24 live another day

Jack Bauer has given Fox some much-needed good ratings news, as Monday’s return of “24” delivered some of the net’s best numbers this spring while contributing to softer-than-usual numbers for programs on the competition including ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” and CBS’ comedy block.

Overall, viewing levels took a hit on Cinco de Mayo, with Nielsen estimating that 33.1% of adults 18-49 were watching television on Monday — down 6.2% from the previous week (35.3%) and the second lowest of the television season (behind only Dec. 23).

According to preliminary national estimates from Nielsen, “24: Live Another Day” averaged a 2.5 rating/8 share in adults 18-49 and 8 million viewers overall from 8 to 10 p.m., placing a solid second to NBC’s “The Voice” in 18-49 while winning in all key male demos; it also is likely to round up to a 2.6 in the nationals. Compared to two Mondays ago, when Fox aired original episodes of “Bones” and “The Following,” the return of “24” performed about 70% better in 18-49 (2.5 vs. 1.05) and more than 50% better in total viewers (8.0 million vs. 5.2 million).

Fox has been struggling this spring, and the revival of the 2001-2010 Fox series delivered the net’s highest rating for any entertainment series in exactly two months — since “American Idol” did a 2.7 rating on March 5 (before the start of Daylight Saving Time).

And though the television world has changed a lot in four years, “24” held up well even when compared to its final season in 2010. Monday’s rating was within 10% of the score for its May 2010 “series” finale (2.8).

Elsewhere, NBC remained on top of the night in demos behind “The Voice” (3.0/9 in 18-49, 10.8 million viewers overall) and “The Blacklist” (2.7/8 in 18-49, 10.6 million viewers overall), both of which were flat week to week and swept their half-hours in 18-49. While the music competition held steady (thanks in part to special performances by Pharrell Williams and Gwen Stefani), it was at season-low levels for a performance episode.

At ABC, “Dancing With the Stars” (1.8/6 in 18-49, 12.7 million viewers overall) was down from last week’s stronger-than-usual number for a Latin music-themed night (2.6/7); it is projected to rise to a 1.9 or 2.0 in the nationals, but that would still leave it down about 25% week to week and this will be the show’s lowest-rated episode of this cycle. Last week, it narrowed “The Voice’s” 18-49 advantage to just 0.4 ratings points, but the gap was about 1 full point this week. Also taking a tumble from last week’s strong showing was “Castle” (1.6/5 in 18-49, 8.9 million viewers overall).

CBS comedies “2 Broke Girls” (1.9/7 in 18-49, 6.5 million viewers overall), “Friends With Better Lives” (1.6/5 in 18-49, 5.0 million viewers overall) and “Mike & Molly” (1.8/5 in 18-49, 6.5 million viewers overall) seemed to be affected by the presence of “24,” as they were all down 15% or more from last week; “2 Broke” matched its low despite airing its season finale. Closing out the night were repeats of “Mom” (1.2/3 in 18-49, 4.6 million viewers overall) and “NCIS: Los Angeles” on a special night (0.8/2 in 18-49, 3.9 million viewers overall).

At CW, “The Tomorrow People” (0.4/1 in 18-49, 1.0 million viewers overall) held steady in its season finale, again building a bit on its “Star-Crossed” lead-in (0.3/1 in 18-49, 0.9 million viewers overall).

Preliminary 18-49 averages for the night: NBC, 2.9/9; Fox, 2.5/8; ABC, 1.8/5; CBS, 1.3/4; CW, 0.4/1.

In total viewers: ABC, 11.5 million; NBC, 10.7 million; Fox, 8.0 million; CBS, 5.1 million; CW, 1.0 million.

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