Networks are neck-and-neck in key demos

About a month into the new fall season, a rising NBC remains the surprise leader in demos but CBS had a stronger showing last week to make things interesting.

Boosted by an NFL overrun on Sunday, the Eye pulled to within a tick of the Peacock in 18-49 while edging ahead in adults 25-54 and rolling for a fourth straight week in total viewers. The net had its winning Tuesday preempted by a presidential debate, but several shows on other nights hit season highs and “The Big Bang Theory” was the frame’s top non-sports broadcast series.

Leading the way in 18-49 among all entertainment series for a second straight week was AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”

Overall for the week of Oct. 15-21, according to Nielsen estimates, NBC led in adults 18-49 with a 2.6 rating/7 share, followed by CBS (2.5/7), ABC (2.1/6), Fox (1.6/5) and Univision (1.5/4). It has opened the season with four straight 18-49 triumphs for the first time in 10 years.

And if you toss in the first three weeks of September (the start of the NFL season), the net has now won seven straight weeks in the key demo.

In adults 25-54, CBS bested NBC (3.3/8 to 3.1/8), after the Eye had earned a tie two weeks ago. CBS also continues to rule as the runaway leader in total viewers, drawing about 2.3 million more on average than runner-up ABC.

Through four weeks, NBC’s 3.1 rating/9 share in adults 18-49 — its best delivery in five years at this juncture — is comfortably ahead of CBS (2.7/8), with ABC and Fox tied for third (2.4/7). NBC is up by 19%, while CBS (down 18%), ABC (down 11%) and Fox (-25%) are all lagging their year-ago pace.

For CBS last week, “Hawaii Five-0″ (2.1/5 in 18-49, 8.70m), “Two and a Half Men” (4.0/11, 13.60m) and “The Good Wife” (1.9/5, 10.02m) all hit season highs, and rookie comedy “Partners” was on the rise Monday (2.1/5, 6.08m).Thursday comedy “The Big Bang Theory” (4.8/15, 15.73m) tied with NBC’s “The Voice” (4.8/13, 13.01m) as the week’s No. 2 non-sports series in 18-49, and was No. 1 among all entertainment series in adults 25-54 (6.4/17) and total viewers.

And Sunday newsmag “60 Minutes,” the beneficiary of about 29 million viewers watching the end of the Jets-Patriots game, was the week’s most-watched non-sports program (3.6/9, 15.86m).

At NBC, “Sunday Night Football” (6.7/17, 17.47m) was the week’s No. 1 show once again, while “The Voice” ranked in the top 10 with its segs on Monday (4.8/13, 13.01m) and Tuesday (4.6/13, 12.04m); the Monday score matched the show’s best since March.

In an example of how the ratings bar varies from night to night, Friday’s “Grimm” (1.5/5 in 18-49, 5.03m) was the night’s No. 1 scripted skein in 18-49, but on Wednesday, “Chicago Fire” (1.5/4, 5.85m) earned the same demo score but was the lowest-rated of the night’s scripted series. Still, “Fire” retained just about all of its “Law & Order: SVU” lead-in (1.6/4, 6.25m).

ABC was led by “Modern Family” (4.7/12, 12.28m), “Grey’s Anatomy” (3.4/9, 9.69m), while its Sunday dramas “Once Upon a Time” (3.3/8, 9.89m), “Revenge” (2.8/7, 8.71m) and “666 Park Avenue” (1.7/4, 4.81m) all picked up steam. A

New Wednesday drama “Nashville” (2.0/6, 6.74m) dropped off by more than 25% from its premiere, while Thursday rookie “Last Resort” (1.7/5, 7.06m) edged up in its fourth frame.

Fox had a forgettable week, with four nights of the modestly rated National League Championship Series and a baseball rain delay cutting short “The X Factor” on Wednesday (2.3/6 in 18-49, 6.34m) — though it was still the net’s top show in 18-49.

At CW, “Arrow” (1.3/4 in 18-49, 3.55m) retained 100% of its premiere rating in key demos, and is giving vet “The Vampire Diaries” (1.3/4, 2.91m) some competish as the net’s top show. It was slow going, meanwhile, for new Tuesday medical show “Emily Owens, M.D.” (0.5/1, 1.67m), and Thursday’s “Beauty and the Beast” (0.7/2, 2.00m) dropped off in its second week.

The second presidential debate of the season ate up the final two hours of primetime Tuesday, drawing a cumulative audience of 65.6 million viewers across 11 networks.

Fox News drew the largest debate audience on cable (11.07 million), propelling the net to the top spot in total-viewer cable rankings for the week (3.56 million).

ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” (5.2/14, 12.84m) and AMC’s “The Walking Dead” (5.1/11, 9.55m) ranked second and third, respectively, in 18-49. FX had two big drama showings as well, with Tuesday’s “Sons of Anarchy” (2.2/5 in 18-49, 4.03m) and Wednesday’s second-season premiere of “American Horror: Story” (2.2/6, 3.85m).

Also of note, A&E’s “Duck Dynasty” hit more highs in its second week (1.8/5 in 18-49, 3.84m), standing as cable’s top Wednesday entertainment series in adults 25-54 (2.0/5).

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