ABC and NBC split demo honors on the first Wednesday of the year, with the former’s “Modern Family” easily standing as the night’s No. 1 program. On its regular night, meanwhile, CBS’ “Live to Dance” opened meekly.

According to preliminary nationals from Nielsen, ABC led each half-hour in adults 18-49 from 8 to 9:30 p.m. with original episodes of comedies “The Middle” (2.8 rating/9 share in adults 18-49, 9.3 million viewers overall), “Better With You” (2.5/7 in 18-49, 7.4 million viewers overall) and “Modern Family” (4.8/13 in 18-49, 11.8 million viewers overall) — all up vs. their most recent original last month and in line with their fall same-night averages. “Modern” led the 9 o’clock half-hour by 6 shares in adults 18-49.

The Alphabet dropped off sharply, though, at 9:30 p.m. with “Cougar Town” (2.9/8 in 18-49, 10.3 million viewers overall), which tied for second in 18-49, and continues to have a tough time at 10 p.m., even with a “Primetime” special on celebrity weight loss (1.6/5 in 18-49, 4.4 million viewers overall).

NBC, which tied ABC for Wednesday’s 18-49 lead while winning outright in total viewers, opened with solid-enough scores for gameshow “Minute to Win It” (2.1/6 in 18-49, 6.8 million viewers overall), which was a considerable improvement over the recent burn-off original episodes of drama “Undercovers” in the 8 o’clock hour. It was followed by a two-hour episode of “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” (2.9/8 in 18-49, 10.7 million viewers overall), which drew the show’s best demo score since September and its largest overall audience since June 2009.

CBS opened the night quietly as Paula Abdul’s “Live to Dance” moved to its regular night with a lackluster third-place demo finish at 8 o’clock (1.8/5 in 18-49, 7.9 million viewers overall) — down more than 20% from its special preview on Tuesday. And from 9 to 11, the “People’s Choice Awards” (2.7/8 in 18-49, 9.5 million viewers overall) ranked second to NBC’s “SVU” but was down about 20% year-to-year in 18-49 to log its lowest 18-49 score on record (excluding the 2008 ceremony affected by the writers strike).

Fox, whose “American Idol” makes its Wednesday debut in a couple of weeks, went with original episodes of “Human Target” at both 8 (1.7/5 in 18-49, 6.2 million viewers overall) and 9 (1.7/5 in 18-49, 6.5 million viewers overall), placing fourth for the night.

Preliminary 18-49 averages for the night: ABC and NBC, 2.7/8; CBS, 2.4/7; Fox, 1.7/5; Univision, 1.4/4; CW, 0.3/1.

In total viewers: NBC, 9.4 million; CBS, 8.9 million; ABC, 7.4 million; Fox, 6.3 million; Univision, 3.8 million; CW, 0.9 million.