in 18-49.

Of course, CBS wouldn’t even be in the position to knock off the network of “American Idol” if didn’t have across-the-board strength in its entertainment lineup.

Looking at regular program averages last season, the Eye impressively finished first or second among adults 18-49 on six of seven nights (Sunday was the laggard). No network won more half-hours in adults 18-49 than CBS, and no net had more shows in the top 25.

And even though it adds a hit or two most seasons, CBS hasn’t been complacent. In fact, its big fall sked changes come on Monday and Thursday, even though those were its top two nights.

The shift of Monday vet “Two and a Half Men” to Thursday behind “The Big Bang Theory” is a sign CBS didn’t have a new comedy that could mesh as well with “Bang” — and it didn’t want to see such a big chunk of the megahit’s aud abandon the net at 8:30.

If “Men” can retain 85% or so of “Bang,” CBS should dominate the whole opening Thursday hour now, leading into the net’s two biggest drama hopes of fall: soph crimer “Person of Interest” at 9, and new crime drama “Elementary,” a contemporary spin on Sherlock Holmes, at 10.

In “Person,” CBS has a show that could take over the 9 o’clock hour in adults 18-49, after having closed in on ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” last season; it should dominate in men 25-54, with none of the other Big Four shows at 9 p.m. much of a player in this category.

“Elementary” is thematically in the Eye’s wheelhouse, and would seem to be a sure thing, though auds could be tiring of genius crimesolvers (mined again this summer by TNT’s “Perception”). It certainly has a hospitable timeslot (opposite ABC’s “Scandal” and NBC’s “Rock Center”) and should help CBS cap a winning night and post year-to-year gains.

Monday’s laffer lineup won’t be as strong as last fall’s, though “2 Broke Girls” does appear strong enough to take over at 9 from “Two and a Half Men.” New 8:30 p.m. show “Partners” seems a good fit between “How I Met Your Mother” and “Broke.”

This comedy lineup is more female than recent years, too, and that’s not necessarily a good thing opposite femme-focused reality shows on ABC and NBC.

The net’s other two new shows are Tuesday drama “Vegas,” starring Dennis Quaid and Michael Chiklis, and Friday drama “Made in Jersey,” with Brit actress Janet Montgomery.

CBS has smartly placed “Vegas” behind the male-friendly “NCIS” duo, and as is the case on Thursday, its 10 p.m. show here has little competition (vets “Private Practice” and “Parenthood”).

CBS has tried to veer off Procedural Highway in recent years with “The Good Wife” and “Blue Bloods,” and “Vegas” feels more in this vein — meaning it will be one of critics’ favorite Eye dramas but likely not a breakout success. Still, it’s nice to see CBS try something a bit different.

Streetwise-lawyer drama “Jersey” looks like a blend of past CBS femme-led shows like “Judging Amy” and “That’s Life,” with a little “The Nanny” thrown in. Slotted between “CSI: NY” and “Blue Bloods,” it should do OK by Friday’s standards.

If there’s a cause for concern at CBS, it’s that while vets like “Criminal Minds” (heading into its eighth season) “How I Met Your Mother” (also its eighth season) and “NCIS” (its 10th season) are coming off great years, it’s unrealistic to expect them to hold up as well yet again.

Still, it’s not a bad thing if that’s your biggest worry, and the Eye should have another strong season — even if it doesn’t find a big hit this fall.

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