ABC reality stalwart down 18% in season premiere

Could “The Bachelor” phenomenon be fading?

Monday’s season premiere of the longtime ABC reality skein — now in its 16th cycle — drew a 2.4 rating/6 share in the 18-49 demo, according to early estimates from Nielsen. In total viewers, the show attracted 7.7 million.

Compared to the season premiere a year ago, the demo is down 18% and about 1.3 less viewers were watching Monday night.

Granted, there was college football bowl games that might have brought over some viewers from broadcast to cable — the runover from the Rose Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl were both on ESPN in primetime — but a majority of those football viewers were men, and “The Bachelor” is clearly a female-skewing program.

With “The Bachelor” down, CBS had little problem taking the night. As a matter of fact, four Eye comedies and a drama were the top five shows Monday and captured every timeslot.

CBS built on every half-hour, from 8 o’clock to 9:30 p.m. “How I Met Your Mother” (3.9/9, 10.2m) and “2 Broke Girls” (4.3/10, 12m) led into the evening’s top program, “Two and a Half Men” (4.4/10, 13.7m).

There was a slight drop-off for “Mike & Molly” (3.8/9, 11.9m) before CBS closed the night with “Hawaii Five-0″ (2.9/7, 11.7m).

On the bright side for ABC, the net can be happy that the debut of “Celebrity Wife Swap” drew an identical 2.4/6 as “The Bachelor,” meaning there was no demo drop-off at 10 o’clock. However, the 6.2 million tuning in meant a 1.5 million decrease in total viewers from “The Bachelor.”

NBC aired all original programming, and best for the Peacock was the 9 p.m. “Fear Factor” (2.4/5, 5.9m), which grew 23% from its first half-hour to its second. Lead-in “Who’s Still Standing” (1.5/3, 5.5m) and lead-out “Rock Center With Brian Williams” (1.2/3, 3.8m) were no match for CBS and ABC. All three shows were consistent with their last original airings in late December.

Fox opted to go with a pair of “House” repeats (1.2/3, 3.6m and 3.8m) while CW aired reruns of “The Secret Circle” (0.3/1, 992,000 and 790,000).

Preliminary 18-49 averages for the night: CBS, 3.7/9; ABC, 2.4/6; NBC, 1.7/4; Univision, 1.6/4; Fox, 1.2/3; CW, 0.3/1.

In total viewers: CBS, 11.9 million; ABC, 7.2 million; NBC, 5.1 million; Univision, 3.7 million; Fox, 3.7 million; CW, 891,000.

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