Elsewhere, NBC prevailed in adults 18-49 behind its drama trio, Fox's trip back to "Temptation Island" generated only moderate ratings heat and UPN's "Enterprise" beamed up more big numbers.
Fox, thanks to three nights of World Series coverage, remains the November leader by all key measures.
According to Nielsen, the 35th annual "CMAs" on CBS won the night in overall viewers with an average of 17.79 million, up 7% from last year's record-low audience for the event and the network's largest Wednesday turnout since the Grammys in February.
The three-hour show also performed very well in key demographics, leaving the network a close second to NBC in adults 18-49 (5.9/15) and 25-54 (6.6/15) -- down about 5% year-to-year in the demos. CBS moved the kudocast, which had aired in the season's opening week, to sweeps beginning this season.
The awards show seemed to affect ABC's comedies the most, although NBC's "The West Wing" and "Law & Order" also were off a bit.
NBC won the night in adults 18-49 with a 6.1 rating, 16 share, up 3% from the opening Wednesday in November last year. "The West Wing" (7.1/17) and "Law & Order" (7.0/19) both won their hours but were down vs. a year ago, while "Ed" (4.2/11) placed second to the "CMAs" but improved on the time slot last season ("Titans") by 24%.
Fox's "Temptation Island 2" connected with the 18-34 crowd -- winning this narrower demo by 2 shares over "West Wing" and by 3 shares over the "CMAs" -- but was third in 18-49, behind NBC and CBS.
Fox definitely had lower expectations for "Temptation" the second time around but was hoping a Wednesday tryout prior to its Thursday debut would lead a larger audience to sample the series.
Wednesday's turnout was off from the first edition's seven-episode average by 49% in adults 18-49, 52% in adults 18-34 and 56% in teens.
Still, it improved Fox's average in the 9 p.m. Wednesday hour by 18% in adults 18-49 and performed better in the demo, for example, than six of eight episodes of CBS' "Amazing Race" to air in the hour this season.
At 8 p.m., a "Temptation Island Reunion Wedding" special (7.25 million, 3.8/10 in 18-49) warmed things up for Fox with OK scores.
ABC slipped to fourth place in 18-49 and third in total viewers with its weakest Wednesday of the season. "My Wife and Kids" (10.34 million, 4.2/12 in 18-49) was its best performer, placing second at 8.
UPN's dramas were both up week-to-week, with "Enterprise" (7.36 million, 3.9/10 in 18-49) improving on last year's "Voyager" by 50% in 18-49 and by 72% in 18-34. The latest "Star Trek" series won in all adult male demos.
The WB received season-low scores from its "Dawson's Creek" (3.77 million, 1.8/5 in 18-49) and "Felicity" (2.79 million, 1.4/3) -- down about 40% from the same night a year ago.