CBS wins in total viewers; ABC rookies shine

Auds didn’t turn out in great numbers for its 25th anni special Sunday, but Fox finished the week on top in key demos thanks to “American Idol.” Three hours of even a diluted “Idol” is enough to win weeks for the net, as the top-rated show accounts for a full one-fifth of its sked.

Overall, ratings remained at their lowest level of the season as numerous shows hit or just missed season nadirs, and in many cases were down sharply vs. last year. This despite the number of people watching television holding steady year to year, according to Nielsen.

One theory is that growing DVR playback combined with nice spring weather has resulted in a pile-up of shows — so while people are still watching television in primetime, it’s just that programs sitting in the recorder queue sometimes prove to be a bigger draw than any show airing at the time.

Nomura Equity Research pointed out in a report released last week (Daily Variety, April 12) that live viewing by adults 18-49 in the first quarter of this year was down a steep 22% vs. last year, but that the deficit was cut to 8% once three day’s worth of DVR playback is included.

One bright spot last week was ABC’s Wednesday, where “Modern Family” and three rookie shows lifted the net to year-to-year gains. Though “Modern” hit a season low, as it did at this time a year ago, it was still up over the comparable night of last season.For the week of April 16-22, Fox led in 18-49 with a 2.2/7, followed by ABC (1.9/5), CBS (1.8/5), NBC (1.6/5), Univision (1.5/4) and top cabler TNT (1.0/3), with the Peacock the only net to improve vs. the same frame a year ago. Fox also prevailed in adults 25-54 (2.7/7) while CBS rolled in total viewers (8.2 million).

For Fox, “American Idol” was again the week’s top draw with its Wednesday’s performance show (4.8/14, 16.89m), while Thursday’s results show ranked third (4.0/13, 14.99m). Top scripted series were Tuesday’s “New Girl” (2.7/7, 5.22m) and “Glee” (2.4/8, 6.23m).

On Sunday, the “Fox 25th Anniversary Special” produced nothing-special numbers (1.8/5, 4.32m).

CBS aired repeats of “The Big Bang Theory” (2.5/9, 9.29m) and its top dramas, but finished closely behind ABC in 18-49. “NCIS,” one of the few Eye drama originals, won its Tuesday hour (3.1/10, 18.08m), but it remains a struggle for Sunday newbie “NYC 22″ (1.4/4, 7.39m).

At ABC, “Modern Family” (4.1/11, 10.21m) was the week’s top-rated scripted skein in 18-49, and the net saw good showings behind it from “Don’t Trust the B” in its second week (2.6/7, 6.43m) and rookie “Revenge” (2.3/6, 7.70m), back after a six-week hiatus.

On Thursday, first-year dramas “Missing” (1.4/4, 7.23m) and “Scandal” (2.0/6, 7.21m) held steady while “Grey’s Anatomy” was on the rise between them (3.3/9, 9.82m), outperfoming its five previous originals.

Sunday saw gains for rookie “Once Upon a Time” (3.0/8, 9.08m), and original movie “Firelight,” starring Cuba Gooding Jr., drew the best numbers of this season’s three Hallmark Hall of Fame productions this season (1.6/4, 7.56m).

NBC was paced by Monday’s “The Voice” (3.7/10, 10.03m), but for the first time it didn’t rank as the night’s No. 1 series in 18-49. CBS claimed that honor with “Two and a Half Men” (3.8/10, 11.22m), though the comedy closely trailed “Voice” head-to-head in the 9 o’clock half-hour.

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