Surfing in a winter wonderland

'CSI,' 'Idol' battle for Canada's snowed-in TV viewers

TORONTO -- Sunday's Oscar telecast was the most-watched TV event in Canada this season, according to the latest ratings numbers for the territory. The numbers were released Monday amidst a howling winter that has fired up the local ratings battle. Simulcast by Canada's CTV network, the Oscars drew an average 4.96 million viewers, slightly down from last year's 5.04 average.

In the week-to-week Canadian network battle, Fox's "American Idol" and CBS' "CSI" franchise have been duking it out for the top spot as snow-bound Canadians look to beat the extended winter blues, according to BBM/Nielsen Media Research numbers.

"American Idol," also on CTV, has emerged as the most popular winter TV series among hibernating Canadians, averaging 3.12 million viewers during five telecasts between Dec. 18 and Feb. 18. In the Canadian market, a show garnering 2 million viewers is guaranteed a slot in the top 10, so 3 million viewers and above is an undisputed hit.

CTV's "American Idol" telecasts, which run in the same time slot as their Fox air dates south of the border, drew an average 3.01 million viewers during the period. That was followed closely by "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" on Thursday nights, which drew an average audience of 2.98 million viewers.

During the same period, "CSI: Miami" on Monday nights drew an average 2.42 million viewers, while Wednesday night's "CSI: New York," also at 10 p.m., snagged an average 2.13 million viewers.

But now that CTV is following Fox in airing "American Idol" three nights weekly, a bit of viewer fatigue appears to be setting in. CTV's "American Idol" telecast last Tuesday (Feb. 20) pulled in 2.6 million viewers, the Wednesday night date drew 2.61 million eyeballs and the Thursday night vote-off averaged 1.95 million.

That's opened the way for "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" to take over as the No. 1 show on Canadian TV, after drawing 2.98 million viewers for CTV last week (Feb. 22), and 3.46 million the week before that, good for a 30 share in Toronto and 27.7 audience share nationally.

"That's a Super Bowl audience every week for CTV," network spokesman Mike Cosentino said of the most recent "CSI" ratings. Indeed, Global Television averaged 3.4 million viewers for its Feb. 4 telecast of the Super Bowl, down from 3.9 million in 2006, according to BBM/Nielsen Media Research.

Global Television's other top 10 players include "Survivor: Fiji," which has drawn an average audience of 2.48 million viewers so far this winter.

Global also has earned excellent numbers with the Howie Mandel-hosted "Deal or No Deal Canada," with an average audience of 1.96 million viewers.

New entrants into the Canadian winter TV stakes include NBC's "The Black Donnellys," which Global will air Monday's at 10 p.m. from Feb. 26, and the beginning of a new season of "Nip Tuck" on CTV. The FX series will air at 10 p.m. on Sunday nights following a simulcast of ABC's "Desperate Housewives."