ABC, CBS share honors in first week of season

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ABC and CBS split the bragging rights for the first week of the 2005-06 television season.

With big sophomore-season premiere ratings for Desperate Housewives and Lost and a little help from an NFL double-header Monday, ABC cruised to victory in the coveted adults 18-49 demographic during the week ending September 25 with an average of a 4.7 rating/12 share, according to Nielsen Media Research data issued Tuesday.

That marked a 21 percent gain from ABC's showing during premiere week last year, and it also allowed the network to log its first premiere-week win in the demo in more than 10 years, according to ABC.

CBS easily took the week in total viewers, a feat it has pulled off at the dawn of the new season for the past four years. The network averaged 12.9 million viewers, down five percent from last season's opening salvo, followed by ABC (12.3 million, up 23 percent, NBC (9.9 million, down seven percent), Fox (6.5 million, up 22 percent), UPN (4.2 million, up 30 percent), and WB Network (3.3 million, down 23 percent).

CBS was also number two to ABC for the week in adults 18-49 with a 4.1/11 average, which marked a nine percent dip from last year's premiere week, followed by NBC (3.4/9, down 17 percent) and Fox (2.8/7, up 22 percent). UPN stole the thunder from rival WB Network for the week in their target demo of adults 18-34, with UPN growing 40 percent from the comparable week last year to a 2.1/6 while WB slid 26 percent to a 1.4/4.

UPN's charge was led by the promising Thursday premiere of Everybody Hates Chris (7.8 million, 3.2/9 in adults 18-49), which gave the 10-year-old network its highest ratings ever for a comedy bow and a much-talked-about 18-49 demo victory over NBC's Joey and Fox's The O.C. in the competitive 8 p.m. slot.

UPN also strutted solid numbers for Wednesday's two-hour premiere of the fifth incarnation of America's Next Top Model (4.8 million, 2.3/6). And at the top of the week, UPN had some encouraging signs of a rebound (compared with last season) of its Monday comedy block anchored by 9 p.m.'s Girlfriends (4.2 million, 1.9/4).

For WB, the bright spot continues to be Tuesday and the performance of its drama combo of Gilmore Girls (5.8 million, 2.5/7) and Supernatural (5 million, 2.2/5), which held up well in its second airing. On Monday, however, WB fell off the Nielsen radar with the debut of heavily promoted Jay Baruchel-Don Johnson buddy dramedy Just Legal (3.4 million, 1.1/3).

Fox had the ignominious distinction of having the first cancellation of the young season after a pathetic showing on Wednesday from the 9 p.m. legal drama Head Cases (3.1 million, 1.2/3) in its second airing. In fairness, Cases had the misfortune of going up against the season opener of ABC's Lost (23.5 million, 10.2/25), which rocketed out of the gate to series-high ratings in both key measures.

For NBC, which appears to still be very much in rebuilding mode after Week 1 of the 2005-06 campaign, it was a week of feast and famine.

The good news for the network was the stronger-than-expected openings for the 8 p.m. Monday drama Surface (11.2 million, 3.8/10) and in particular the new 9 p.m. Tuesday comedy My Name Is Earl (15.3 million, 6.6.16). The worst news came Wednesday with weaker-than-expected premiere of 8 p.m.'s The Apprentice: Martha Stewart (7.1 million, 2.3/7) and again with Thursday's launch of the fourth round of Donald Trump-hosted Apprentice (9.9 million, 4.6/11) in the 9 p.m. hour.

ABC got the week off to a good start with a rare double-header NFL bout on an elongated Monday Night Football telecast that also incorporated telethon elements that wound up generating about $5 million in pledges for victims of Hurricane Katrina. The primetime portion of the nearly four-hour MNF telecast averaged a healthy 15.8 million viewers and a 6.2/16 in adults 18-49.

The extraordinary football competition of the night made things tougher for the competition. Even CBS' hot-shot Two and a Half Men (15 million, 5.1/12) showed a little softness in its third-season opener as it moved into the 9 p.m. berth vacated by Everybody Loves Raymond. CBS's new comedy Out of Practice (13.2 million, 4.3/10) also looked wobbly in its debut in the 9:30 p.m. slot.

ABC's good fortune ebbed Tuesday when the sitcom According to Jim (8.1 million, 2.6/8) got off to a weak start in its new 8 p.m. slot. The 8:30-10 p.m. portion of ABC's revamped Tuesday lineup was held back until this week to make room for the 90-minute Dancing With the Stars rematch (10.9 million, 2.8/7), which didn't have much traction in the 9 p.m. hour against NBC's Earl or Fox's House (13.6 million, 4.9/12).

But any sting from Tuesday was wiped out by the end of Wednesday night when Lost helped the new drama Invasion (16.4 million, 6.8/17) scare up a crowd at 10 p.m. ABC's crowning achievements of a strong premiere week came Sunday when it stomped all over the competition with its 8-11 p.m. murderer's row of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (16.4 million, 6.9/17), Desperate Housewives (28.4 million, 12.3/26), and the sophomore-season bow of Grey's Anatomy (19 million, 8.3/20).

As always, CBS shone brightest in the 9 p.m. Thursday slot with CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (29 million, 10.2/25) and 10 p.m. Monday with CSI: Miami (19.2 million, 6.7/16). CBS had a pretty good start Friday for the new 8 p.m. drama Ghost Whisperer (11.3 million, 3.0/10).

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