For broadcast networks, it's a down rating world on Thursday -- a continuing trend for the week. But talk to TNT about NBA playoffs and you'll get a happier story.
Fox won with "American Idol," with a Nielsen 5.7 rating/18 share among 18-49 viewers. But this was down versus a 6.2 rating number the week before. Following "Idol" on Fox, "Bones" -- the third-best-rated show of the night -- earned a lower 3.2 rating/9 share, off its 3.7 number of the week before.
More lowering news: NBC's "The Office," featuring the second episode of the highly marketed Will Ferrell joining the cast for an indeterminate amount of time, took in a 3.3/9 -- down six-tenths of a rating point from its big 3.9 rating the week before.
Four of the five English-language broadcasting networks were down week-to-week on Thursday heading into the final week's push of the season. Among 18-49 viewers, on Thursday night Fox averaged a 4.5/13 (down from a 4.9 rating); NBC was at a 2.1/6, one-tenth lower from a 2.2; CBS was up to a 1.8/5 from a 1.6; ABC was lower at a 1.1/3 from a 1.3 rating; and the CW was at a 0.9/3 from a 1.0 rating. Univision pulled in with the same 1.3/4 versus the previous week.
Much of the same ratings trend has been going on with broadcasters for most of the week. For example, on Wednesday night, all the major networks were down week-to-week.
Still, TNT has been the cable network seeing big gains from the NBA early-round playoffs. TNT's nine telecasts, since starting last weekend, have garnered a 36% gain so far to an average 4.37 million viewers -- up from a 3.21 million average in the 2010 pro hoops playoffs.
Looking at specific demos, there has been a 39% improvement to 1.51 million viewers 18-34; a 41% hike to 2.55 million for 18-49 viewers; and 37% more to 2.24 million for those 25-54.
Male viewers -- a key audience for NBA marketers -- are also higher: 37% to 1.08 million viewers 18-34; 41% to 1.84 million 18-49 male viewers; and 38% to 1.59 million 25-54 men.