CBS Wins 2008–2009 TV Ratings Race, While NBC Places Fourth

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As much grief as Ben Silverman catches for being a white-tiger–loving, appointment-ignoring network-television executive, you've got to hand it to the man for being able to successfully position himself within the organization as a virtually unfireable asset. After all, he deftly went on record last summer to explain that the Peacock network is "managing for margins and not for ratings," which certainly softened the blow when NBC learned this weekend that they placed fourth in the 2008–2009 ratings race. Still, they can't be happy that they also finished fourth when it comes to ratings for the key 18 to 49 demographic, no matter how much money they're saving by running Jay Leno five nights a week this fall.

Meanwhile, execs at both CBS and Fox have reasons to smile this morning. CBS ended up winning the overall race for total viewers, where they posted a healthy 11 percent gain over their network-leading 2007–2008 numbers, and Fox captured the ratings crown for the aforementioned 18 to 49 demographic (despite a 16 percent decline from last year's numbers). Their success was bolstered by the continued success of their American Idol juggernaut, which ended the season occupying the top two slots for highest rated shows (Wednesday-night results shows fared marginally better than the Tuesday-night performance shows). Here's the full rundown of this year's top television programs.

Top Ten Programs, Based on Total Viewers
Rank, Program, Network (Total Viewers in Millions)
1) American Idol Wednesday, Fox (26.69)
2) American Idol Tuesday, Fox, (26.12)
3) Dancing With the Stars, ABC (20.32)
4) CSI, CBS (19.03)
5) NCIS, CBS (17.84)
6) The Mentalist, CBS (17.45)
7) Dancing With the Stars (Results), ABC (16.76)
8) Sunday Night Football, NBC (16.27)
9) Desperate Housewives, ABC (15.66)
10) Two and a Half Men, CBS (14.98)

Fox Wins 5th Straight Season in Key 18-49 Demo [TV Week]