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your tv ratings explained

Your TV Ratings Explained: In Week Three, CBS Stays Ahead of the Competition

Tuned In
Thanks to pockets of strength on literally every night of the week, CBS won week three of the season among both viewers and adults 18 to 49. The last time any network went three-for-three at the beginning of a season was back in 2001, when NBC still had Friends, Frasier, and The West Wing. As we've noted before, the Eye's victory this fall has been driven by savvy scheduling moves (like shifting The Big Bang Theory to Thursdays) and having a freshman class devoid of any instant losers. While CBS is winning the ratings war, ABC can once again boast the No. 1 entertainment show in viewers (Dancing With the Stars) and adults under 50 (Grey's Anatomy and Modern Family, both tied with Fox's Glee). CBS, meanwhile, had the only new show in Nielsen's top ten for adults 18 to 49, thanks to Mike & Molly, as well as the only other freshman to crack the top twenty (Hawaii Five-0). The Eye also dominates in the reality category: The relatively ancient Survivor and The Amazing Race, along with newbie Undercover Boss, are all in the demo top fifteen (and the top twenty among all viewers). Finally, Showtime has to be happy with how Dexter is doing on Sundays: Despite brutal competition, Dexter averaged 1.9 million viewers this week, up 10 percent from its debut. (By contrast, HBO's Boardwalk Empire fell to 2.6 million viewers this week, continuing to erode from its premiere audience of nearly 5 million.)

Tuned Out
NBC is touting the fact that it's up season-to-date versus last fall, but that stat is misleading. The network's performance has been boosted by amazing numbers for the NFL on Sunday (the biggest prime-time ratings for Sunday or Monday pigskin since 1996) and some early marginal improvements at 10 p.m. relative to The Jay Leno Show. Dig deeper, and NBC still finished No. 3 last week (tied with ABC), while its most-watched show was the pre-Zucker era Law & Order: SVU, which ranked No 33 (among adults 18 to 49, The Office was NBC's top show, finishing No. 16). ABC and Fox aren't doing all that great this fall, either — both are off about 10 percent in the under-50 demo — but those networks still have entertainment tentpoles (DWTS, Grey's, Glee, House) keeping them active on the pop-culture radar.

Crunching the Numbers
So with nearly a month of results, plus a first look at DVR data, the networks now have enough info to start making some decisions about renewals and time-slot changes. We've already seen Lone Star, My Generation, and Outlaw get axed, while Fox and the CW gave Raising Hope and Hellcats respective full-season thumbs up. After Monday's love letter from the New York Times, don't be shocked to see CBS try to maintain its media momentum by ordering additional episodes of all five fall newcomers (with $#*! My Dad Says and The Defenders perhaps getting less than full-season orders), along with Monday's Rules of Engagement. ABC should extend the lives of No Ordinary Family, Detroit 1-8-7, and possibly Better With You (despite the latter show's complete lack of anything resembling buzz).

Meanwhile, over at NBC, Law & Order: L.A. is a no-brainer for a pickup, while The Event and Undercovers may live on, despite continuing to erode; the Peacock simply can't afford to bail on any show with even a slight pulse. Outsourced could also continue, though hopefully it'll be moved from Thursdays to make room for the return of Parks and Recreation. Nikita should live on at the CW.

As for schedule changes, NBC has to be close to pulling the plug on The Apprentice Thursdays at 10; it simply doesn't make sense to keep such an awful number in one of its better slots. There's been published speculation of Law & Order: L.A. making the move, but we'd like to see the Peacock go bold and shift The Event to the night. If it believes in the show, why not give it a chance to breathe away from the DWTS/CBS-comedy crossfire that is Mondays? (Of course, given the continued viewer rejection of the series, NBC could also just flash forward to May and cancel the show now.) We'd shift Undercovers into The Event's 9 p.m. slot, and relocate LOLA to 10 p.m. (replacing the likely to be axed Chase).