ABC wins premiere week again

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There was more disheartening news for broadcasters Sunday with another night of season premieres returning lower than last year.

Yet the evening's biggest scripted debuts — ABC's "Desperate Housewives" and "Brothers & Sisters" — managed to contain their ratings erosion to single-digit declines. The dramas put ABC in position to win its fourth consecutive broadcast premiere week, with the network showing a firm first-place lead in the adult demographic.

NBC won Sunday night with "Sunday Night Football," the Chicago Bears' 24-20 win over the Philadelphia Eagles (15.4 million viewers, 6.3 preliminary adults 18-49 rating/15 share).

Fox was second, with some NFL overtime in the 7 p.m. hour boosting its average. Fox aired premieres of its animated comedy block: "The Simpsons" (9.3 million, 4.4/12, down 6%), "King of the Hill" (7 million, 3.3/8, down 13%), "Family Guy" (9.2 million, 4.5/10, down 20%) and "American Dad" (6.9 million, 3.2/7). Up 3% from last year, "Dad" was the only premiere Sunday night to post a gain from last season's debut.

ABC was in third place Sunday because of high-scoring football on Fox and NBC and declines among its returning shows, particularly a two-part "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" (7.2 million, 2.2/7 and 11.9 million, 3.7/9 — down 23%).

At 9 p.m., "Housewives" (18.4 million, 7.0/16, down 7%) was the night's highest-rated and most-watched show and, along with Thursday's premiere of "Grey's Anatomy," marks the biggest scripted-series numbers . At 10 p.m., ABC had the return of "Brothers & Sisters" (12.4 million, 4.7/12, down 6%). It was the lowest-rated bow for either show.

After being strongly competitive all premiere week, CBS fell to fourth place Sunday.

Additionally, Friday night's first presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain drew 52.4 million viewers. That's 16% down from John Kerry and George W. Bush's first debate four years ago, but 12% above the one between Bush and Al Gore in 2000. (partialdiff)
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