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As 'Idol' softens, CBS fights Fox for prime-time dominion

February 18, 2009 |  1:37 pm

Fox and CBS continued to battle over the prime-time ratings spoils last week. The former relied heavily on "American Idol" -- which remains a formidable if somewhat diminished force in Season 8 -- and the latter on its regular mix of scripted dramas and comedies.

The Tuesday "Idol" was the week's most-watched program for the week ending Feb. 15, with 24.9 million total viewers, according to figures published today by Nielsen Media Research. The Wednesday edition was just a shade behind, with 24.8 million. However, season to date, "Idol" is down 8% in viewers compared with last year.

CBS' "The Mentalist," meanwhile, was the week's most-watched scripted show and No. 3 overall (19.7 million). CBS had half of the top 10 programs, including "NCIS" (18 million) and "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (17.9 million).

The return of "Idol" to Fox's schedule last month appears to have dampened momentum for CBS, which is now pacing behind its season average. But given that "Idol" ratings typically trend downward before its finale rebound, CBS and Fox are still locked in a fairly tight race for young-adult viewers.

Overall, CBS won the week among total viewers (11.4 million), trailed by Fox (10 million), ABC (7.6 million) and NBC (6.4 million). But Fox easily took the crown in viewers aged 18 to 49, with a 3.9 rating versus CBS' 2.8.

On basic cable, the top program was TNT's Sunday telecast of the NBA All-star game (7.6 million).

-- Scott Collins