'Idol' leads week, but rival nets closing the gap

A mostly original lineup helped Fox finish on top of the ratings heap in key demos last week, but the net’s aura of invincibility in the May sweep may be fading.

Though “American Idol” installments on Wednesday and Thursday drew the most young adults for the week, the show no longer towers over all other primetime skeins. And the net is not getting a lot of production elsewhere on its sked, which was pretty much at full strength last week.

That could make the May sweep race more interesting than it has been in recent years.

ABC, with some comedies airing repeats, finished a relatively close second among young adults last week, while third-place CBS should put up a better fight this week with all shows in originals.

On the cable side last week, ESPN and NFL Network saw impressive numbers for the NFL Draft on Thursday, and HBO’s “Game of Thrones” hit series highs on Sunday.

Overall, according to Nielsen estimates for April 23-29, Fox won for a third straight week in adults 18-49 with a 2.3 rating/7 share, followed by ABC (2.0/6), CBS (1.7/5), NBC (1.6/5), Univision (1.5/4) and ESPN (1.1/3). Fox edged out NBC for the lead in adults 25-54 (2.8/7 to 2.7/7), and CBS held off ABC in total viewers (8.4 million to 8.0 million). In the more narrow 18-34 demo, Univision moved up to No. 2 (1.5/5), behind Fox (1.8/6).

For Fox, the two-hour Wednesday edition of “American Idol” (4.8/14 in 18-49, 16.87m) was the week’s top show in key demos, and Thursday’s hourlong results show placed third (4.0/12, 14.87m) — but both were down about 30% year to year. Net’s Sunday anchors “The Simpsons” (2.3/7, 5.00m) and “Family Guy” (2.8/7, 5.63m) picked up some, with the latter winning its slot in 18-49. And Tuesday’s combo of “Glee” (2.7/8, 6.90m) and “New Girl” (2.6/7, 5.20m) remains potent enough.

But on the drama side, “Touch” finished fourth on Thursday (1.9/5, 6.43m) despite an “Idol” lead-in, and Friday remains a struggle with “The Finder” (1.1/4, 3.97m) and “Fringe” (1.0/3, 3.09m).

At ABC, vets “Private Practice” (2.2/6, 8.13m in its new Tuesday timeslot), “Grey’s Anatomy” (3.3/9, 9.45m) and “Desperate House-wives” (2.5/6, 8.02m) won their hours in demos, as did rookies “Revenge” (2.1/6, 7.03m) and “Once Upon a Time” (3.0/8, 9.20m). More recent drama entry “Scandal” hasn’t done great on Thursdays (2.0/6, 6.86m) but has been very consistent since it bowed April 5.

“Dancing With the Stars” grew (3.2/8, 17.62m) and drew more total viewers than any show, but, like “Idol,” the reality vet was down about 30% from last year.

CBS didn’t air any original comedy or drama until the sweep kicked off Thursday, where “The Big Bang Theory” (4.1/13, 12.65m) delivered the second highest 18-49 score of the week (and will likely surpass “Idol” for No. 1 when all DVR playback is included).

Eye’s Friday’s shows, including “Blue Bloods” (1.5/5, 10.47m), led their slots, but the net sagged Sunday with new drama “NYC 22″ (1.2/3, 7.44m).

NBC was paced by “The Voice” on Monday (3.8/10, 10.31m) and Tuesday (3.4/9, 8.93m), but its highest-rated scripted skeins were out of the top 25: “The Office” (2.1/6, 4.17m) and “Smash” (2.0/5, 6.01m).

CW preemed “The L.A. Complex” to just 630,000 viewers on Tuesday, and a repeat the next night drew 690,000.

ESPN’s coverage of the opening round of the NFL Draft (3.3/9, 6.67m) was among the week’s top programs in 18-49.

HBO’s “Game of Thrones” hit a series high for its regular timeslot (1.9/5 in 18-49, 3.90m), grabbing an 18-49 aud that was larger than that of 10 original dramas on the Big 4 last week. The only other scripted Sunday cable series to rise was Showtime’s “The Borgias” (579,000).

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