MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- It's upfront week! And not a moment too soon for networks -- and, based on season-finale ratings, viewers trying to forget an unmemorable TV season. The lower scores for finals week continued Sunday night, in particular for ending episodes of CBS's "Survivor" and ABC's "Desperate Housewives." There was a bit more life, however, for the animated-sitcom finales on Fox.
Fittingly, it was almost a tie between overall winner ABC, which delivered a 3.6/10 rating and share in the ad-centric 18-to-49 demographic, just beyond CBS's 3.5/10 and well above Fox's 2.3/7 (based on Nielsen fast-affiliate ratings; final live-plus-same-day data will be released tomorrow.)
NBC, which had its "Celebrity Apprentice" finale last week, slumped to a 1.3/4 after running two-hour episodes of "Dateline" (1.2/4) and a "Saturday Night Live 'Shorts'" special (1.5/4). On the CW, whose one Sunday series, "Jericho" (.2/1), had its series finale last year, theatrical "License to Kill" (.4/1) averaged a .3/1 overall.
While ABC won on the strength of "Desperate Housewives" (4.7/12), it was the show's weakest season-finale delivery ever, and was not only down 24% from last year's cliffhanger, but off 15% from its original-episode season average. Leading into "Desperate" were back-to-back episodes of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" (1.9/6 at 7 p.m. and 3.0/8 at 8 p.m.), with the regularly scheduled later version down 26%.
CBS started the countdown to "Survivor" with "60 Minutes," which lost about 46% of its regular viewers in delivering a 1.5/5. "Survivor" (4.2/11) did just that, losing only 5% from fall's finale for "Survivor: Gabon," which led into the "Survivor Reunion Show," which matched last fall's 3.8/10.
That left it to the slacker characters on Fox's sitcoms -- the type most likely to blow off the other version of finals week -- to overachieve, at least by the standards of the May malaise Fox will try to get advertisers to forget at this afternoon's upfront presentation. After reruns of "King of the Hill" (1.1/4) and "American Dad" (1.4/4), three shows had season finales -- "The Simpsons" (holding last year's 2.9/8), "Family Guy" (3.7/9, down 5% from last year's finale) and "American Dad" (2.8/7, a tenth of a rating point ahead) -- and one show, "King of the Hill," had its series finale, which was even with last year's 2.6/7.
WHAT TO WATCH:
Monday: Jack Bauer and "24" had a comeback season, at least according to critics. Whether Keifer Sutherland, who plays Bauer, will come back next year may be less up to Fox and more up to the law, as he's in trouble for an incident that would be a hangnail compared with what Bauer is used to. The two-hour "24" season finale starts at 8 p.m.
Tuesday: Fox previews "Glee" right after the penultimate episode of "American Idol."
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Because "24" is so serialized, the episodic "Two and a Half Men" stands to gain more casual season-finale viewers for CBS.
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NOTE: All ratings based on adults 18-49. A share is a percentage of adults 18-49 who have their TV sets on at a given time. A rating is a percentage of all adults 18-49, whether or not their sets are turned on. For example, a 1.0 rating is 1% of the total U.S. adults 18-49 population with TVs. Ratings quoted in this column are based on live-plus-same-day unless otherwise noted. (Many ad deals have been negotiated on the basis of commercial-minute, live-plus-three-days viewing.)
John Rash is senior VP-director of media analysis for Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis. For more, see rashreport.com.