Prime Time Update: ABC Leads, CBS Steady, NBC Prays 'Earl' Is A Pearl

Despite the headlines of the ups (ABC) and downs (NBC) of specific networks, CBS still may be the most steady of the bunch, according to programming analysts.

Three weeks into the season, CBS is in second place--off 2 percent in the key adults 18-49 viewers with a 4.0 rating/11 share. That's a good second place to ABC's industry-leading 4.2/11. CBS has progressively climbed into that position over the last several years--with a consistency that media agency executives value. Last year, it barely missed out on winning the season-long key rating 18-49 viewership crown to Fox.

The problem for CBS is that "all of its competitors are no longer declining," said Steve Sternberg, executive vp and director of audience analysis for Magna Global USA.

That is, almost everyone.

NBC is off 15 percent so far to a 3.3 share/9 share in adults 18-49, which lands the network currently in third place. Shows such as "E-Ring" and "The Apprentice: Martha Stewart" haven't come through as expected--although "My Name is Earl" has scored well on Tuesdays. Fox is slightly up so far--3 percent to a 3.1 rating/9 share, putting it in fourth place.



In contrast to other seasons, the network decided to debut some shows in September--whetting viewers' appetites--before it runs through its baseball playoffs and World Series programming in October. Sternberg notes that only 9 percent of its schedule hours over the first two weeks of the season are repeats, compared to 25 percent last season.

"No surprise that ratings are up," writes Sternberg, who says this performance puts Fox into a good position when "American Idol" and "24" come around again in January.

UPN is up 7 percent in adults 18-49--the best improvement next to ABC's 8 percent gain over a year ago. More importantly, Sternberg says, "UPN has shown growth among its core under-35 audience, with both persons and women 12-34 being up about 20 percent over last season."

The WB has declined by a similar rate for those younger viewers. But the WB has been primarily in heavy repeat mode since the start of the season. It is down 12 percent to a 1.5 rating/4 share in adults 18-49.

Next story loading loading..