NBC leader of the pack

NFL drives Peacock to 7th straight demo win

Powered by "Sunday Night Football," NBC extended its lead on competitors running up to premiere week. The network handily won the week ending Sept. 21 as rivals sought to fortify their positions in key time periods with early-returning shows.

NBC (averaging 8.3 million viewers and a 2.9 rating/8 share in the key adults 18-49 demo) won its seventh straight week in the demo, its longest winning streak since 2003, plus led among total viewers. The "Sunday Night Football" telecast (22.2 million, 9.0/22) —which saw the Dallas Cowboys beat the Green Bay Packers —scored the highest rating since NBC began airing "SNF" in September 2007.

The return of the network's Tuesday reality competition series "The Biggest Loser: Families" (7.9 million, 3.2/9) also impressed, rolling out the show's highest-rated fall premiere in three years. The summer reality show "America's Toughest Jobs" downshifted to Friday night (3.2 million, 1.1/4) and dropped 35% in the ratings.

Fox (averaging 6.7 million, 2.5/7) placed second with the three highest-rated dramas last week. In the top spot was the return of "House" (14.7 million, 5.6/16), which the network shifted to 8 p.m. this fall to provide a strong lead-in for the new series "Fringe" (13.2 million, 5.1/13). The time-period strategy was partly responsible for the "House" premiere dropping 28% from last year and boosting the second week of "Fringe" by 59%.

The combo put Tuesday under Fox's control, yet Monday is proving more difficult. The second week of "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" (5.6 million, 2.1/6) slipped slightly, as did the third week of "Prison Break" (5.8 million, 2.4/6). Also, Fox's Wednesday comedies lost ground, with " 'Til Death" (4.9 million, 1.9/5) and the new half-hour "Do Not Disturb" (3.9 million, 1.5/4) declining in their second weeks.

In third place, CBS (averaging 7.7 million, 2.0/6) aired the premiere of "60 Minutes" (14.6 million, 3.3/9), which featured interviews with both presidential candidates. It scored its best delivery since January. Also, Thursday's "Flashpoint" (9.7 million, 2.6/7) hit another series high.

Fourth-place ABC (averaging 5.9 million, 19/5) aired mostly repeats. Sunday's Emmy Awards telecast (12.3 million, 3.8/9) easily was the network's highest-rated program, though the show hit a new low in the adult demo.

The CW (averaging 3 million, 1.4/4) had another solid week, with Monday's "Gossip Girl" (3.7 million, 2.0/5) hitting a series high and Tuesday's third episode of "90210" (3.3 million, 1.7/5) managing to halt the previous week's sharp ratings drop. (partialdiff)