It's a rout for Fox's team

Football, dramas fuel double win

Boosted by the highest ratings ever for a Saturday NFL divisional playoff game, along with the BCS National Championship, "House" and the return of "24," Fox returned with a vengeance to take viewership and the adults 18-49 demographic for the week ending Sunday.

Fox averaged 15.3 million viewers and a 5.8 rating/15 share in the adults 18-49 demo, according to data released Wed- nesday by Nieslen Media Research. That was far and away the best performance of any network for the week, as ABC's stalwart "Desperate Housewives" saw its fortunes decline Sunday against unusually stiff competition from CBS and Fox.

CBS found its own groove, taking sole position of first place in adults 18-49 as well as viewership and adults 25-54 ahead of ABC and NBC. Fox, which has had an awful fourth quarter with the exception of "House," is poised to come roaring back, with "House" as strong as ever and the returns of "24" and especially "American Idol."

Sunday night featured a battle of the heavyweights, with CBS getting a strong start early with the New England-San Diego NFL playoff game that delivered 34.2 million viewers almost an hour and a half into primetime. That gave "60 Minutes" (17.5 million, 4.9/11) not only a late start but also a big boost for its exclusive interview with President Bush at Camp David.

Football also slightly affected the two-hour premiere of "24" (15.8 million, 6.1/13), though it had a much greater impact on "Housewives" (16.7 million, 6.8/15), which fell to its lowest ratings for an original episode this season. It also hurt "Brothers & Sisters" (12.3 million, 4.8/12), which still won against CBS' "Cold Case" (14.5 million, 3.9/9) and "Without a Trace" (13.4 million, 4.0/10). Not as fortunate were NBC's football replacements, "Grease: You're The One That I Want" (8.3 million, 2.8/6) and "The Apprentice: Los Angeles" (7.3 million, 2.8/6), both of which fell sharply from last week's premieres.

College football's title game — despite Florida's rout of top-ranked Ohio State — also gave Fox an overwhelming victory on Monday with an average of 28.8 million viewers and a 10.6/26 for the game. Honorable mentions went to NBC's "Deal or No Deal" (14.1 million, 3.9/10), and CBS' "Two and a Half Men" (14.8 million, 4.7/11) and "CSI: Miami" (16 million, 5.2/12).

Tuesday belonged to Fox again with a new episode of "House" that drew 17.8 million viewers and a 7.2/18 in adults 18-49, overshadowing CBS' "People's Choice Awards" (11.3 million, 3.5/9) as well as everything else.

Wednesday was thrown off schedule by the president's speech on Iraq, but neither the premiere of CBS' "Armed & Famous" (8.1 million, 2.9/8) or another episode of ABC's sitcoms "The Knights of Prosperity" (5.2 million, 2.0/5) or "In Case of Emergency" (5.2 million, 2.2/5) impressed. It was even worse for "Armed & Famous" on its second night, Thursday, when it fell to 7.7 million viewers and a 2.7/7 in the demo.

ABC carried Thursday with the return of "Grey's Anatomy" (23 million, 9.3/22), though "Ugly Betty" (13.5 million, 4.4/12) was beaten in the demo by season-high ratings for NBC's "My Name Is Earl" (10.8 million, 4.6/13) and "The Office" (10.1 million, 5.0/13). CBS' "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (12 million, 3.5/8) was a repeat.

Friday belonged to CBS, with "Ghost Whisperer" (10.4 million, 3.1/10) and "Numbers" (11.6 million, 3.1/9) winning their time periods.

Saturday was all Fox, with 27.4 million viewers and a 10.5/29 in the demo that overshadowed everything else. The Philadelphia-New Orleans NFL game was up 13% in viewership compared with last year's primetime window on CBS.