Fox horns in on the ABC party

Although Super Bowl XXXVII dominated the weekly standings for ABC, Fox stole some of the network's thunder with its two-night launch of "American Idol" and the dating show "Joe Millionaire," based on viewing estimates issued Tuesday by Nielsen Media Research.

Even with the Super Bowl siphoning viewers from all competitors on Sunday, Fox posted its most-watched week in five years thanks to 3 1/2 hours of "Idol," which, along with "Millionaire," accounted for nearly a third of its prime-time schedule.

As anticipated, the Super Bowl significantly boosted ABC's average for the season, lifting the network into second place behind NBC among adults 18 to 49 -- the demographic networks generally sell to advertisers -- and leaving ABC, CBS and Fox closely bunched by that measure behind NBC. CBS remains on top when total viewers are measured, with a million viewers separating it from second-place NBC and ABC in third by the same margin.

Fox wasn't the only network with unscripted standouts last week. NBC's "Meet My Folks" fared well in a telecast after "Joe Millionaire" and CBS' "Star Search" held its own against the similarly themed "Idol," which did depress viewing of ABC's "The Bachelorette."

"Friends" and "Will & Grace" were reruns last week, letting some air out of NBC's Thursday lineup. On the plus side, the shows that followed -- "Scrubs" and "Good Morning, Miami" -- retained a higher percentage than usual of the audiences from those series.

In a bit of a milestone for the Learning Channel's "Trading Spaces" was last week's top cable program.

-- Brian Lowry

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