Ratings Refrain: 'Idol' Leads Fox to First

Rash Report: CBS, NBC Closely Compete for Second and Third in Key Demo

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MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- With Fox's and NBC's most popular programs -- "American Idol" and "The Biggest Loser" -- running at the same time, Tuesday night is usually one that evokes the phrase reality bites. But CBS's strategic scheduling of "NCIS," "NCIS: Los Angeles" and "The Good Wife" means that, at least to a certain degree, drama can bite back.

'American Idol'
'American Idol' Credit: Fox
Oh sure, "Idol" won, with a 9.0/24 rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic. While that's down 11% from last week, for the most part "Idol" is on track with the first five episodes of last year. Right after, "Human Target," which seems to be targeting a post-football crowd instead of a post-"Idol" one, hit a 3.1/8. While two-thirds lower than its "Idol" lead-in, it was only off 6% from last week, and Fox once again finished first with an overall 6.1/16.

NBC, which was third with a 3.2/9, ran a two-hour "Biggest Loser" (3.8/10), with the second hour the top-rated show on TV from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. But then, just like "Idol," its lead-out, "The Jay Leno Show" (1.9/6), chased away half of its viewers.

The "Leno" rating was actually higher than it might have been, because "The Good Wife" was a repeat. But the CBS drama still won the 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. hour with a 2.0/6. An hour earlier, "NCIS: Los Angeles" locked up a 3.7/10. And its lead-in , "NCIS," had a highly competitive 4.0/11 against "Idol," and CBS estimates that in terms of total viewers it was the closest the savvy Navy drama has ever come to "American Idol." All this led to CBS just ahead of NBC for second place with a 3.3/9.

Of course, not every drama can bite back. The CW was toothless with two reruns, "90210" and "Melrose Place" (both 0.4/1). And on ABC the last "Lost" from the most previous season ran in anticipation of next week's highly hyped final season premiere, but the two-hour repeat could only deliver a 1.4/4.

Still, that was better than the ratings for the original episodes of ABC sitcoms "Scrubs" (1.2/3) and "Better off Ted" (1.0/2), as the Fox's and NBC's reality and CBS's drama ratings were no laughing matter to ABC, which finished fourth with an overall 1.3/3.

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

Wednesday: The best reality show, drama (and occasional comedy) on TV will be the State of the Union speech.
Thursday: Then Congress and the president may want to watch CBS's "Live for the Moment," which bills itself as a show about "an event inspires a person to share insights on how to change one's life." Considering the polarized politics in Washington, it can't hurt ...

It's normally Fox News Channel, not Fox, that's a top spot for politics. But with an "American Idol" lead-in, the American president should have enough viewers for Fox to win, again.

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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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