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Fox bowls over auds

Net tackles its most-watched week ever

The network that carries the Super Bowl always gets a ratings boost, but Fox took that to an extreme this year.

In a Jan. 31-Feb. 6 frame that included nearly four hours of primetime Super Bowl coverage on Sunday and big numbers for a pair of hourlong segs of “American Idol,” Fox more than tripled the weekly demo averages of its rivals — and delivered the most-watched week in its history.

As a result, net moved from a fourth-place 3.5 rating in adults 18-49 for the season to a second-place 3.9, according to Nielsen, tying ABC and pulling within a tick of first-place CBS.

Fox’s big surge has knocked NBC down a peg to fourth place — the first time on record that the Peacock has lagged all of its broadcast rivals this late in the season.

It should be noted, though, that although Fox ranks second for the season in 18-49 — and has taken the inside track to finish the campaign that way in May — it continues to rank fourth when you count only regular-program averages. In addition to the Super Bowl and other NFL boosts, the net also aired the World Series last October.

As for the Super Bowl, it came in with a 33.2 rating/68 share in adults 18-49 and averaged 86.07 million viewers overall to easily stand as the season’s highest-rated telecast. This makes it the third-smallest aud for the big game in the past 10 years, and it’s the lowest demo score yet (Daily Variety, Feb. 8).

But Fox excelled off the gridiron, too, as “American Idol” segs on Tuesday (11.9/30 in 18-49, 28.50m) and Wednesday (10.9/29, 26.17m) were the week’s top entertainment programs. And Tuesday lead-out “House” won its hour in all key measures (5.1/12 in 18-49, 12.75m), achieving series highs for a second straight week.

Monday drama “24” remained successful (4.9/11 in 18-49, 11.52m) and is well ahead of its year-ago averages through seven episodes.

Peacock struts and stumbles

NBC placed No. 2 for the week in adults 18-49, receiving powerful perfs from “ER” (8.8/22 in 18-49, 18.09m) and new drama “Medium” (6.1/15 in 18-49, 15.85m), which was Monday’s top show in demos.

It wasn’t a great week for the net’s rookie comedies, though, as “Joey” fell to a firstrun low on Thursday (4.3/12 in 18-49, 9.96m) and “Committed” ran fourth in its Tuesday slot (3.0/7, 6.84m).

Despite its uncustomary fourth-place 18-49 standing for the season, though, NBC remains No. 1 in many key upscale categories through the season’s first 18 weeks. For example, among adults 18-49 earning $100,000-plus, the net’s regular programs are averaging a 4.6 rating, followed by ABC (4.4), CBS (4.1) and Fox (2.3).

ABC has happy days

ABC, whose regular programs were slightly ahead of NBC through 18 weeks in the category of adults 18-49 earning $75,000-plus (4.6 to 4.5), delivered year-to-year growth for the 10th time in the last 11 weeks, according to Nielsen. The Alphabet is now up a hefty 15% year-to-year in 18-49 and 10% or more in all other categories.

Highlights last week included a “Happy Days Reunion” spec (6.2/15 in 18-49, 19.92m), which gave the net its best Thursday in two years (Daily Variety, Feb. 7), and Tuesday’s “NYPD Blue” (3.4/9 in 18-49, 10.63m), which drew its second largest aud of the season.

Also, Thursday’s “Primetime” (3.0/8 in 18-49, 8.83m) and Friday’s “20/20” (3.0/9, 8.61m) were the week’s top-rated newsmags in key demos.

Eye appeal

CBS was paced by Thursday vet “CSI” (8.9/21 in 18-49, 24.95m) and received another winning perf from Friday drama “Numbers” (3.3/10 in 18-49, 11.55m), although the latter declined about 30% week-to-week.

Also, Friday’s spec “Greatest Commercials: Super Bowl vs. the World” (2.8/9 in 18-49, 9.22m) won its slot — the fourth straight year that the Eye has won an hour with a Super Bowl commercials spec.

The WB topped UPN in all key measures, with the Frog’s “Reba” (2.2/7 in 18-49, 5.13m) posting some of its best numbers in two years thanks to a guest appearance by James Denton of “Desperate Housewives.”

And repeats of “Law & Order” helped TNT top its ad-supported cable rivals to win primetime in both adults 18-49 (0.83 rating) and total viewers (2.5 million). Week’s top two firstrun scripted cable programs in 18-49 aired Friday at 10: Sci Fi’s “Battlestar Galactica” (1.5/5 in 18-49, 3.21m) and USA’s “Monk” (1.5/5, 5.00m).

CBS prevailed on Monday of the current week, but both NBC and ABC showed some pop, too.

In the night’s final hour, “CSI: Miami” (6.8/17 in 18-49, 18.82m) won out over tough timeslot foes “Medium” on NBC (5.7/14 in 18-49, 13.97m) and “Supernanny” (4.7/11 in 18-49, 11.39m). The ABC reality skein hit a new high for a third straight week, taking a small chunk out of both competing dramas.

CBS also ruled from 9 to 10 with “Everybody Loves Raymond” (5.9/13 in 18-49, 17.49m) and “Two and a Half Men” (5.6/13 in 18-49, 16.75m). It was another close battle for the hour’s drama lead between Fox’s “24” (4.7/11 in 18-49, 11.10m) and NBC’s “Las Vegas” (4.7/11 in adults 18-49, 11.84m), while ABC’s “The Bachelorette” rose week-to-week (4.2/9 in 18-49, 9.38m).

NBC’s “Fear Factor” scared away its rivals at 8 (4.7/12, 10.91m) although this year’s couples competition is falling well behind last year’s averages. Fox’s “Trading Spouses” (3.6/9 in adults 18-49, 8.13m) was the hour’s runner-up in adults 18-49 with its best score since November. Also, the WB’s “7th Heaven” (2.4/6 in 18-49, 6.91m) was up year-to-year, winning in femmes 12-34 (4.5/13).

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