The Big Bang Theory

ABC drama easily beats CBS' 'Elementary' in key demos, crushes NBC's fading 'Hannibal'

CBS won the opening night of the May sweep Thursday behind “The Big Bang Theory,” but it and some other shows on the competition sagged as live distractions including the NFL Draft and NBA Playoffs contributed to lower ratings that are typical as the season’s finish line nears.

ABC’s femme-skewing dramas “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal” perhaps were less affected by the sports counter-programming on cable, with the latter matching its series high and appearing to have built on its lead-in for the first time in the 18-49 demo. Opposite “Scandal,” it was a sluggish fourth outing for NBC’s “Hannibal” as it faced all-original competition for the first time since its premiere, while Fox’s “American Idol” appeared to have set a series low earlier in the evening.

According to preliminary national estimates from Nielsen, “The Big Bang Theory” averaged a 4.2 rating/14 share in adults 18-49 and 14.4 million viewers overall to easily stand as the night’s No. 1 series. Even though it was down about 15% from its most recent original to a season low, consider that it’s a struggle at this time of year for any show to even do a 3 demo rating in primetime’s opening half-hour.

It was followed by “Two and a Half Men” (2.8/8 in 18-49, 11.8 million viewers overall), which won or tied for the lead in most demo categories. From 9 to 11 p.m., “Person of Interest” (2.4/7 in 18-49, 13.0 million viewers overall) and “Elementary” (2.0/6 in 18-49, 9.9 million viewers overall) ranked second in 18-49 while winning comfortably in total viewers; “Person” edged out ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” for the 9 p.m. hour’s lead among adults 25-54.

Compared with last year, the comedy hour was up, “Person of Interest” was flat and “Elementary” was a bit below “The Mentalist.”

At Fox, “American Idol” (2.7/9 in 18-49, 11.1 million viewers overall) either matched or set a low depending on how the nationals come in, down about 30% from last year; it finished second to the CBS comedy hour in just about everything, including adults 18-34 and teens. It was followed by “Glee” (1.8/5 in 18-49, 5.2 million viewers overall), which was down 14% (0.3) from last week when the ABC and CBS hours opposite it were in repeats.

ABC started weakly with “Wife Swap” (1.1/3 in 18-49, 3.4 million viewers overall), which was down 27% (0.4) from last week when it faced repeats of the CBS comedies. It was followed by “Grey’s Anatomy” (2.7/7 in 18-49, 8.1 million viewers overall), which matched its season low and was down 18% year to year but was still the No. 1 series for its hour in adults 18-49. And at 10, “Scandal” (2.8/8 in 18-49, 7.8 million viewers overall) appears to have at least matched — and possibly built on—  its “Grey’s” lead-in for the first time; the hot sophomore show was up 40% (0.8) from the comparable night of a year ago. (ABC has typically aired “Grey’s Anatomy” until 10:02 p.m., but last night it limited the episode to an hour, meaning these prelim scores for the net’s dramas are closer to the final numbers than we usually see.)

For the night, ABC tied with Fox for second in adults 18-49 and won in women 18-49.

NBC opened with a low “Community” (1.0/3 in 18-49, 2.4 million viewers overall), down 23% (0.3) from last week opposite CBS repeats, and followed it up with an encore of “The Office” (0.9/3 in 18-49, 1.8 million viewers overall). An original of “The Office,” which is winding down to its series finale on May 16, averaged a 1.7/5 in 18-49 and 3.1 million viewers overall, down a bit from its most recent original (which aired opposite repeats of the hour’s top shows). “Parks and Reecreation” (1.3/4 in 18-49, 2.5 million viewers overall) was on the low side at 9:30 p.m., and at 10, “Hannibal” (1.0/3 in 18-49, 2.4 million viewers overall) is looking shakier after falling more than 25% (0.4) from last week when it faced repeats and had a stronger lead-in. NBC will wait to see how “Hannibal” finishes up to determine if it will return for a second season.

And at CW, “The Vampire Diaries” (0.9/3 in 18-49, 2.2 million viewers overall) and “Beauty and the Beast” (0.5/1 in 18-49, 1.3 million viewers overall) were both in line with last week when they didn’t face as much original competition. “Vampire,” featuring the “Originals” episode that is being spun off as a new series, bested ABC’s “Wife Swap” in adults 18-34 (0.9 to 0.7).

Preliminary ratings info wasn’t available for the NFL Draft, but last year’s telecast (also on the final Thursday of April ans the start of the May sweep) averaged a combined 4.0 rating in adults 18-49 and 8.1 million viewers overall on ESPN and NFL Network. Thursday’s draft averaged a 4.6 household rating/8 share on ESPN and a 1.2/2 on NFLN.

Preliminary 18-49 averages for the night: CBS, 2.6/8; ABC and Fox, 2.2/6; Univision, 1.4/4; NBC, 1.1/3; CW, 0.7/2.

In total viewers: CBS, 11.9 million; Fox, 8.2 million; ABC, 6.4 million; Univision, 3.3 million; NBC, 2.5 million; CW, 1.7 million.

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