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‘Revenge’ beating the odds for ABC

Rookie soap is holding its own opposite procedural vets

Auds appear to be looking for something fresh in the drama form this fall, and the best example may be in the Wednesday 10 o’clock hour, where an ABC newcomer is taking on primetime’s two longest-running scripted hours.

In an intriguing battle, sudser “Revenge,” starring Madeleine Stowe and Emily Van Camp, has held its own against “CSI,” the CBS forensics drama now in its 12th season, and NBC’s “Law & Order: SVU,” which is in its 13th.

“CSI,” on a new night and featuring new lead Ted Danson, tops the hour in demos and total viewers — with its 18-49 average (3.6 rating/9 share) on par with its year-ago average and a healthy gain for CBS over last year’s “The Defenders.”

It has clearly gotten the better of “SVU,” whose 18-49 average (2.7/7) is off 15% from last season.

Of course, “CSI” enjoys a considerable advantage in that its lead-in (“Criminal Minds”) is both compatible and the night’s highest-rated drama. “SVU,” on the other hand, has been saddled with the low-rated “Harry’s Law” as its lead-in, meaning the Peacock’s 10 p.m. series must recruit a whole new audience to the hour.

ABC’s “Revenge” has fallen in the middle of the 18-49 ratings pack, narrowly winning on two occasions while prevailing every time among the 18-34 crowd. It caps a good night for the net (“Modern Family” airs at 9) and is a significant improvement over last year’s dud “The Whole Truth.”

Even a competitive finish here can be seen as a victory for ABC, which has struggled mightily in Wednesday’s final hour. In addition to “Whole Truth,” the slot has housed such short-lived recent series as “Cashmere Mafia,” “Dirty Sexy Money” and “Eastwick.”

The early perf of “Revenge” also may be a victory for the primetime soap, which aside from ABC’s comedic “Desperate Housewives” hasn’t seen a real success since Fox’s “Melrose Place” in the ’90s.

Shows like this can generate buzz that procedurals can’t, but can be hard to pull off.

But based on interest in “Revenge” and the frequent use of the word “soap” in loglines for next season’s drama development, net execs probably think it’s worth the risk.

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