Rivals can't catch a Peacock paced by football, 'The Voice'

NBC remains on top in key demos in the early going this season, winning the opening three weeks for the first time since 2002 — a fall fueled by “Frasier,” “Friends,” “ER,” “West Wing” and “Fear Factor.”

The Peacock is nowhere near as dominant across the schedule these days, but with top unscripted programming like NFL football and music contest “The Voice” accounting for seven hours every week, it has been able to take control of the adults 18-49 ratings race.

NBC has also effectively used “The Voice” to serve as a lead-in for new shows on both Monday and Tuesday. Last week in 18-49, for example, it could claim the week’s top new drama (“Revolution”) and comedy (“Go On”) in the demo thanks to a nice push from the music talent show.

Elsewhere, NBC’s “Nashville” and CW’s “Arrow” opened to fairly good numbers Wednesday but this fall’s frosh continues to underwhelm in general. CBS has already shelved “Made in Jersey,” and a few other shows — led by CBS’ “Partners” and Fox’s “Mob Doctor” — may not make it through the November sweep unless their ratings rebound.

Another big story last week was the strength of cable dramas “Sons of Anarchy” on FX and “The Walking Dead” on AMC, both of which beat the competing dramas in their timeslot among young adults.

Overall for the week of Oct. 8-14, according to Nielsen’s same-day estimates, NBC cruised in adults 18-49 with a 2.9 rating/8 share, with CBS and Fox tied for second (2.1/6) and ABC just a tick behind them (2.0/6). For a third straight week, NBC was up vs. last year while its rivals declined by double-digits.

The Peacock also won last week in adults 25-54 (3.4/8 to 2.9/7 for CBS), while the Eye was again comfortably ahead in total viewers (9.7 million to 8.1 million for NBC).

“Sunday Night Football” (Packers-Texans) was the week’s No. 1 program (7.7/19 in 18-49, 19.92 million viewers overall), and “The Voice” ran fifth in 18-49 (4.8/12, 12.89m), up vs. the previous week. “Revolution” dipped some more in its fourth outing (3.0/8, 8.01m) but rebounded on Monday of the current week (3.3/9, 8.61m).

NBC figures to win the current week too, but Fox should rise up in the season’s fifth week thanks to the World Series.

CBS had 11 of the week’s top 25 programs in adults 18-49, led by “The Big Bang Theory” (4.5/13, 14.23m). Its “NCIS” (3.4/10, 18.51m) was the top-rated drama in 18-49 and 25-54 (4.8/12) and drew more total viewers than any other entertainment series.

The Eye certainly helped its Friday cause by dumping “Made in Jersey” and shifting “CSI: NY” to the 9 p.m. slot (1.4/4, 9.48m), which in turn lifted “Blue Bloods” (1.4/5, 10.53m).

Fox was paced by Wednesday’s “X Factor” (3.5/10, 9.56m), which has been very consistent and again won the night for the net in 18-49. New Tuesday laffer “The Mindy Project” held steady (1.9/5, 3.55m), retaining a bit more of its “New Girl” lead-in (2.7/7, 4.94m) than the previous week.

ABC placed two new episodes of “Modern Family” among the week’s top 5 in 18-49, led by the special 9:30 seg (4.9/13, 12.31m). It led into the series premiere of “Nashville” (2.8/8, 8.93m), which had the third best bow of any new drama this fall.

Its other new dramas, “Last Resort” (1.6/5, 6.89m) and “666 Park Avenue” (1.5/4, 4.82m), lost more ground and their long-term fates could hinge on their perfs over the next few weeks.

CW had its most-watched week since February 2011 thanks to the series preem for “Arrow” (1.3/4, 4.14m) and the season opener of “The Vampire Diaries” (1.6/5, 3.18m). Thursday’s preem of “Beauty and the Beast” did OK (1.2/3, 2.78m) opposite the vice presidential debate.

That debate drew 51.4 million viewers across 10 networks — a big number but well below the comparable debate in 2008 (70 million for McCain-Palin) as well as the previous week’s prexy debate (67.2 million).

Cable claimed the week’s Nos. 2 and 3 programs in AMC’s “The Walking Dead” (5.8/13, 10.87m) and ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” (5.7/15, 14.05m for Texans-Jets). Kicking off its third season, “Dead” set all-time basic cable demo records for a scripted series and its 18-49 score topped every broadcast premiere this fall (Daily Variety, Oct. 16).

FX’s “Sons of Anarchy” (2.3/6, 4.34m) remains well ahead of last season’s pace, beating all three broadcast dramas among adults 18-49 in Tuesday’s 10 p.m. hour.

A&E’s “Duck Dynasty” opened its second season to record ratings Wednesday (1.9/5 in 18-49, 3.94m), more than doubling its year-ago averages.

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