Gridiron powers Fox to demo win

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A late-game ratings field goal in the form of NFL runover carried Fox past ABC and CBS for a win in the adults 18-49 demographic for the week ending Sunday.

Fox finished the week with an average 3.4 rating versus a second-place tie of 3.3 each for ABC and CBS, Nielsen Media Research said Tuesday. Despite having its own NFL magic Sunday night, NBC came in third with a 3.1 rating.

It was the first time since 1998 that Fox has won a November sweep in the adults 18-49 demographic, helping to position the network for further gains when "American Idol" returns to the air in January and perhaps the other networks decline if the writers strike continues.

The week started off with a narrow win by ABC over CBS thanks to "Dancing With the Stars" (21.8 million, 5.2 rating/13 share in adults 18-49) and the new sitcom "Samantha Who?" (13.7 million, 4.3 /10). But CBS had its own formula Monday, led by a surging "The Big Bang Theory" (9.3 million, 3.8/9) as well as the old favorites "Two and a Half Men" (14.1 million, 5.0/11) and "CSI: Miami" (15.5 million, 4.7/12). NBC stayed competitive at 9 p.m. with "Heroes" (11.2 million, 5.2/12), but it wasn't enough to come close.

As usual, Tuesday belonged to Fox and "House" (16.9 million, 7.0/17), which was the demo winner even as the results show for "Dancing" (17.6 million, 4.2/10) made ABC competitive in viewership. CBS had another strong story with "NCIS" (17.4 million, 3.7/10), which won the 8 p.m. hour, while ABC's "Cavemen" (4.6 million, 1.6/5) and "Carpoolers" (5 million, 1.9/5) failed to generate much ratings excitement. NBC's "Law & Order SVU" (12.5 million, 4.4/12) won at 10 p.m.

CBS carried the night Wednesday, led by "Criminal Minds" (15.7 million, 4.3/11) and "CSI: NY" (13.1 million, 3.8/10), the former beating ABC's "Private Practice" (11.5 million, 4.2/11) in adults 18-49 for the first time and the latter having no problem at all besting ABC's "Dirty Sexy Money" (7.9 million, 2.8/8) and NBC's "Life" (12.5 million, 2.5/7). The CW got its best ratings of the season in adults 18-34 and tied its best ratings in adults 18-49 with "America's Next Top Model" ( 5.3 million, 2.6/7) and "Gossip Girl" (2.9 million, 1.4/4).

CBS got the best of ABC again on Thursday night, even while losing head-to-head at 9 p.m. as "Grey's Anatomy" (19.6 million, 8.2/19) had no trouble dismissing "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (21.4 million, 6.5/15). But ABC's switch of "Big Shots" for "Women's Murder Club" (8.4 million, 3.0/8) couldn't help it compete against CBS' established "Without a Trace" (14.4 million, 4.1/11). NBC's "The Office" (8.8 million, 4.8/11) was the last original episode of the season until the writers strike is settled, while "Scrubs" (5.9 million, 3.1/7) and "30 Rock" (6.4 million, 3.2/8) couldn't match the numbers put up by 8 p.m.'s "My Name Is Earl" (8 million, 3.7/10). The 8 p.m. hour went to CBS' "Survivor: China" (14.7 million, 4.8/13), while NBC's "ER" (9.6 million, 3.9 /11) came close but couldn't beat "Trace."

The Eye made it three straight nights thanks to its drama lineup, including "Ghost Whisperer" (9.6 million, 2.7/9), "Moonlight" (8.2 million, 2.7/8) and "Numbers" (10.3 million, 2.8/8). CBS won all three hours, while Univision locked up Friday night in adults 18-34 with "Premios TV y Novelas 2007." Fox's reality won Saturday night in adults 18-49.

The football overrun brought 24.8 million viewers -- many of them adults 18-49 -- to Fox, giving it a lead for the night that neither ABC's American Music Awards telecast (11.8 million, 4.8/12) nor NBC's "Sunday Night Football" (14.5 million, 5.8/14) could overcome. CBS got a strong number from "60 Minutes" (14.6 million, 3.0/8) that gave it the win in primetime viewership. Fox's highlights, beyond football, were "The Simpsons" (10.6 million, 5.3/13) and "Family Guy" (10.5 million, 5.4/12).

In the evening newscasts, "NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams" has gone on a winning streak since the anchor hosted "Saturday Night Live." ABC's "World News With Charles Gibson" and "NBC Nightly News" were tied at 9.1 million viewers for the win in viewership, while NBC's newscast averaged a 2.3/9 in the adults 25-54 demo compared with ABC's 2.2/8. "CBS Evening News With Katie Couric" averaged 6.7 million viewers and a 1.7/6 in adults 25-54.

For the week, Fox (8.4 million, 3.4/9) won in adults 18-49, followed by CBS (11.9 million, 3.3/9), ABC (10.4 million, 3.3/9), NBC (8.2 million, 3.1/8) and the CW (3 million, 1.2/3).

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