ABC Wins Thursday: 'Grey's' Does Autopsy On 'CSI'

That ding CBS was expecting last Friday morning was more like a bang--all music to ABC's ears.

The long-awaited mano a mano Thursday night contest declared ABC the victory over CBS. "Grey's Anatomy" easily trounced "CSI." "Grey's" won with a powerful 10.9 rating in adults 18-49--better than 3.5 rating points over "CSI," according to preliminary ratings estimates from Nielsen Media Research.

Since this past summer, when ABC decided to go up against CBS, CBS' Les Moonves, president/CEO of CBS Corp., and Nina Tassler, president of CBS Entertainment, said they expected to get "dinged" from the ABC move. CBS has been the leading network among 18-49 viewers on Thursday night. Analysts expected the Thursday night contest between the two rating titans to be close.

It was a dominant victory for ABC, winning Thursday night for the first time in 15 years. ABC posted a 7.2 rating/19 share overall among 18-49 viewers. CBS came in second with a 6.0/16. NBC pulled up in third place, with a 4.8/12.

"Grey's" improved last season's 8.7 average by 25 percent; "CSI" was off 9 percent from last season's 8.2 18-49 rating average. Media experts had expected "Grey's" to win with younger audiences, thus earning strong 18-49 numbers. Overall, there was an expectation that "CSI" could still top "Grey's" in total viewers. But that didn't happen. "Grey's" bested the procedural crime drama among total viewers: 25.1 million versus 22.0 million.

While the two big shows battled it out at 9 p.m., both networks suffered big-time with their respective new 10 p.m. dramas that followed.

ABC's new "Six Degrees" lost a whopping 47 percent of "Grey"'s lead-in, drawing a 5.8 rating among adults 18-49. If that wasn't bad enough, the show fell from a 6.6 to a 4.9 rating from the first to the second half hour--a sign that viewers sampled and then changed channels. CBS' "Shark" also got hammered. It lost 44 percent of "CSI's" lead-in, averaging a 4.2 rating, and dipped from the first half hour to the second half hour, going from a 4.5 to a 4.0.

NBC won the 10 p.m. time slot against these new shows, with the venerable "E.R" earning a 6.8 rating among adults 18-49--up 6 percent over last season's debut.

As expected, CBS won the 8 o'clock hour with "Survivor: Cook Islands." It grabbed a steady 6.4, while ABC's "Grey's" clip show got a 4.8. NBC's "The Office" got a 4.3, and "My Name is Earl" took in a 3.7. Univision's "La Fea Mas Bella" was fourth at 2.1 in the 8 o'clock period.

For the rest of the networks in the 18-49 Thursday night race, Univision was fourth at 2.0/5; Fox was next with a 1.6/4; and the CW, in the second night of it existence, came in last with a 1.0/3 with reruns.

Fox's new comedies continued to drift lower: "'Til Death" registered a 2, and "Happy Hour" a lower 1.7. The new CW network's "Smallville" came in sixth, at a 1.1 rating among 18-49 viewers.

Although ABC probably felt celebratory last Friday, fortunes might change this week. It will start the evening with a new show, "Ugly Betty," instead of the higher-rated "Grey's" highlight show, which could bring down its overall night numbers.

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