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ABC and NBC had the best stories to tell in the opening week of the television season, a frame in which every broadcast net saw ratings declines.

The femme-fueled Alphabet and the increasingly testosterone-tilted Peacock tied for the week’s lead among adults 18-49, with those nets combining for eight of the week’s top 10 programs.

ABC also won in adults 25-54 and total viewers, edging out CBS in both, while NBC edged past Fox to claim the week in adults 18-34.

ABC looked to be the clear-cut winner in 18-49, but NBC took advantage of a new Nielsen rule allowing it to cume the ratings for the week’s two airings of “Heroes” (Daily Variety, Sept. 26). It’s estimated that the Peacock would otherwise have finished one or two-tenths of a ratings point behind the Alphabet. Change allowed NBC to boost the hit sci-fi show’s final Monday rating by adding that number to the one earned when the show was replayed Saturday.

But what really made the difference is that the unusual change in processing national ratings — about which Nielsen itself is having second thoughts — doubly benefited NBC by removing the lowest rated hour of the week (Saturday at 8) from its average.

Nearly overshadowing the greatest asterisk debate since Barry Bonds set baseball’s home run record was a sluggish overall start to the season.

As only a couple of new shows really popped in the ratings — NBC’s “Bionic Woman” and ABC’s “Private Practice” — and some vets saw troubling year-to-year declines, it’s clear that auds aren’t watching television the same way they used to.

DVR penetration has nearly reached 20% nationwide, and the Nielsen sample has caught up with that trend. As a result, the next-day ratings that Nielsen reports are reflecting the fact that auds are watching shows on their own timetables, often several days or weeks after their premiere telecast.

The nets are now left to play a waiting game, eager to see how many more viewers they can claim when Nielsen issues estimates for all DVR playback within one week.

As for the premiere-week action, ABC was paced by “Grey’s Anatomy” (8.8 rating/21 share in adults 18-49, 20.93 million viewers overall) even though the medical drama was down from its ballyhooed shift to Thursday on premiere week a year ago.

Other old reliables like “Desperate Housewives” (7.5/17 in 18-49, 19.32m) and “Dancing With the Stars” pitched in with potent numbers, as the hoofing skein ranked seventh among all shows for the week in 18-49 with Monday’s premiere (5.8/15, 21.25m). Show also did well on Tuesday and Wednesday, with the latter night’s results show (4.1/12, 16.81m) leading into solid numbers for the bow of “Grey’s Anatomy” spinoff “Private Practice” (5.2/13, 14.41m).

Among new shows, neither Wednesday’s “Dirty Sexy Money” (3.6/10 in 18-49, 10.44m) nor Thursday’s “Big Shots” (4.5/12, 11.10m) bowed to huge numbers, but both exhibited decent aud retention from the hit shows that preceded them. And second-year hours “Ugly Betty” (3.9/11, 11.16m) and “Brothers & Sisters” (4.9/13, 12.83m) performed well in their openers, with the latter standing as the top-rated 10 o’clock drama of the week in 18-49.

NBC possessed the frame’s standout premiere in Wednesday’s “Bionic Woman” (5.7/14 in 18-49, 13.91m), which beat out ABC’s “Private Practice” head to head in younger demos, and “Bionic Woman” lead-out “Life” (4.0/11 in 18-49, 9.95m) surprised by winning its premiere hour in key demos.

Net was also pleased that it got younger, shaving roughly two years off its median age of a year ago, thanks to young-skewing hits like “Heroes” (7.3/17 in 18-49, 16.97m) and “The Office” (5.1/12 in 18-49, 9.65m); latter was the week’s No. 1 comedy in demos and was up year to year despite moving to a tougher timeslot.

On Monday, the net’s “Chuck” looked solid in its bow (3.6/9 in 18-49, 9.21m), while “Journeyman” did OK at 10 (3.5/9 in 18-49, 9.16m). And the Peacock led Tuesday with the ninth-season preem of “Law & Order: SVU” (4.8/13, 12.12m).

Highlight of the week for CBS was edging out ABC for an 18-49 victory on Thursday behind a big opener for “CSI” (8.2/19 in 18-49, 25.22m), which was the week’s most-watched program overall. Also on the night, “Survivor: China” (4.6/13, 14.14m) and “Without a Trace” (4.7/13, 16.68m) notched victories.

Of its new shows, both Monday’s “Big Bang Theory” (3.7/9 in 18-49, 9.52m) and Friday’s “Moonlight” (2.5/8 in 18-49, 8.54m) performed well vs. their lead-ins, while new drama “Cane” did OK in its Tuesday bow (3.0/8 in 18-49, 11.21m). And in its second week, “Kid Nation” (2.8/8, 7.62m) ran a solid second in its Wednesday hour, holding onto most of its premiere aud.

Fox was a distant fourth, though Tuesday drama “House” was the No. 3 show of the week in 18-49 (7.8/19, 18.31m). It was the only Fox show among the week’s top 20, however, as “Family Guy” (4.3/10, 7.98m) and “The Simpsons” (4.2/11, 8.51m) just missed the cut.

Elsewhere, “Bones” performed pretty well on Tuesday (3.3/9, 8.40m), and Wednesday comedy “Back to You” (2.8/9 in 18-49, 7.47m) ran second in its timeslot.

The CW was dragged down by its disastrous Sunday lineup, led off by “CW Now” and “Online Nation,” which drew a 1 share in 18-49 and fewer than 800,000 viewers. Net’s top performers were “America’s Next Top Model” (2.4/7 in 18-49, 4.90m) and “Smallville” (1.9/6, 5.18m), with new drama “Reaper” doing OK in its bow Tuesday (1.5/4 in 18-49, 3.28m).

MyNetworkTV averaged 850,000 viewers, with Tuesday’s “Jail” leading the way (0.7/2 in 18-49, 1.50m) and rising week to week.

Standout performer on cable was VH1’s finale of “Rock of Love” on Sunday (3.1/7, 5.40m), which racked up the second best number to date for a program on the net. It did a 15 share in women 18-34 (a competitive second to the 19 share for ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” in the timeslot) and was cable’s top nonsports program of the week in various categories.

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A two-hour “Dancing With the Stars” lifted ABC to victory on Monday of the current week, while rookie shows on NBC and CBS held up pretty well in their second tries. Not looking so hot was new CW comedy “Aliens in America.”

According to preliminary nationals from Nielsen, “Dancing” (5.2/13 in 18-49, 20.3 million viewers overall) won from 8 to 10 p.m. despite the expected declines from its impressive season premiere of a week earlier. “The Bachelor” closed out the night for ABC with competitive numbers (prelim 3.6/9 in 18-49, 9.6 million).

Night’s opening hour was a competitive three-net battle for second place in young adults among the CBS comedy block of “How I Met Your Mother” (prelim 3.0/9 in 18-49, 7.9 million) and “Big Bang Theory” (prelim 3.4/8, 8.6 million), NBC’s “Chuck” (prelim 3.1/8 in 18-49, 8.2 million) and Fox’s “Prison Break” (prelim 3.0/8 in 18-49, 7.2 million).

“Bang” built on its “Mother” lead-in by a similar margin as premiere week (even though both shows were down about 10%), while “Chuck” dropped off by a bit more.

At 9, NBC’s “Heroes” (prelim 5.5/13 in 18-49, 11.9 million) was neck and neck with ABC’s “Dancing” for the 18-49 lead, down from last week’s premiere but on par with its second seg of a year ago. CBS was solid with “Two and a Half Men” (prelim 4.6/11 in 18-49, 13.4 million) and “Rules of Engagement” (prelim 3.9/9, 10.5 million), although “Rules” didn’t hold as much of its lead-in with the potent “Dancing” extending into its timeslot this week. Fox’s “K-Ville” (prelim 2.0/5 in 18-49, 5.5 million) dropped a bit more in its third week.

The 10 o’clock drama battle went to CBS’ “CSI: Miami” (prelim 4.6/12 in 18-49, 14.9 million) over NBC’s “Journeyman” (prelim 3.3/8, 8.4 million), but the latter rookie held up well, down just slightly despite a larger dropoff for its lead-in.

CW didn’t do much with its opening-hour comedy combo of “Everybody Hates Chris” (prelim 1.0/3 in 18-49, 2.6 million) and “Aliens in America” (prelim 0.8/3, 2.3 million) but did pick up at 9 with vet “Girlfriends” (prelim 1.2/3 in 18-49, 2.6 million) and second-year laffer “The Game” (prelim 1.4/3 in 18-49, 8.0 million). “Game” achieved series highs in multiple categories, including adults 18-34 (1.8/4).