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B'cast nets spike with politics off center stage

Broadcast television enjoyed higher ratings during the first full week after the presidential election, suggesting that viewers might be returning to watch regular TV programming after the intense political season.

Nonsports broadcasts were up 6% in total viewers and 7% in the adults 18-49 demographic compared with their previous four-week average.

The upswing gave many shows some real ratings relief after weeks of stagnation and decline: CBS' "The Mentalist," ABC's "Desperate Housewives," NBC's "The Biggest Loser" and Fox's "Bones" posted significant week-over-week gains as cable news network viewership levels declined from their pre-election highs.

"The numbers last week suggest that people are coming back to TV, and the winners and losers of the season so far are really starting to shake out," CBS scheduling chief Kelly Kahl said.

Perhaps it's only appropriate that the top-rated nonsports program last week was still related to the election: Sunday night's "60 Minutes," which had an exclusive interview with President-elect Barack Obama. The episode drew the largest audience of any regular series program this season and marked the biggest viewership for the newsmagazine since 1999.

CBS' "60 Minutes" (25.1 million viewers and a 6.3 rating/16 share in adults 18-49) led nonsports programming in the adult demo as well, with the network reclaiming the top spot for the week ending Nov. 16. CBS was aided by some high-rated NFL overrun but also claimed a season high in the demo for Tuesday's "NCIS" (18.8 million, 4.0/10) and "The Mentalist" (16.5 million, 4.0/10) along with a series high for Monday's "The Big Bang Theory" (10 million, 3.9/10).

ABC was in second place, with the top two scripted series: Sunday's "Housewives" (16.4 million, 6.2/14) earned its highest rating since its season premiere, and Thursday night's "Grey's Anatomy" (14.9 million, 5.7/13) continued to perform strongly.

In third, NBC's "Sunday Night Football" (19.3 million, 7.4/17) was the top-rated program for the week in the adult demo. On Thursday, a visit by former castmate Anthony Edwards gave "ER" (9.9 million, 3.7/10) its best rating in weeks and biggest audience in more than a year. Tuesday reality show "The Biggest Loser: Families" (8.1 million, 3.5/9) also had its best demo rating of the season.

Fox's fourth-place finish was offset by Wednesday's "Bones" (10.9 million, 3.5/9) hitting yet another season high and Tuesday's "House" (13.1 million, 5.5/14) and "Fringe" (8.6 million, 3.8/9) continuing to perform well. (partialdiff)
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