NBC Charges Into New Season, Scoring Monday Night Victory

Meet the new boss of Monday night. It's NBC--for now.

The network is trying to rebuild its prime-time lineup--and its debut performance bodes well. It won 18-49 viewers on Monday night--up 17 percent versus its opening night adult numbers a year ago.

The heavily promoted "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" posted a healthy 5.0/12 among 18-49 viewers, and 13.4 million viewers overall in the 10 o'clock hour, in preliminary Nielsen ratings. "Studio 60" placed second to CBS' "CSI: Miami"--which had the best ratings of the night, with a 5.7/14, and 17.2 million viewers.

Two hours earlier, NBC's special two-hour "Deal or No Deal" did somewhat better than "Studio 60"--a 4.9/13 in 18-49 viewers and with 15.6 million viewers overall. All this boosted NBC by nearly 3 million viewers versus opening night of last season.

"It's a little surprising; they have to be pretty happy," says Brad Adgate, senior vice president-corporate research director at New York-based media-buyer Horizon Media. "Obviously there was a lot of sampling with ["Studio 60"]. Out of all the new shows, it got the most hype and online discussion."

Now the bad news: "Studio 60" dropped 15 percent in the second half hour from the first half hour. Network research executives don't like to see that, because it means people sampled and turned away.

NBC won the night with a 4.9 rating/13 share among 18-49 viewers, taking away the crown at least for now from CBS--longtime king of Monday night, which came in a close second with a 4.7 rating/12 share. Overall, CBS was down 4 percent from the same night last year, when it averaged a 4.9 on the season's opening night.

CBS may come back strong next week. NBC still has to launch "Heros" next week--another new, unproven drama on Monday. If the rating trend for "Studio 60" continues to slip, it may return CBS to the top spot.

For its own new programming, CBS' new 8 p.m. comedy "The Class" pulled in respectable numbers: 3.7/11 among adults 18-49, which was up slightly--3 percent--versus last year's time period.

Other CBS comedies mostly lived up to their prior history. "How I Met Your Mother" at 8:30 p.m. earned a 3.8/10. CBS' best-performing comedy, "Two and a Half Men," at 9 p.m. tied for first place with NBC for a 5.0/12. At 9:30 p.m., "The New Adventures of Old Christine," starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, couldn't keep "men" viewers, coming in with a lower 4.2/10.

"Maybe "Two and a Half Men" doesn't have the coattails," says Adgate. "Maybe the "Seinfeld" curse will come a year later," he says, in reference to the quartet of "Seinfeld" actors who--apart from Dreyfus--haven't succeeded with shows of their own.

"The 8 to 9 o'clock hour was a little weaker than CBS would have liked," adds Adgate. More troubling news for CBS: The 5.7 rating for "CSI: Miami" was down 12 percent from last year's 6.5 for its premiere.

Fox and ABC tied for third on Monday night, with a 3.3/8 each among 18-49 viewers, followed by a 1.9/4 for Univision and a 0.8/2 for the CW.

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