Ratings rerun: Fox, CBS win

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2006-07 SEASON WRAP
Overview: Patterns, measurements define season
Ratings rerun: Fox, CBS on top
Thursday, Monday are battlegrounds
Chart: Final series ranks
Network news makes headlines

NEW YORK -- Fox bagged its third straight crown in the key adults 18-49 demographic for the 2006-07 TV season, while CBS won for a fifth straight year in viewership.

The season finished up in grand style with a primetime Wednesday battle that featured the two-hour finales of "American Idol" and "Lost," overlapping between 9-10:09 p.m. "Idol" won as expected, but "Lost" was able to hold its own, though both shows were down compared with last year's ratings.

Such hits as "Idol" and "House" gave Fox the juice to win in adults 18-49, even though a disappointing fourth quarter got them started slower out of the gate. CBS had no problem holding onto its traditional victory in viewership and adults 25-54, the fifth straight in viewers and the fourth straight in what has become a baby boomer alternative to adults 18-49.

All four networks posted declines in adults 18-49 -- Fox's was the least (2%) and ABC's the steepest (13%) -- while only Fox gained viewers (up 3%) and CBS remained mostly flat, according to season-to-date data released Thursday by Nielsen Media Research. ABC last year had both the Super Bowl and "Monday Night Football," which lowered ratings somewhat and made the comparisons worse than they actually were in the nonsports averages.

Fox averaged a 4.0 rating/11 share in adults 18-49, well ahead of CBS (3.7/10), ABC (3.5/10), NBC (3.1/8) and the CW (1.3/3). CBS averaged 12.4 million viewers for the season compared with Fox's 10.4 million, ABC's 9.9 million, NBC's 8.9 million and the CW's 3.2 million. NBC dropped 6% in adults 18-49 and 9% in viewership. It also was the widest margin of victory in adults 18-49 -- three-tenths of a ratings point -- in five years.

In its inaugural year, the CW did slightly better than either WB Network or UPN in adults 18-34; both of those former networks averaged a 1.4/4 in the demo for the 2005-06 TV season, while the CW this year averaged a 1.5/4, an increase of 7%.

Fox won the season in adults 18-49 for the fifth straight season with a 3.7/11. Meanwhile, "Idol" won Wednesday by far in viewers with 30.7 million and adults 18-49 with an 11.5/31. But it was down 16% in viewers and down 19% in adults 18-49 compared with last year's finale (36.4 million, 14.2/36), bringing in the lowest adults 18-49 number for the Wednesday finale since May 24, 2004.

"Lost," on the other hand, ran up against "Idol" at 9 p.m. and into the 10 p.m. hour, and though it was down year-over-year, it lived to tell about it. "Lost" averaged 13.9 million viewers and a 5.9/15 in adults 18-49, down 22% in viewers and adults 18-49 compared with last season's finale on May 24, 2006 (17.8 million, 7.6/18). It also was lower than the Season 1 finale on May 25, 2005, when it averaged 20.7 million viewers and a 7.8/19.

Meanwhile, ABC's "World News With Charles Gibson" followed its February sweep victory with a May win in viewership and the news demo of adults 25-54. It's the first time the network has posted back-to-back wins since 1996; both "NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams" and the Katie Couric-anchored "CBS Evening News" posted their lowest viewership for a May sweep since at least 1991, according to Nielsen.

ABC's "World News" averaged 7.9 million viewers compared with NBC's 7.3 million and CBS' 6.1 million viewers. ABC was the only newscast to grow in viewership May-to-May; NBC was down 11%, and CBS was down 15%. ABC also was on top in adults 25-54 with a 2.0 rating compared with NBC's 1.8 and CBS' 1.6.

Season-to-date, however, "NBC Nightly News" remained on top in viewership and tied with the ABC broadcast in adults 25-54. NBC is averaging 8.9 million viewers vs. ABC's 8.7 million and CBS' 7.2 million; both NBC and ABC have a 2.3 rating in adults 25-54, while CBS has a 1.9 rating.

NBC's "Today" remained on top in the morning but was on track for its worst May sweep performance since the mid-'90s. "Today" averaged 5.3 million viewers vs. 5 million viewers for "Good Morning America" and 2.6 million viewers for "The Early Show." Among adults 25-54, "Today" had 2.5 million viewers compared with ABC's 2.1 million and CBS' 1.1 million.
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