Fox Tops 2009-10 Ratings; CBS Wins Viewers

The primetime broadcast season ended at the ‘Idol’ finale; now the nets put on their best face

Fox won the all-important 18-49 demographic for the 2009-10 season that ended Thursday night, while CBS comes away with a nice consolation prize: the most total viewers.

It was the sixth consecutive ratings victory for Fox, which averaged a 3.7 rating. CBS, meanwhile, pulled in 11.7 million viewers per night.

CBS earns the right to promote itself as "the most watched network," but Fox holds the key marketing win in advertisers’ eyes. Fox, by the way, also won the 12-17 teens demo for the tenth straight season.

In the 18-49 demo, Fox was first with a 3.6, followed by CBS with a 3.2 and ABC and NBC tied with a 2.7. In the 18-34 demo, Fox was first with a 3.2 and CBS, ABC and NBC all tied for second with a 2.2.

In total viewers, after CBS’ 11.7 million was Fox with 9.9 million per night, ABC with 8.6 million and NBC with 8.2 million. But the ratings numbers are just that — numbers — and they can be twisted, turned and deciphered in many ways. They can also be deceiving.

For example, if you take "American Idol" out of the equation, CBS would win the 18-49 demo race. And if you take the Winter Olympics on NBC out of the equation, then ABC beats NBC in 18-49. And ABC even put out a release saying that among 18-49 viewers — even including the OIympic telecasts — it edged out NBC 3.54 million viewers to 3.53 million viewers (although the rating number is even).

And while "American Idol" was the highest rated show among viewers 18-49, CBS’ sitcom "The Big Bang Theory" was the top-rated "scripted" program among adults 18-49 for the season. And CBS’ "Two and a Half Men" was second.

The CBS reality show "Undercover Boss" was the highest-rated new series, but it premiered leading out of the Super Bowl and drew about 38 million viewers. Take that telecast away and it still averaged good numbers — but more in the ballpark of some of the other successful new shows.

While Fox won the overall 18-34 demo crown, the NBC sitcom "The Office" was the No. 1 scripted series among adults 18-34, averaging a 5.4 rating.

ABC had the No.1 new sitcom in "Modern Family" and the No. 2 new show overall among adults 18-49, but CBS’ new drama "NCIS: Los Angeles" averaged more total viewers.

However, while Fox's new hit "Glee" is considered by some as a dramatic comedy or dramedy, Fox considers it a musical comedy, or just a comedy, and it averaged a 4.3 18-49 rating compared to a 3.9 for "Modern Family." And "Glee" drew more average viewers than "Modern Family," 9.7 million to 9.5 million. Using that logic, it would be the No. 1 new comedy for the season, not "Modern Family" — even though ABC is saying "Modern Family" is.
Finally, The CW network has smaller station reach for distribution than the Big Four English-language broadcast networks, so it's tough to make comparisons. However, in its core demos, that it sells to advertisers, the network was up this year. The CW adults 18-34 ratings were up 10 percent to a 1.1, while its women 18-34 demo was a 1.5, up 7 percent.