2009-10 season end ratings: Same old story -- CBS and FOX on top

2009-10-season-ratings.jpgStop us if you've heard this one before: CBS and FOX will end the season at the top of the Nielsen heap.

For the seventh time in the past eight years, CBS will end the season as the No. 1 network in total viewers. Through Sunday (May 23), the Eye was averaging 11.8 million viewers a night in primetime. FOX (9.9 million through Sunday) is second, followed by ABC (8.6 million), NBC (8.2 million) and The CW (2.04 million).

FOX, meanwhile, will extend its string as the leader in the adults 18-49 demographic to six straight seasons, the longest run by a network since Nielsen started measuring demographics. Through Sunday FOX was averaging a 3.6 rating in the demo that advertisers love, while CBS (3.2) is second. ABC and NBC are tied for third at 2.7, and The CW is at 1.0.

Thanks in part to the most-watched TV program in American history, Super Bowl XLV, CBS' numbers are up slightly from last season's 11.7 million viewers and 3.1 demo rating. FOX is up slightly in viewers (from 9.74 million last season) and even with its 18-49 number from last year. ABC is down a bit (from 8.9 million viewers and 2.9 in the demo), and NBC improved a little in viewers (from 7.8 million), thanks to the Winter Olympics, but fell a tenth of a point among adults 18-49.

The CW is basically flat compared to last season (2.02 million, 0.9) -- despite cutting out its very low-performing Sunday lineup -- and up slightly in the under-35 demographics it cares about most: In adults 18-34 the network improved from a 1.0 last year to a 1.1 this year, and in women 18-34 it went from a 1.4 to a 1.5.

Although its ratings are off about 9 percent compared to last season, "American Idol" will still end the year as the top show on TV. The Tuesday edition of the show draws just under 25 million viewers a week and a 9.2 adults 18-49 rating, and the Wednesday shows score 23.4 million people and an 8.4 in the demo.

Other tidbits from the season (all numbers through May 23):

  • The most-watched new show of the season is "Undercover Boss" (17.7 million viewers, 6.2 in adults 18-49). That average includes its huge premiere (38.6 million people) after the Super Bowl, but subsequent episodes averaged better than 15 million viewers, so it didn't exactly tank.
  • The top scripted series in viewers is "NCIS" (18.8 million, fifth overall), while in the 18-49 demographic it's "The Big Bang Theory," whose 5.3 rating ties for fifth overall.
  • At the other end of the spectrum, "Melrose Place" (1.31 million viewers) wrested the title of least-watched series on the five English-language networks from its CW cohort "The Beautiful Life" (1.39 million). "TBL" achieved its weakest-link status in only two episodes, while "Melrose's" numbers include the 18 original episodes and a long stretch of repeats in the middle of the season.
  • Here's what a big premiere can do for you: Despite its post-hiatus struggles, "V" still averaged 11.5 million viewers for the season after opening with better than 14 million. Also helping: DVR use, which added close to 1.8 million viewers per episode.

Although the rankings aren't likely to change, individual shows' numbers might a little when DVR viewing for the final couple weeks of the season are factored in. We'll bring those numbers to you when they're released in early June.

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Photo credits: FOX, CBS