CBS has strengthened its hold on first place for the season by winning the primetime demo derby race for a third straight frame last week behind “The Big Bang Theory,” the “Academy of Country Music Awards” and improved numbers for “Supergirl” as it welcomed CW character “The Flash.”

The Eye won in adults 18-49, 25-54 as well as total viewers in a week despite strong numbers for the season finale of AMC’s monster hit “The Walking Dead” and a robust return following a nearly fourth-month break for Fox’s “Empire.”

With a little over seven weeks to go in the seasonal race, CBS led NBC through Sunday by more than a full tenth (2.41 to 2.26). It appeared a few weeks ago that NBC could perhaps catch and surpass the leader, but that’s looking less likely now. The gap will certainly close down the stretch, and there’s a decent shot the network could end in a rounded tie at 2.3.

CBS recently introduced two dramas, with “Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders” looking solid through two weeks while “Rush Hour” got out of the gate slowly. At NBC, “Heartbeat” is performing modestly on Wednesdays, while Sunday alternative series “Little Big Shots” has cooled off some but remains a strong addition. The Peacock’s fate could hinge on how two new Thursday series — reality competition “Strong” and drama “Game of Silence” — fare starting next week.

Overall, according to Nielsen estimates for the week of March 28-April 3, CBS led in adults 18-49 with a 1.4 rating/5 share, two ticks ahead of NBC and Fox (both 1.2/4), with ABC two tenths behind them (1.0/3); cablers TBS and AMC tied for fifth (0.8/2). The Eye also had it in adults 25-54 (2.0/6) and total viewers (7.94 million), while Fox finished on top in adults 18-34 (1.0/4).

Looking at the week’s programming highlights, the season finale of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” dominated in demos, earning a 6.9/21 in adults 18-49, a 6.0/22 in adults 18-34 and 14.19 million viewers overall. Though down 10% in viewers and 15% in 18-49 from last year’s season-ender, these were the show’s best numbers since its sixth-season premiere last October.

Fox’s “Empire” (4.8/15 in 18-49, 12.45 million viewers overall) impressed in its return, topping the last five episodes from its fall run and standing as easily the week’s top broadcast in key demos. Also for the net, “American Idol” picked up steam one week from its finale (2.1/7 in 18-49, 9.10 million viewers overall), rising 0.4 week to week to match its highest demo rating in seven weeks.

For CBS, the first episode of “The Big Bang Theory” in three weeks (3.5/14 in 18-49, 14.24 million viewers overall) dominated its Thursday timeslot and was the week’s No. 3 program in 18-49 and No. 1 in total viewers, edging out “The Walking Dead.” Another standout on the series side was “Supergirl” (1.7/6 in 18-49, 7.17 million viewers overall), which shot up 31% from the prior week thanks to a crossover storyline with Grant Gustin’s character from CW’s “The Flash.”

Sunday’s telecast of the “Academy of Country Music Awards” (2.3/7 in 18-49, 11.20 million viewers overall) led its three-hour timeslot among the broadcasters, but was down a surprisingly large; of course, the show hasn’t had to face the “Walking Dead” finale in past years. Apparently not a factor in the year-over-year decline was the competing “iHeart Radio Awards,” which mustered a combined 0.9 rating in adults 18-49 and 2.12 million total viewers across TNT, TBS and TruTV.

At NBC, “The Voice” held steady on Monday (2.8/9 in 18-49, 11.38 million viewers overall), dominating in demos on this night as well as Tuesday (2.4/9 in 18-49, 11.10 million viewers overall), where it helped boost dramas “Chicago Med” (1.8/6 in 18-49, 8.68 million viewers overall) and “Chicago Fire” (1.7/6 in 18-49, 8.66 million viewers overall). And on Wednesday, the “Chicago” franchise made it three demo wins for the week as “Chicago PD” (1.5/5 in 18-49, 6.79 million viewers overall) bounced back from the previous week to overtake the second week of CBS’ competing “Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders” (1.3/4 in 18-49,

Sunday’s “Little Big Shots” dipped a bit (1.8/6 in 18-49, 11.33 million viewers overall), but was the night’s No. 1 broadcast series and edged out the ACM Awards on CBS head-to-head in total viewers.

ABC had some good news for its Thursday drama “Scandal” (1.7/6 in 18-49, 6.44 million viewers overall), which reversed its streak of declines with an uptick, while lead-out “The Catch” (1.0/4 in 18-49, 5.07 million viewers overall) dropped off 0.2 in its second week but remained competitive in its timeslot. Also on the rise (vs. their Easter night deliveries of the previous week) were Sunday dramas “Once Upon a Time” (1.1/4 in 18-49, 3.78 million viewers overall), “The Family” (0.7/2 in 18-49, 3.13 million viewers overall) and “Quantico” (1.0/3 in 18-49, 3.68 million viewers overall).

CW also had a post-holiday bounce-back week for many of its shows, including “Jane the Virgin” (0.4/1 in 18-49, 0.94 million), “The Flash” (1.3/5 in 18-49, 3.39 million) and “Arrow” (0.9/3 in 18-49, 2.34 million).

TBS dominated Saturday with college basketball’s Final Four games, with the primetime matchup between North Carolina and Syracuse ranking fourth among all programs for the week in 18-49 (3.3/13) while averaging 10.15 million total viewers. Still, it was down significantly (about 30%) from last year’s more competitive Duke-Michigan State matchup.

Showtime’s “Shameless” wrapped its season on a high note, as its 1.63 million viewers for its regular timeslot was a little above its season average and was up a little from last year’s finale (1.55 million).

At NatGeo, the Morgan Freeman-hosted special “The Story of God” drew a solid 2.80 million viewers Sunday.

CNN, led by its record-setting GOP town hall on Tuesday, was the primetime cable news leader in the key demo of adults 25-54 (417,000) for the fourth time seven weeks — its best stretch of success in eight years — and placed No. 11 among all cable networks in the category. Fox News again led the news networks in total viewers (1.84 million), getting a boost from Sunday’s Greta Van Susteren-hosted Donald Trump town hall event (1.75 million viewers, including 338,000), which led the newsers from 8 to 9 p.m. on Sunday and gave the network its best performance of 2016 in this hour.

(Live plus same-day for March 28-April 3, 2016)

Adults 18-49 rating/share
CBS ……………..  1.44/5
NBC …………….  1.24/4
Fox ……………..  1.23/4
ABC …………….  1.03/4
TBS …………….. 0.82/3
AMC ……………  0.82/3
UNI …………….. 0.66/3
CW ……………… 0.59/2
USA …………….. 0.51/2
FX ………………. 0.45/2

Total Viewers (in millions)
CBS ……………….  7.94
NBC ………………  6.01
ABC ………………  4.82
Fox ……………….  3.97
TBS ………………  2.36
AMC ……………..  1.91
FNC ………………  1.84
HGTV ……………  1.68
CW ……………….  1.54
USA ……………… 1.53


(Live plus same-day for March 28-April 3, 2016)

Adults 18-49
1.  The Walking Dead (AMC), 6.9/21
2.  Empire (Fox), 4.8/15
3.  The Big Bang Theory (CBS), 3.5/14
4.  College basketball-Saturday: North Carolina-Syracuse (TBS), 3.3/13
5.  Talking Dead (AMC), 3.1/10
6.  The Voice-Monday (NBC), 2.8/9
7.  The Voice-Tuesday (NBC), 2.4/9
8.  Academy of Country Music Awards (CBS), 2.3/7
9.  Grey’s Anatomy (ABC), 2.2/8
10.  American Idol-Thursday (Fox), 2.1/7
11.  Survivor (CBS), 2.0/7
12.  Little Big Shots (NBC), 1.8/6
12.  Criminal Minds (CBS), 1.8/6
12.  Chicago Med (NBC), 1.8/6
15.  Dancing With the Stars (ABC), 1.7/6
15.  Chicago Fire (NBC), 1.7/6
15.  Life in Pieces (CBS), 1.7/6
15.  Supergirl (CBS), 1.7/6
15.  Scandal (ABC), 1.7/6
20.  Scorpion (CBS), 1.6/5
20.  Blindspot (NBC), 1.6/5
20.  2 Broke Girls (CBS), 1.6/5

Total Viewers (in millions)
1.  The Big Bang Theory (CBS), 14.24
2.  The Walking Dead (AMC), 14.19
3.  Empire (Fox), 12.45
4.  Dancing With the Stars (ABC), 11.97
5.  The Voice-Monday (NBC), 11.38
6.  Little Big Shots (NBC), 11.33
7.  Academy of Country Music Awards (CBS), 11.20
8.  The Voice-Tuesday (NBC), 11.10
9.  Blue Bloods (CBS), 10.40
10.  NCIS-r (CBS), 10.38
11.  College basketball-Saturday: North Carolina-Syracuse (TBS), 10.16
12.  60 Minutes (CBS), 9.53
13.  Criminal Minds (CBS), 9.16
13.  Survivor (CBS), 9.16
15.  American Idol-Thursday (Fox), 9.10
16.  NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS), 8.91
17.  NCIS: New Orleans (CBS), 8.89
18.  Scorpion (CBS), 8.73
19.  Chicago Med (NBC), 8.68
20.  Chicago Fire (NBC), 8.66

Source: Nielsen