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Election News Propels ABC, NBC to Ratings Tie

November 11, 2008 | 12:10 pm

The first weeks of the fall TV season weren't especially kind to ABC and NBC. But partly due to coverage of the presidential election last Tuesday, the networks managed to tie for the top spot among the advertiser-friendly demographic of young adults for the week. CBS was again No. 1 among total viewers.

ABC's election coverage was the most watched among the broadcast networks, with an average of 13.2-million total viewers, according to figures published Tuesday by Nielsen Media Research. NBC trailed with 12.1 million, and CBS was a very distant third with 7.4 million.

In addition to the news coverage, "Dancing With the Stars" helped ABC paper over some problems elsewhere on the schedule. "Dancing" easily dominated its Monday time slot with 17.1-million viewers, and a Wednesday results show -- displaced due to the election -- drew 15.8 million.

NBC enjoyed its last comedy ratings bounce from the campaign season with Monday's mix of skits and clips, "Saturday Night Live Presidential Bash 2008" (14.4 million). And the network had another powerful NFL matchup Sunday between the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles (17.6 million).

However, CBS still topped Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights among all viewers and continued to draw strength from perennials such as "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (18.2 million). The substitution of its low-rated election coverage for the typically high-rated "NCIS" no doubt depressed CBS' overall results.

NBC, meanwhile, continued to draw very weak numbers with dramas such as "Knight Rider" (5.1 million) and "Lipstick Jungle" (3.4 million). On Thursday, ABC is struggling to gain traction for its lone new scripted drama, "Life on Mars" (8.7 million), which is ranked third in its time slot among young adults. Fox looked most solid with "Bones" (10.2 million).

Overall, CBS narrowly led the week in total viewers (11 million), followed by ABC (10.4 million), NBC (8.9 million) and Fox (5.9 million).

On basic cable, CNN's election coverage was the week's most-watched programming, with an average of 15.2 million tuning in at 11 p.m. Eastern time Tuesday, when Sen. Barack Obama was proclaimed the president-elect.

--Scott Collins