Ratings report: CBS on top in Week 2

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Buoyed by “NCIS” as well as fall’s top new drama, CBS won last week’s prime-time race in both total viewers and the ad-friendly demographic of adults aged 18 to 49, in a period disrupted by Thursday’s vice presidential debate and a series of financial crises that diverted viewers’ attention.

CBS had six of the 10 most-watched shows, including “NCIS” (17.5 million viewers), the 41st season premiere of “60 Minutes” (16.6 million) and the fall season’s No. 1 new show to date, “The Mentalist” (15.5 million). Among young adults, the network drew strength from Monday’s comedy “Two and a Half Men” (4.7 rating/11 share in 18-49; 13.6 million viewers overall) and “CSI: Miami” (4.4/11; 14.3 million).

Overall, CBS led with an average of 11.1 million viewers, trailed by ABC (9.2 million), NBC (7.8 million) and Fox (6.5 million), according to figures published Tuesday by Nielsen Media Research.

NBC and ABC battled for second place in the 18-49 category, but both networks suffered as some returning dramas performed at or near all-time lows, and each outlet plunged 22% in young adults compared with the same week last season. NBC’s “Heroes” is still a top 10 show (4.5/11; 9.5 million) but looks nothing like the era-defining hit it once seemed. On Wednesday, ABC watched the premieres of a trio of sophomore dramas crater: “Private Practice” (8.2 million), “Dirty Sexy Money” (7 million) and “Pushing Daisies” (6.3 million). On the bright side for ABC, “Dancing With the Stars” was the week’s most-watched program, with 18.9 million viewers. Fox drew some heat in the demo with “House” (5.4/15; 13 million) and “Fringe” (4.2/11; 9.9 million).


Every network was down in both viewers and young adults, but the presidential campaign and bad news on Wall Street likely altered normal viewing patterns. Thursday’s vice presidential debate between Sen. Joe Biden and Gov. Sarah Palin drew a record 69.9 million viewers and occurred in prime time in much of the country.

On basic cable, ESPN’s Monday football match-up between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens was the week’s top draw, with 11.8 million total viewers.

-- Scott Collins