CBS won Thursday night with help from "The Big Bang Theory" as Fox's "American Idol" hit a new low among key 18-49-year-old viewers.
According to early numbers from Nielsen, CBS averaged 10.5 million viewers in prime time, led by "The Big Bang Theory," which drew 17.5 million overall and notched a rating of 4.9 in the key 18-49 demographic, down a tick from its last original episode. It was the most-watched and highest-rated telecast of the night.
In the advertiser-desired demographic, a ratings point equals about 1.3 million viewers.
Returning dramas helped ABC grab a close second place finish, with an average 18-49 rating of 2.4 versus CBS' 2.5. "Grey's Anatomy" rose 11% from its mid-season finale to a 3.0 (9.3 million people watched total), while "Scandal" grew 3% to a 3.3. An Oscar countdown special averaged about 4.7 million viewers.
"American Idol" fell a tenth of a point from last week to a rating of 2.3, its lowest ever for a regularly scheduled episode. However, it rose 7% week-to-week to 9.8 million viewers. With "Rake" down 20% to a meager 0.8, the network nabbed an average rating of 1.5, putting it in third place.
CW's "Vampire Diaries" (1.95 million total viewers, 0.9 in 18-49) was flat with its last new episode and nearly tied NBC in the time slot. "Reign" was down in 18-49 but steady among younger viewers.