ABC Grabs Scores With 'Brothers & Sisters'

Just when it seemed there would be no new shows destined to become prime-time hits, ABC's "Brothers & Sisters" lit up Nielsen People Meter remotes on Sunday night.

The Calista Flockhart-starring drama, which followed "Desperate Housewives," pulled in a strong 6.2 Nielsen preliminary rating among 18-49 viewers. Even more impressive, it beat CBS' "Without a Trace" and NBC's "Sunday Night Football" among 18-49 viewers.

Not to be outdone, ABC's anchor Sunday-night show, "Desperate Housewives," continued to crush the competition with a brawny 9.5 rating in adults 18-49--easily the highest-rated show of the evening. "Housewives" was up 4 percent over last season's premiere--a season that received critics' lukewarm reviews.

For the evening overall, ABC won the night with a 6.4 rating/16 share. NBC was a distant second, with a 4.6 rating. Fox was a close third with 4.4/11. CBS was next at 3.6/9; then the CW at 1.1/3, and Univision at 0.9/2.

Program analysts registered surprise, since "Brothers & Sisters" wasn't much of critics' favorite. The show beat out two proven commodities: the NFL and "Without a Trace." "Sunday Night Football" had a 5.3 rating. "Trace" earned a 4.8--down 16 percent versus a year ago. One saving grace: "Trace" beat "Sisters" in overall viewers.

How well will "Brothers & Sisters" do long-term?

"It's not going to be an "Emily's Reasons Why Not," says Brad Adgate, senior vice president and corporate research director for Horizon Media, referring to a quickly dismissed ABC series of a year ago. "There will be a second week."

"This is how "Grey's Anatomy" got started," adds Adgate. "What "American Idol" is to Fox, "Desperate Housewives" is to ABC."

Although NBC couldn't keep pace with ABC, it continues to have improvement versus its programming of a year ago. The NFL's third game, featuring Denver Broncos-New England Patriots, posted 91 percent better numbers in 18-49, and had 38 percent more total viewers for NBC than a year ago. NBC also notes that Sunday night football is up 14 percent in household ratings versus the third week of "Monday Night Football" on ABC a year ago.

As for CBS, it was the debut of a regular series on Sunday night programming. For years, it ran a TV movie. With "60 Minutes," "Amazing Race," "Cold Case," and "Trace," CBS claimed a victory of sorts--up 29 percent in adults 18-49, its best Sunday numbers since November 2005.

Fox had a typical Sunday. First, in the 7 p.m. hour, it pulled down a 4.5 rating for 18-49s for the end of a late afternoon/early evening NFL game and an episode of "The OT." Later in the evening, "The Simpsons" earned a 4.8; "American Dad" drew a 4.3.

The CW was next, grabbing a 1.1/3 rating for reruns of "Everybody Hates Chris" and "America's Next Top Model." Univision had a 0.9/2 for the night with "Hora Pico" and "Cantando por un Sueno."

If there is a downside to ABC's performance with "Brothers & Sisters," it's this: It lost some viewers from the first half-hour to the second, dropping from a 6.8 to a 5.6. Also, "Brothers & Sisters" only kept 65 percent of "Housewives" viewers. Program schedulers typically look for new shows to keep roughly 70 percent to 80 percent of their lead-in program viewership.