October 11, 2008

CBS Ratings Are Hot; ABC and NBC Are Not

By David Bauder Associated Press

NEW YORK -- CBS is looking good so far this TV season, easily winning last week in the prime-time ratings and perhaps minting a new hit in "The Mentalist."

About a man who solves crimes using acute powers of observation, the show was the third most-watched scripted series last week. The drama starring Simon Baker was helped by its Tuesday time slot after "NCIS," which has quietly grown into one of TV's biggest hits in its sixth season.

CBS dominated the competition last week, scoring 11 of the top 20 shows, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Several of the network's programs, including "How I Met Your Mother,""Criminal Minds" and "CSI: Miami," have started out this fall better than they did in 2007, according to an analysis by the Madison Avenue firm Magna.

"Whether this holds up remains to be seen, but CBS couldn't have asked for a much better start to the new season," said Steve Sternberg, executive vice president of audience analysis for Magna.

The news is not nearly so good at ABC and NBC, Sternberg said. Virtually all of their regular series are down from last year. Second-year series with momentum cut short by the writer's strike -- "Pushing Daisies,""Dirty Sexy Money" -- have suffered on ABC.

NBC heavily promoted a supposedly rejuvenated "Heroes" during the Olympics, yet it didn't work. The show ranked No. 25 last week with 9.5 million viewers, Nielsen said.

"Again, it's too early to say this will continue, but it's not a promising sign for either network," Sternberg said.

The most popular television event by far last week was the Palin- Biden vice presidential debate, which had more than 70 million viewers. No entertainment show, during the second week of a brand new season, topped 19 million viewers.

For the week, CBS averaged 11.1 million viewers (7.0 rating, 12 share) and also won among the 18-to-49-year-old demographic advertisers eagerly seek. ABC had 9.2 million (6.0, 10), NBC 7.8 million (5.0, 8), Fox 6.5 million (4.0, 6), the CW 2.4 million (1.6, 3), My Network TV 1.7 million (1.1, 2) and ION Television 470,000 (0.3, 1).

Among the Spanish-language networks, Univision dominated with 3.8 million viewers (1.9 rating, 3 share), Telemundo had 1.1 million (0.6, 1), TeleFutura 570,000 (0.3, 1) and Azteca 160,000 (0.1, 0).

NBC's "Nightly News" topped the evening newscasts with an average of 7.9 million viewers (5.5, 11), while ABC's "World News" was second with 7.8 million (5.3, 11). The "CBS Evening News" had 6.2 million viewers (4.2, 8), a 3 percent jump over its average this year, on the week Katie Couric had her much-discussed interview with Sarah Palin. However, the interview was a big presence on the Web.

Fox News Channel marked a milestone with 11.1 million viewers during the vice presidential debate last Friday, the cable network's largest audience ever.

A ratings point represents 1,145,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation's estimated 114.5 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show.

Here are the top 20 shows for the week of Sept. 29-Oct. 5. Listings include the week's ranking, with viewership for the week and season-to-date rankings in parentheses. An "X" in parentheses denotes a one-time-only presentation.

1. (1) "Dancing With the Stars," ABC, 18.88 million viewers.

2. (4) "NCIS," CBS, 17.47 million viewers.

3. (11) "60 Minutes," CBS, 16.65 million viewers.

4. (5) "Desperate Housewives," ABC, 15.68 million viewers.

5. (9) "Dancing With the Stars Results," ABC, 15.49 million viewers.

6. (7) "The Mentalist," CBS, 15.48 million viewers.

7. (10) "CSI: NY," CBS, 14.89 million viewers.

8. (6) "Criminal Minds," CBS, 14.78 million viewers.

9. (7) "CSI: Miami," CBS, 14.35 million viewers.

10. (3) "NBC Sunday Night Football: Pittsburgh vs. Jacksonville," NBC, 14.21 million viewers.

11. (12) "Two and a Half Men," CBS, 13.58 million viewers.

12. (14) "Survivor: Gabon," CBS, 13.08 million viewers.

13. (13) "House," Fox, 12.98 million viewers.

14. (X) "America's Got Talent" (Wednesday), NBC, 12.69 million viewers.

15. (16) "Without a Trace," CBS, 12.61 million viewers.

16. (16) "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," ABC, 11.83 million viewers.

17. (18) "Cold Case," CBS, 11.1 million viewers.

18. (20) "Amazing Race 13," CBS, 11 million viewers.

19. (22) "Law & Order: SVU," NBC, 10.39 million viewers.

20. (18) "Brothers & Sisters," ABC, 10.33 million viewers.

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