'Idol' a sure thing for Fox


Was there ever any doubt that Fox would be the No. 1 network last week?

With the two-hour premiere of "American Idol" and a two-hour follow-up the next night, the network's premier status was guaranteed. But then Sunday night's NFC championship game -- between two highly regarded teams and a frigid overtime to boot -- brought even more smiles.

"Idol" returned to the air for its seventh season Tuesday, down about 10% year-over-year but still packing ratings heat. It premiered to 33.4 million viewers and a 13.8 rating/32 share in adults 18-49, Nielsen Media Research said. Nothing could come close, certainly not NBC's "The Biggest Loser" (7.2 million, 3.0/7), whose success the "Idol" return temporarily derailed.

Monday, however, was NBC's thanks to "American Gladiators" (10.6 million, 4.6/11) and a high "Deal or No Deal" (15.1 million, 5.0/12) that bested the second half of Fox's "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" premiere (10.1 million, 4.2/10) head-to-head. CBS won the 10 p.m. hour with "CSI: Miami" (14.8 million, 4.3/11). On Tuesday, even against the "Idol" onslaught, CBS' plucky "NCIS" (15.8 million, 3.0/7) didn't seem to miss a beat.

Wednesday returned to the Fox win column with "Idol" (30.4 million, 12.6/30), which was down more than Tuesday's edition year-over-year but still dominant.

Thursday went to Fox again, with "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?" (11.6 million, 3.7/10) and "Don't Forget the Lyrics" (8.8 million, 3.4/9) getting a little post-"Idol" bounce to overcome NBC and "Celebrity Apprentice" (9.1 million, 4.0/10), which was the night's top show in 18-49. CBS' high points were a repeat "CSI" (14.1 million, 3.5/9) and a new "Without a Trace" (13.3 million, 3.4/9), which were the top shows in viewership.

Friday belonged to CBS with its original drama lineup, while Saturday was Fox's with its reality crime shows.

Sunday featured the NFC championship game (54 million, 20.6/46), the most-watched non-Super Bowl program on broadcast TV since the 1998 "Seinfeld" finale. The New York Giants' win over the Green Bay Packers towered over everything in primetime, though ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" (10.5 million, 3.8/8) was able to get some traction, certainly more than CBS' "The Amazing Race" finale (9.7 million, 3.1/7).

In the evening newscasts, ABC and NBC tied in the adults 25-54 demo, while NBC was ahead in viewership and ABC in second place. CBS came in third in both measures. "NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams" averaged 9.6 million viewers and a 2.3/8 in 25-54, while "ABC's World News With Charles Gibson" averaged 9.2 million viewers and a 2.3/8. "CBS Evening News With Katie Couric" averaged 7.2 million viewers and a 1.9/7 in the demo.

In primetime for the week, Fox (24.3 million, 9.5/24) won all measures over ABC (6.2 million, 2.0/5), CBS (9.7 million, 2.4/6), NBC (7.8 million, 2.6/7) and the CW (2 million, 0.8/2).