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The CW led the early advance on the fall launch, and it has reason to cheer about solid premiere numbers for drama “Hellcats.”

The sudser revolving around competitive college cheerleadering became the first series to match or build in key young demos on veteran reality show “America’s Next Top Model,” which started its 15th edition on Wednesday in tandem with “Hellcats.”

The bulk of the fall season kicks off the week of Sept. 20, but CW has traditionally gotten a jump on the Big Four preems with its fall freshmen series. “Nikita,” the C-Dub’s most anticipated newcomer, also bowed this week in the plum Thursday 9 p.m. slot behind “The Vampire Diaries.”

“Hellcats” delivered a 1.2 rating/4 share in adults 18-49 and 3.02 million viewers overall in the 9 o’clock hour. It followed “America’s Next Top Model” (1.3/4, 2.84m), which continued its trend of gradual erosion.

“Hellcats” matched “Model” in 18-34 rating (1.4) while building a bit on the reality vet in total viewers, persons 12-34 (1.6 vs. 1.3) and, most notably, among teens (2.1 vs. 1.1) — and in each case, its numbers improved in the second half-hour.

The turnout for “Hellcats” was modest by broadcast standards, and the show will face tougher competish in the coming weeks. Still, the “Hellcats” launch numbers must be a sigh of relief to a network that has basically gone dark this summer.

Airing almost all repeats, the net consistently finished behind numerous cable networks for the past three months. And the two original shows CW tried to sneak onto its summer schedule — reality makeover series “Plain Jane” and Canadian import comedy “18 to Life” — developed no traction with viewers.

The overall aud for “Hellcats” is the largest for a regular program in the Wednesday 9 p.m. timeslot for CW since the premiere of “Gossip Girl” three years ago. And “Hellcats” is certainly an improvement over last year’s short-lived “The Beautiful Life,” more than doubling that drama in most categories.

With the bow of “Hellcats” on Wednesday and “Nikita” on Thursday, CW is hoping to hook viewers on its newcomers a full two weeks before the return of the top shows in these 9 p.m. time-slots, including ABC’s “Modern Family” (Wednesday) and “Grey’s Anatomy” (Thursday).

Also bowing Wednesday on cable was FX drama “Terriers,” which settled for a soft 0.5 rating/1 share in adults 18-49 and 1.61 million viewers overall during the 10 o’clock hour.

Those 18-49 numbers put it on par with the second of two original hours of TNT’s “Dark Blue” (0.5/1, 1.97m) but well behind USA’s “Psych” (1.1/3, 3.11m) and cable timeslot leader “Top Chef” on Bravo (1.4/4, 2.90m).

“?’Terriers’ premiere ratings weren’t what we wanted, but good reviews and good Internet reaction gives hope for the future,” exec producer Shawn Ryan wrote Thursday afternoon on Twitter.