Pasadena, Calif. -- CBS has a lot to cheer about so far in the 2011-2012 season, and not much to change. It leads all networks in key categories.
One major ingredient: CBS continues to defy traditional TV ratings trends by growing its ratings for its 8-year-old drama "NCIS." "NCIS" benefits from reruns on USA and other digital platforms.
This season, "NCIS" is averaging 19.60 million viewers, up from 18.9 million a year ago. A recent episode delivered 23 million viewers and the show's highest adult 18-49 rating since Oct. 2009.
"The fact that it has a vibrant off-network life contributes to the show," says Nina Tassler, president of CBS Entertainment, speaking at the Television Critics Association.
"2 Broke Girls" has been the biggest new show that any network has launched this year -- placed in CBS' powerful Monday-night block of comedies, and all are contributing to CBS' success. (This includes a relaunch of "Two and a Half Men" with Ashton Kutcher.) "Our track record shows we know how to build comedy hits," says Tassler.
While CBS has had success with reality shows such as "Survivor," "Big Brother" and "Amazing Race," it has not had many performance competition shows like Fox's "American Idol" or NBC's "The Voice." Would the network get into this game?
Tassler says: "Our goal has been not to follow the same path as others. [We tend to have] shows that have a strong narrative drive." She adds: "I love musical theater. I'm a big 'Glee' watcher. It's important that we continue to explore. We are looking at development -- some with music, some not."
After 16 weeks of the 2011-12 TV season, CBS is tops among 18-49 viewers, with a 3.2 average rating. (CBS is up 7% versus a year ago.) Fox is next at a 3.0 rating, followed by ABC and NBC, tied at 2.5; Univision at 1.5; and CW with a a 0.8.
Among total viewers, CBS is averaging 12.17 million viewers; ABC, 8.63 million; Fox, 8.33 million; NBC, 7.45 million; Univision, 3.56 million; and CW, 1.84 million.