'V' for Victory: ABC Drama Has Strong Debut With 18-49

Rash Report: However CBS Wins the Night Overall in Key Demo

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MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- Reflecting the contrast between the public perceptions of the two wars, making a "V" with your hand, as Winston Churchill was wont to do, meant victory during World War II. But during the Vietnam era, it was World War II veterans like George McGovern and Eugene McCarthy who became symbols of the new meaning of "V", peace. ABC has to hope that its "V" means both victory and peace: It's already accomplished the former, as the new sci-fi series was a winner Tuesday night with the highest ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic debut of any new show this fall. Now, the network has to hope viewers make peace with serialized sci-fi dramas, and not stray as they have with the network's "Lost" and "Flash Forward."

'V'
'V' Credit: ABC
"V", which had a 5.2/14 rating and share, was not only the highest-rated show in the demo for the night but appears to have brought in some newer viewers to network TV during the hour, as ratings were reduced only slightly for the usual time slot winner, CBS's "NCIS." It notched a 4.3/11, which was down 7%, or three-tenths of a ratings point, from its original episode average. Similarly, two-hour versions of NBC's "Biggest Loser" (3.5/9) and Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance" (2.4/6), as well as the CW's "90210," lost just a tenth of a ratings point from their respective season averages.

The media momentum only helped "V's" lead-out slightly, however, as the relatively younger-male-attracting science fiction was a bad partner for "Dancing With the Stars," which has a distinctly different generational and gender skew. While up two-tenths of a point to a 3.1/8, "Dancing" lost to CBS's "NCIS: Los Angeles," which itself was off 8%, or three-tenths of a ratings point, to a 3.6/9.

CBS held the lead at 10 p.m. with "The Good Wife" (off two-tenths of a point to a 2.7/8), which helped the network eke out a first place 3.5/10. This was just above ABC's 3.4/9, as the network dropped to second after "The Forgotten" (1.9/5) delivered only 37% of what "V" delivered just two hours earlier.

NBC (3.0/8) was third, as "The Jay Leno Show" (2.0/6) had its best night in nearly a month. Fox followed in fourth with a 2.4/6, while the CW's average dipped to a .9/2 after "90210" lead-out "Melrose Place" sunk to a .8/2.

So with "V" victorious, now ABC's efforts have to focus on ratings retention. It won't be easy. "Lost," for instance, has lost about a third of its audience after its dazzling debut five years ago. The same demo decline can be seen in this year's "Flash Forward," but this is over six weeks, not five years.

Rash gridsEnlarge
See how all the shows did in the ratings.

But for now, ABC should bask in "V's" prime-time premiere delivery, which was achieved with a critically-acclaimed show and with critical marketing support that cut through the pop-culture clutter. In other words, they evoked Winston Churchill himself, who confidently commanded in an iconic World War II poster: "Deserve Victory!"

WHAT TO WATCH:
Wednesday: The World Series once again becomes a Bronx tale as Game 6 (and 7?) returns to Yankee Stadium.
Thursday: Back to the Bronx for Game 7, if needed. If not, visit Midtown by watching NBC's "30 Rock."

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Sticking to my pre-Series prediction of New York in six, the Yankees and Fox win tonight.

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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.

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