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ABC delivered the three highest-rated entertainment programs among young adults on the opening Sunday of the season, putting the net in position to claim the opening frame of the season.

Net’s “Desperate Housewives,” “Brothers & Sisters” and “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” all lost some of their ratings steam from a year ago, but were the standout performers along with NBC’s “Sunday Night Football.”

When Nielsen issues estimates today for premiere week (Sept. 24-30), the Alphabet will finish on top in the adults 18-49 race with a 3.9 rating, but they may have some company, thanks a new Nielsen rule that could lift NBC into a share of the lead.

The Peacock’s rebroadcast of “Heroes” on Saturday will be rolled into the program’s average in its regular slot on Monday. This not only boosts the Monday hour but eliminates the low-rated Saturday average from the Peacock’s bottom line — a move that’s had the other nets howling (Daily Variety, Sept. 26)

Projections based on Nielsen prelims put ABC in first place with a 3.9 and NBC at a 3.8 that could rise when the dust settles. CBS will finish third (3.4) and Fox a distant fourth (2.7). Thanks, in part, to more DVR playback allowing auds to time-shift their favorite programs, all four nets are down vs. a year ago.

ABC also figures to win narrowly in adults 25-54 and total viewers (roughly 11.9 million), although the Eye (11.8 million) could earn a share of the lead if its Sunday NFL overrun provides enough of a boost.

On Sunday, a rare premiere-week night with no new shows bowing, ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” (prelim 7.4 rating/17 share in adults 18-49, 19 million viewers overall) was easily the top draw, though it was down more than 20% year to year.

It didn’t get a whole lot of help from “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” at 8 (prelim 4.7/12 in 18-49, 14.0 million viewers overall), which was down even more, with the second of its two hours to kick off the season.

“Brothers & Sisters” opened its second season on a strong note at 10 o’clock for ABC (prelim 5.1/13 in 18-49, 13.3 million viewers overall), down from last year’s series premiere but, like “Housewives,” its strongest perf since November. “Brothers” retained nearly 70% of its lead-in, up from its roughly 60% hold of the “Housewives” audience last season.

“Brothers” will also finish premiere week as the No. 1 10 o’clock drama among adults 18-49.

NBC was projected to edge out ABC for the night’s 18-49 lead, thanks to its “Sunday Night Football” matchup between the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles (projected 6.2/15 in 18-49, 14.3 million viewers overall). Contest pitting two losing teams, albeit from huge markets, should rank as the lowest of the four Sunday NFL games on the Peacock this fall. 

At CBS, following a 30-minute NFL overrun, an expanded “60 Minutes” averaged a prelim 2.8/7 in 18-49 and 12.8 million viewers overall from 7:30 to 9 p.m., with “Cold Case” at 9 (prelim 3.4/8 in 18-49, 13.6 million viewers overall) improving from the previous week’s season premiere.

Eye dropped off at 10 with “Shark” (prelim 2.7/7 in 18-49, 11.4 million), which isn’t as strong as “Without a Trace” in the slot a year ago.

Fox’s animated anchors “The Simpsons” (prelim 4.2/11 in 18-49, 8.4 million viewers overall) and “Family Guy” (prelim 4.2/10 in 18-49, 7.9 million) performed well, but the net dipped as usual at 8:30 with “King of the Hill” (prelim 3.5/9 in 18-49, 7.2 million) and at 9:30 with the season premiere of “American Dad” (prelim 3.1/7 in 18-49, 6.0 million).

CW again attracted minuscule numbers in the opening hour for “CW Now” (prelim 0.3/1 in 18-49, 0.8 million viewers) and “Online Nation” (prelim 0.3/1 in 18-49, 0.7 million). Net may have to make a move quickly to avoid giving new family drama “Life Is Wild” an anemic lead-in when it bows this Sunday.