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NBC leads season-to-date

Peacock tops adult demos, Eye nabs overall auds

NBC scored another convincing primetime ratings victory among young adults last week, while CBS eked ahead in total viewers.

According to Nielsen estimates for the Dec. 9-15 frame, the Peacock net won for the 10th time in 11 weeks — topping second-place CBS and Fox in adults 18-49 by 27% (4.7 to 3.7). This matched the net’s largest bulge of the season, set one week earlier.

NBC also won in the adult breakdowns of 25-54 and 18-34.

In overall audience, CBS drew about 30,000 more viewers during an average minute of primetime than NBC, for its eighth triumph this fall.

Roughly a third of the way through the season, NBC enjoys a comfortable 20% advantage over second-place CBS in adults 18-49, while the Eye net maintains a 3% lead over the Peacock in total viewers. NBC also leads in adults 25-54 (by 10% over CBS) and adults 18-34 (by 19% over Fox).

In their respective target demos, the WB is up nicely year-to-year and ABC is flat, while NBC and CBS are both down slightly. Fox (down 12%) and UPN (down 18%) are the nets struggling the most this season.

NBC was led by its strong regular lineup alongside specs like Tuesday’s Dixie Chicks concert special (3.8/11 in adults 18-49) and Sunday’s telecast of theatrical “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” (5.2/12).

Monday also was very strong, with “Fear Factor” (6.1/16 in adults 18-49), “Third Watch” (5.3/12) and “Crossing Jordan” (4.5/11) all matching or setting season highs.

For CBS, Thursday drama “CSI” again towered over all primetime programs in total viewers (25.89 million) and was No. 3 for the week in adults 18-49 (9.4/23). And lead-out “Without a Trace” (5.3/13) retained a best-yet 56% of that demo lead-in despite being overwhelmed by NBC’s “ER” (11.4/29).

Eye’s “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” shined brightly, easily winning its Friday hour and ranking as the week’s top-rated show — broadcast or cable — in kids 2-11 (8.7/25).

Fox ranked second in both adults 18-49 (tied with CBS) and 18-34, led by “The Simpsons,” which was Sunday’s highest-rated program in adults 18-49 (7.2/18) and total viewers (15.47m). It also was boosted by a winning perf from “24” (4.8/12 in adults 18-49) and the “Billboard Music Awards” (4.3/11), which gave the net its best Monday of the season.

ABC had several strong hours on the sked, including its Tuesday and Wednesday comedies and Wednesday spec “Extreme Makeover” (5.8/14 in adults 18-49), but it was weighed down by weak-performing dramas “MDs” and “Dinotopia,” both of which have since been canceled.

Elsewhere in the week:

Not-so-bloody Sunday: Only NBC was able to fully capitalize on the first Sunday of the season without competition from HBO’s “The Sopranos,” as “Christmas Vacation” delivered the second-best 18-49 score for any movie on any net this season (5.2/12). The needle didn’t budge much for ABC’s “Alias” (4.2/10), and CBS struggled with original pic “The Man Who Saved Christmas” (2.5/6 in adults 18-49, 10.66 million viewers overall).

Fox’s “Malcolm in the Middle” (5.1/12 in 18-49) was up vs. its recent 9 p.m. average, but that was largely due to a stronger showing at 8:30 from “King of the Hill” (6.2/15). “King,” which led its half-hour in every key demo, also drew its largest overall aud (13.41 million) since May 1998.

Wednesday warrior: NBC returned to its winning Wednesday ways, led by the strongest score of the season for “Law & Order” (7.6/20 in A18-49). Compared with the same night of originals a year ago, “Law” was up 4% in 18-49, while lead-in “West Wing” (5.1/12) was down 26% and leadoff hitter “Ed” (4.0/11) was flat.

Revving up: New Fox action drama “Fastlane” isn’t doing great overall numbers, but it did see its best scores since September (7.65m, 3.5/9 in A18-49). It led the Wednesday-at-9 hour in men 18-34 (4.4/12) and male teens (4.8/14).

Tuesday tussle: The 9:30 rookie comedy battle between ABC’s “Life With Bonnie” and NBC’s “Hidden Hills” is shaping up as a competitive one, with the shows tying in adults 18-49 with a 4.2/10 — this despite an edge at 9 for NBC’s “Frasier” (5.2/13) over ABC’s “Bonnie” (4.4/11).

ABC’s “According to Jim” did very well on the night, ranking as the top show in adults 18-49 (6.1/17) and total viewers (14.62m).

Couples chuckles: “Yes, Dear” continues to perform well for CBS. Not only has it consistently built on its “King of Queens” lead-in among adults 18-49, but in its first Sunday try, a repeat of the comedy built on an original “Becker” by 22% in the demo (2.8/7 vs. 2.3/6).

Christmas cheer: “Rudolph” gave CBS its best showing among adults 18-49 in Friday’s leadoff hour (4.2/14) since a seg of “Big Brother” in September 2000. And this came even as the WB was enjoying success with “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (2.2/8) and the new “Scooby-Doo Christmas” (1.6/5), both of which set season-high slot marks in key demos.

At 9, though, two half-hours of new CBS holiday entry “Robbie the Reindeer” averaged a 2.7/8 in the 18-49 demo, falling slightly behind ABC’s second airing this month of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (2.8/9).

Nearing finish line: There was no build for the penultimate episodes of CBS reality skeins “Amazing Race 3” and “Survivor: Thailand,” both of which wrap this week. This edition of “Survivor,” though, is pacing ahead of last fall’s “Survivor: Africa” at this point — up 5% in adults 18-49 and 6% in total viewers.

Also one week from its finale, NBC’s “Providence” hit a season low (2.3/8 in A18-49), clearly hurt by CBS’ “Rudolph.”

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