Eye, Peacock battle

Heated rivals cook amid hoops, franchises

CBS and NBC split the primetime ratings spoils last week, with the “CSI” franchise and college basketball lifting the Eye among men, while “The Apprentice” and the “Law & Order” shows powered the Peacock among femmes.

Overall for the week of March 29-April 4, season leader NBC prevailed in the adults 18-49 demo with a 4.2 rating/12 share to a 4.0/11 for CBS. Fox, with its regularly skedded 90-minute dose of “American Idol,” slipped to third (3.5/10) while ABC remained deep in fourth (2.6/7).

CBS topped the frame in adults 25-54 (5.1/13) and total viewers (13.16 million), two categories it leads for the season as well.

Key to the strong CBS perf was Saturday’s semifinal action of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, whose 5.7 rating in 18-49 more than tripled the net’s nonsports average on the night this season (1.8). The competitive games rated 33% higher than a year ago and helped the Eye more than double second-place Fox on the night.

CBS was also tough on Thursday, finishing a close second to NBC in 18-49 and winning in adults 25-54 and total viewers behind “CSI,” “Survivor” and “Without a Trace,” the latter of which finished in its most competitive position yet to NBC’s firstrun “ER” (6.0/16 vs. 9.2/25 in 18-49).

Monday’s “CSI: Miami” dominated its hour (7.1/19 in 18-49, 19.67m), and rookie Sunday drama “Cold Case” (3.4/10 in 18-49, 14.25m) led its hour in 25-54 and total viewers.

NBC could crow about the first head-to-head 18-49 victory for Thursday’s “The Apprentice” (9.8/24) over “CSI” (9.4/23), while “Law & Order” and “Law & Order: SVU” both topped their combined broadcast competish with identical 18-49 scores (6.0/16).

Elsewhere for the Peacock, which delivered 12 of the week’s top 30 broadcasts in 18-49, “Frasier” picked up some steam as it nears its finale (4.0/10 in 18-49), and lead-out “Scrubs” (4.1/10) built slightly on that lead-in and led the Tuesday-at-9:30 slot in adults 18-34.

Sunday’s “American Dreams” didn’t shoot off any fireworks with its season finale (2.8/8 in 18-49), but the night’s “Crossing Jordan” continues to do well (4.6/12), topping its hour.

At Fox, Tuesday’s “American Idol” was the week’s No. 1 program in 18-49 (10.8/29), helping “24” return to the sked with solid numbers (4.8/12), including its largest overall aud (11.50m) since January.

The other “Idol” night, Wednesday, was also a good one for Fox, as the music talent show (9.4/26 in 18-49, 21.87m) dominated at 8:30, and skedmates “That ’70s Show” (5.3/16) and “The OC” (5.0/13) also led their slots in the key demo.

Net is not doing much elsewhere, though, with recent sked additions “Cracking Up,” “Wonderfalls” and “Forever Eden” all struggling.

There wasn’t much good to report at ABC, although new Friday laffer “The Big House” (2.1/7 in 18-49, 6.13m) matched or built upon its “George Lopez” lead-in (2.1/8 in 18-49, 6.75m) in most key demos.

Net also tied NBC for Sunday’s 18-49 with a repeat of perennial fave “The Ten Commandments” (3.3/9) but hit another low on Wednesday at 10 with “Stephen King’s Kingdom Hospital” (2.4/6), which shifts now to Thursday.

The WB, with a season-high 18-34 score from Sunday’s “High School Reunion” (2.2/6), edged past UPN for the week in the younger demo (1.3/4 vs. 1.2/4). Frog’s “Reba” shined again Friday at 8:30 as a repeat led its slot among young femmes.

UPN’s Monday, with “Half and Half” getting a tryout in “The Parkers’ ” slot at 8, remains potent, but there’s not much else percolating on the net now that “America’s Next Top Model” has ended its season.

Among the ad-supported cable networks, TBS led in the 18-49 demo (0.97 rating), boosted by movies “O Brother Where Art Thou” and “Along Came a Spider.”

It was another great week for Comedy Central, whose “Chappelle’s Show” was the No. 1 basic cable program in both adults 18-34 (3.5/11) and 18-49 (2.3/7), tied in the latter with lead-in “South Park” (2.3/6).

HBO’s “The Sopranos” remains strong, meanwhile, drawing a 5.2/13 in adults 18-49 to easily win its Sunday hour. And “Deadwood” (2.3/6) is hanging in there at 10.

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