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A Sunday scramble for ratings by the networks

The program-shifting strategy was intense in prime time, with ABC winning the night thanks to `Housewives.'

September 26, 2006|Scott Collins | Times Staff Writer

There were plenty of sharp elbows and body blocks on television Sunday night -- and we're not even talking about the Broncos-Patriots game.

The networks dramatically shook up their Sunday schedules this season. NBC now has pro football, which is helping boost its overall prime-time fortunes. CBS dumped its weekly made-for-TV movie to make way for series, and ABC packed "Grey's Anatomy" off to Thursdays.

When the dust settled Sunday, ABC came out on top, but there were so many bold runs and counter-moves you might have needed John Madden and his telestrator to follow it all.

"Brothers & Sisters," a drama about an extended Los Angeles family with Sally Field and Calista Flockhart, is ABC's 10 p.m. replacement for "Grey's Anatomy." The premiere of "Brothers" averaged a strong 16.1 million total viewers and won the time slot in the key adults 18-to-49 demographic (6.2 rating/15 share), according to figures from Nielsen Media Research.

But "Brothers" lost 16% of its audience from the first to second half, which suggests that many viewers were less than enthralled by the first installment. And it also stared down some potent competition in CBS' missing-persons drama "Without a Trace," which was imported from Thursdays to help shore up the network's movie-less night. Season 5 of "Trace" kicked off with 17.4 million total viewers, although the premiere ranked No. 3 during the hour (4.8 rating/ 12 share) among adults 18 to 49.

At 9 p.m., ABC's third-season rollout of "Desperate Housewives" was the night's most-watched show, with 23.8 million viewers. After viewer complaints about the storytelling in Season 2, this year will be crucial for "Housewives." Given the heightened competition Sunday, the show held up well.

But CBS isn't lying down either: Sandwiched between "Amazing Race 10" and "Trace," the fourth-season debut of the crime drama "Cold Case" soared 29% among adults 18 to 49 (to a 4.0 rating) compared with the Season 3 premiere.

Earlier in the night, ABC drew good results from a two-hour premiere of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," dominating the 8 p.m. hour with 17.2 million total viewers (the 7 p.m. hour was muddied in the Eastern and Central time zones by a football runover on Fox).

Throughout the night, NBC stayed competitive with its coverage of the Broncos-Patriots contest, even though the matchup wasn't as keenly followed as, say, the previous week's Redskins-Cowboys game. "NBC Sunday Night Football" averaged 15.6 million total viewers.

ABC captured the night overall among total viewers (16.7 million) and adults ages 18 to 49.

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Channel Island is a blog about the television industry. For the latest posting, go to latimes.com/channelisland. Contact reporter Scott Collins at channelisland@latimes.com

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