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CBS continued its strong start to spring last week, dominating a frame book-ended by the series finale of “How I Met Your Mother” and the Academy of Country Music Awards.

The Eye also saw strong numbers for “The Big Bang Theory,” veteran crime dramas “NCIS: Los Angeles” and “Criminal Minds” and new comedy “The Millers.” And it debuted comedy “Friends With Better Lives” (behind the “Mother” finale) to decent numbers.

Overall, according to Nielsen estimates for March 31-April 6, CBS ruled in the 18-49 demo with a 2.1 rating/6 share, and was followed by ABC (1.6/5), NBC (1.5/4), Fox (1.2/4) and Univision (1.1/3). This was the sixth consecutive week that Fox has placed fourth or lower.

CBS also won in adults 25-54 with a 33% advantage over runner-up ABC (2.8 vs. 2.1), and drew nearly 60% more total viewers (10.1 million vs. 6.4 million) than the next closest network (ABC).

For CBS, the finale of “How I Met Your Mother” kicked off the week with series highs (5.5/14 in 18-49, 13.13 million viewers overall), rising more than 50% week to week in 18-49 and standing as the week’s No. 1 program by that measure. “Friends With Better Lives” followed (2.6/7 in 18-49, 7.63 million viewers overall), losing more than half of its demo lead-in; starting next week, it airs at 8:30 p.m., behind “2 Broke Girls.”

The big “How I Met Your Mother” finale pushed Thursday dynamo “The Big Bang Theory” (4.9/18 in 18-49, 17.73 million viewers overall) to a rare second-place 18-49 finish among the broadcasters as the geekcom returned following a two-week basketball-dictated break; in total viewers, it topped the week’s rankings. “The Millers” (2.8/9 in 18-49, 11.35 million viewers overall) had a strong showing behind “Big Bang,” rising 17% above the 18-49 score of its prior original and easily winning its time period.

On the drama front, “NCIS: Los Angeles” (2.4/7 in 18-49, 15.31 million viewers overall) matched the demo score of its progenitor, “NCIS” (2.4/8 in 18-49, 17.16 million viewers overall), which didn’t see any boost from the second of its two-part episode introducing characters that would appear in a possible New Orleans-set spinoff.

And on Wednesday, “Criminal Minds” (2.6/7 in 18-49, 10.47 million viewers overall) was up 18% in 18-49 vs. its prior original — moving ahead of Fox’s “American Idol” head-to-head in the demo for the first time.

Sunday’s telecast of the “49th Annual ACM Awards” (3.3/9 in 18-49, 14.17 million viewers overall) was down 23% in the demo from last year, which was one of the kudocast’s top-rated years in more than a decade, but above the years from 2010 through 2012.

Elsewhere last week, NBC was represented among the week’s top 10 programs in 18-49 by “The Voice” on Monday (3.4/10 in 18-49, 12.28 million viewers overall) and Tuesday (3.1/10 in 18-49, 11.93 million) and “The Blacklist” (2.8/8 in 18-49, 11.39 million).

Also of note were gains for all of its Wednesday dramas, including 10 p.m. rookie “Chicago PD” (1.6/5 in 18-49, 5.75 million viewers overall). And on Tuesday, recent comedy additions “About a Boy” (2.0/6 in 18-49, 7.17 million viewers overall) and “Growing Up Fisher” (1.6/5 in 18-49, 5.96 million viewers overall) continue to look pretty good in a crowded hour for laffers.

At ABC, “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD” (2.0/6 in 18-49, 5.71 million viewers overall) closed the 18-49 demo gap with “NCIS” in the rookie show’s first original episode in three weeks.

Another rookie drama, “Resurrection” (2.2/6 in 18-49, 8.05 million viewers overall) dipped a bit more in its fifth week Sunday but is still doing fairly well behind “Once Upon a Time” (2.4/7 in 18-49, 7.26 million viewers overall), which was the night’s top broadcast series in 18-49 — matching its top score since early October.

Also staying strong were Thursday dramas “Scandal” (2.9/9 in 18-49, 9.13 million) and “Grey’s Anatomy” (2.7/8 in 18-49, 8.28 million) as well as Wednesday comedies “Modern Family” (3.3/9 in 18-49, 9.00 million viewers overall) and “The Middle” (2.0/7 in 18-49, 7.20 million). “The Middle”  beat “American Idol” head-to-head in 18-49 for the first time (2.0 vs. 1.9).

“Family Guy” was Fox’s top series in 18-49 (2.3/6 in 18-49, 4.77 million viewers overall), relegating “American Idol” to No. 2 on the network (2.1/6 in 18-49, 8.89 million viewers overall) and outside the top 20 among all programs for the week.

One semi-bright spot was new Thursday comedy “Surviving Jack” (1.2/3 in 18-49, 4.53 million viewers overall), which retained more than 90% of its premiere score from the previous week even though its “Idol” lead-in was down 11% (1.7 vs. 1.9).

The next night, “Raising Hope” ended its run meekly (0.6/2 in 18-49, 1.52 million viewers overall).

HBO’s “Game of Thrones” premiered to a record audience (6.64 million), the biggest crowd for any telecast on the network since the series finale of “The Sopranos” in 2007. And Showtime’s “Shameless” drew its largest finale audience as it wrapped its fourth season (1.93 million).

At Animal Planet, the return of “River Monsters” (1.72 million) became the network’s most-watched season premiere to date in key demos; for the night, the net ranked No. 1 among ad-supported cable networks in men 18-49.



Adults 18-49 (rating/share)

CBS            2.1/6
ABC             1.6/5
NBC            1.5/4
Fox              1.2/4
UNI             1.1/3
TEL             0.5/1
CW              0.4/1

Total Viewers

CBS           10.08 million
ABC            6.39 million
NBC            5.72 million
Fox              3.99 million
UNI             2.76 million
TEL             1.19 million
CW              1.18 million

(Live plus same-day)

Adults 18-49
1.   How I Met Your Mother (CBS), 5.4/16
2.  The Big Bang Theory (CBS), 4.9/18
3.  The Voice-Monday (NBC), 3.4/10
4.  49th Annual ACM Awards (CBS), 3.3/9
4.  Modern Family (ABC), 3.3/9
6.  The Voice-Tuesday (NBC), 3.1/10
7.  Scandal (ABC), 2.9/9
8.  The Millers (CBS), 2.8/9
8.  The Blacklist (NBC), 2.8/8
10.  Grey’s Anatomy (ABC), 2.7/8
11.  Criminal Minds (CBS), 2.6/7
11.  Friends With Better Lives (CBS), 2.6/7
13.  Two and a Half Men (CBS), 2.5/7
14.  NCIS (CBS), 2.4/8
14.  NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS), 2.4/7
14.  Once Upon a Time (ABC), 2.4/7
17.  Survivor (CBS), 2.3/7
17.  Dancing With the Stars (ABC), 2.3/6
17.  Family Guy (Fox), 2.3/6
20.  Resurrection (ABC), 2.2/6
20.  Mom (CBS), 2.2/6

Total Viewers (in millions)
1.  The Big Bang Theory (CBS), 17.73
2.  NCIS (CBS), 17.16
3.  NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS), 15.31
4.  49th Annual ACM Awards (CBS), 14.17
5.  Dancing With the Stars (ABC), 14.10
6.  How I Met Your Mother (CBS), 13.13
7.  The Voice-Monday (NBC), 12.28
8.  The Voice-Tuesday (NBC), 11.93
9.  Blue Bloods (CBS), 11.69
10.  Person of Interest (CBS), 11.45
11.  The Blacklist (NBC), 11.39
12.  The Millers (CBS), 11.35
13.  Criminal Minds (CBS), 10.47
14.  60 Minutes (CBS), 10.14
15.  CSI (CBS), 9.77
16.  Hawaii Five-0 (CBS), 9.67
17.  Survivor (CBS), 9.48
18. Two and a Half Men (CBS), 9.24
19.  Scandal (ABC), 9.13
20.  Modern Family (ABC), 9.00