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Day one goes to Eye

CBS sweeps to victory start; 'OC' rocks on

CBS came out smoking on the opening night of the November sweep Thursday, but there was also room for Fox to enjoy some success with its season premiere of relocated drama “The OC.”

Although it didn’t do much on Friday or Saturday, CBS proved on Thursday that it will be a force to reckon with for the month in the key demo battle of adults 18-49. Eye web, with strong showings by “Survivor,” “CSI” and “Without a Trace,” ruled the night and helped send second-place NBC to its lowest-rated firstrun Thursday in any sweeps month since Nielsen began tracking demos in 1987.

Perhaps the most significant development Thursday, though, was the nice start for Fox’s “The OC.”

Although it placed third in its hour in both adults 18-49 (3.8/10) and total viewers (8.56 million) — behind “Survivor” and NBC comedies “Joey and “Will & Grace” — the soph sudser significantly improved the net’s standing on the night and won its timeslot in its core aud of persons 12-34 (5.4/16).

Fox is looking to establish a beachhead on the night, sensing some vulnerability in CBS and NBC, which have ruled Thursdays in recent years.

“Survivor” remains strong despite losing a step or two the past couple of seasons, and “Joey’s” perf is a far cry from what “Friends” had been delivering. With “The OC,” one of the hottest shows on television among the under-35 crowd, the net thinks it can finally do business on the night.

Fox Entertainment prexy Gail Berman was pleased with the opening-night results but also acknowledged that one night does not a season make.

Every day ‘a war’

“Every day is a war,” Berman said. “We have to battle our way onto a night, and that means we have to up our efforts. All we’ve done is broken through. We have to keep the pressure up.”

Exec also said Fox’s Gotham sales office was “over the moon” about the ratings for “The OC” because of the millions in potential movie ad coin that might now flow Fox’s way. Indeed, Thursday’s season premiere was filled with theatrical spots.

‘Survivor’ stays strong

Opposite “The OC,” CBS’ “Survivor: Vanuatu” hit in-season highs (7.6/20 in 18-49, 20.24 million viewers), while NBC’s “Joey” (5.2/14, 12.56m) and “Will & Grace” (5.2/13, 11.87m) were a solid second.

CBS rolled at 9 with “CSI” (10.8/26 in 18-49, 30.58m), which was up 14% year-to-year, and closed things out with another big showing by “Without a Trace” (7.2/19, 21.77m). “Trace” shaved the advantage in the hour for NBC’s “ER” (8.3/21 in 18-49, 17.01m) to 15% in 18-49 and just 2% in adults 25-54 (8.9/21 vs. 8.7/20), and was up 53% year-to-year.

Despite year-to-year declines, “ER” built on its lead-in from “The Apprentice” (7.8/19, 16.06m) to remain the net’s highest-rated program. Latter Donald Trump-hosted skein matched its best 18-49 result in six weeks.

For the night, CBS led over second-place NBC in adults 18-49 (8.6/22 vs. 7.1/18), 25-54 (10.4/24 vs. 7.7/17) and total viewers (24.2m vs. 15.1m).

Elsewhere, second half of Fox’s new Thursday, “North Shore,” wasn’t much (2.1/5 in 18-49, 4.99m) but it did top ABC’s “Life as We Know It” (1.5/4, 4.02m). Alphabet’s “Primetime” hit season highs at 10 but remained a distant third (2.4/6 in 18-49, 7.49m).

Friday goes to Peacock

One night later, NBC remained perfect on Fridays this season by scoring another victory in both adults 18-49 (3.1/10) and total viewers (9.6 million), according to prelim Nielsen nationals.

“Dateline” (2.4/8 in 18-49, 9.5m), “Third Watch” (3.4/10, 10.4m) and “Medical Investigation” (3.5/11, 9.0m) all led their hours. “Third Watch” scored a decisive victory over ABC’s comedies in 18-49 (2.5/7 for “Hope & Faith” and “Less Than Perfect”) and earned the best average for any net in the hour this season.

CBS continues to see diminished returns this fall for 8 o’clock drama “Joan of Arcadia” (2.0/7 in 18-49, 8.0 million), and Fox didn’t do much at 9 with reality skein “Renovate My Family” (1.9/6 in 18-49, 4.3m). ABC was paced at 10 by “20/20,” which logged its best demos in six weeks (3.0/9 in 18-49, 3.6/10 in 25-54).

Saturday saw Fox’s combo of “Cops” and “America’s Most Wanted” win in adults 18-49 (2.9/9) and total viewers (7.2 million), according to Nielsen prelims, with the lineup’s best scores since March.

ABC did OK with repeats of “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives,” NBC picked up in the 9 o’clock hour with a repeat of “SNL Presidential Bash 2004: The Great Debates” (prelim 2.1/6 in 18-49, 5.6m), but CBS struck out at 8 with rookie drama “Clubhouse” on its new night (prelim 1.0/3 in 18-49, 4.1m).

(Josef Adalian contributed to this report.)

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