MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- After Sunday's Super Bowl, February's big events will continue this weekend with the Grammy Awards, roll into the next Sunday with the Daytona 500 and conclude with the subsequent Sunday's Academy Awards. All will see spikes in regular ratings levels. But in between is an ongoing series that is big-event programming in its own right, Fox's "American Idol."
Though "Idol" has seen a natural dropoff in audience, it has stabilized into a "new normal," and last night actually increased from last week, delivering a 10.0/25 rating and share in the ad-centric 18-to-49 demographic. Combined with a season's second-highest rating for "Fringe" (5.0/12), Fox easily finished first, with an overall 7.5/19.
The mainstream acceptance of "Fringe" was a big story at the beginning of the new season, but it was eclipsed by the rise of CBS's "The Mentalist," the season's one bona fide breakout hit. But CBS ran a rerun for the second week in a row, which lowered its rating 22% to a 2.9/7. The lead-in for "The Mentalist," "NCIS" (2.7/7), was a repeat as well and delivered a predictable falloff of 27%. An original episode of "Without a Trace," conversely, held its regular rating, delivering a 2.7/7 as CBS finished third, with a 2.8/7.
The reruns' losses should have been NBC's gain, but "The Biggest Loser" (4.0/10) matched its average. So did "Law and Order: SVU," at 3.7/10, but that was enough to win at 10 p.m. and put NBC in second place, with an overall 3.9/10.
ABC's fourth-place 2.0/5 could have used some of the big-event sizzle of series such as "Idol" and specials such as its upcoming Oscars. "Homeland Security USA" (1.6/4) and "Primetime: What Would You Do?" (2.3/6) finished last among the Big Four networks in their 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. time slots, respectively. In between were two episodes of "Scrubs," which also seems settled in fourth place, this time delivering a 2.0/5 at 9 p.m and a 2.2/5 at 9:30 p.m.
As for the CW, the young, female-focused network doesn't have any of the broader broadcast sporting or awards events, so it has to try to create big events (at least to its intended audience). That didn't happen last night, however, as "90210" garnered a 1.3/3, underdelivering its original episode season average by 24%, despite more than tripling last week's repeat rating. Similarly, lead-out "Privileged" (.8/2) was way up over last week's second showing but still was 11% lower than its regular rating, as the CW finished fifth, with a 1.0/3.
WHAT TO WATCH:
Wednesday: It's hard to think of Katie Couric as a warm-up act after she got her media mojo back with her interview of Gov. Sarah Palin. But she'll be just that with "Katie Couric: All Access Grammy Special" on CBS, just a few days before Sunday's "Grammy Awards."
Thursday: Last week, ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" was a repeat, and CBS's "CSI" was an original. This week it's the reverse, and the viewing should be as well.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Competition as tough as the troubled music industry for Katie Couric, as her special runs against established hit "Lost" on ABC and new hit "Lie to Me" on Fox.
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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.