Fox ends on high note

'Idol,' 'Millionaire' finales racked up records for net

HOLLYWOOD — Fox joined Ruben Studdard as a big winner last week as the final night of “American Idol” hit some of the net’s highest ratings notes ever.

For the week of May 19-25, according to Nielsen, Fox prevailed in all key demo categories including adults 18-49, where its 5.7 rating/17 share topped second-place NBC (3.4/10) by a whopping 68%. Net won five nights, led by the two-hour conclusion of “Idol,” which crowned Studdard its champ and set all-time Wednesday records for the network (14.9/36 in 18-49, 34.2 million viewers overall).

Fox also led the frame in total viewers (13.2 million), marking just the fifth time in its history that it has won a week by this measure without the help of major sporting events.

The Wednesday seg of “American Idol” finished the season as the No. 3 program in adults 18-49 (10.3/25, behind “Joe Millionaire” and “Friends”) and total viewers (21.93 million, behind “CSI” and “Joe Millionaire”). The finales of “Idol” and “Millionaire” this season racked up the two highest-rated series scores in the net’s history.

Fox also received a strong perf last week from Tuesday drama “24,” whose season finale set series highs in total viewers (14.2 million) as well as all female demos. And a NASCAR Winston Cup race dominated Sunday, especially among male demos.

A good thing for Peacock

Standout performer for NBC, second for the week in key demos, was Monday made-for “Martha, Inc.: The Story of Martha Stewart,” whose 18-49 rating (5.2/12) was the best for a single-part movie on any net since March 2002 (5.2/12).

Also, the 299th and 300th segs of “Law & Order” produced the Peacock’s best Wednesday since February.

CBS, third in 18-49 and 25-54, had a big Monday with the expanded season finales of “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “CSI: Miami,” which tied as the week’s top scripted program in 18-49 (7.4/18). Net also won the final two hours of Thursday with repeats of “CSI” (5.9/17, 17.34m) and “Without a Trace” (5.0/14, 15.01m).

The “Academy of Country Music Awards” (3.6/9 in A18-49, 12.08m) took a hit opposite Fox’s “American Idol,” falling to its lowest numbers to date. Overall, the kudocast was off a respectable 9% year-to-year in overall audience but a steep 34% in adults 18-34 — the power demo for “Idol.”

AWOL weekend

How sad has Saturday become for the networks? A repeat of CBS’ “The Price Is Right” was the evening’s most-watched program (8.07 million).

ABC was fourth in 18-49 and third in 18-34, led by the season finales of “NYPD Blue” (5.0/13 in 18-49), “Extreme Makeover” (4.8/12 in A18-49) and “My Wife and Kids” (4.0/10). “ABC’s 50th Anniversary” spec on Monday produced a fourth-place 3.7/9 opposite finales on the other networks.

The Alphabet was barely visible on the Nielsen radar Saturday with the preem of theatrical “Anna and the King” (1.1/4 in A18-49), while repeats of “Alias” and “The Practice” — back in its customary timeslot — both settled for 4 shares Sunday.

The WB finished fourth for the week in persons 12-34 and women 18-34, led by the finales of its top two shows: “Smallville” (5.1/13 in A18-34) and “7th Heaven” (3.7/11).

On Thursday, the Frog premiered the comedy “O’Keefes” to decent numbers (1.3/4 in A18-34) relative to its lead-in from a repeat “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” (1.2/4). Net’s “Jamie Kennedy Experiment” and “Reba” held up well in postsweep repeats.

UPN remained sixth but delivered its best weekly average in adults 18-34 (1.7/5) since January, bolstered by the series finale of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and a credible start for reality skein “America’s Next Top Model.” The one-hour season finale of “Girlfriends,” featuring Toni’s wedding, also shined Monday (2.3/6 in A18-34).

It was closer than usual in the evening news race, where ABC and NBC tied in adults 25-54 (2.6/11) and the Peacock slid ahead in total viewers by about 30,000 (8.98m vs. 8.95m). NBC has led in the 25-54 demo every week this season (now including two ties).

Basketball scores

In basic cable, TNT again dominated with a national 1.2/4 in adults 18-49, 1.3/4 in adults 25-54 and 3.1 million viewers overall. National Basketball Assn. playoff contests Monday and Sunday led the week in both adults 18-49 and total viewers.

TLC’s “Trading Spaces” again performed very strongly, with its 2.2 rating among adults 18-49 good enough for third place during the week. In its Saturday slot, it placed second to only Fox’s “America’s Most Wanted” (2.8).

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