ABC Wins Fall TV Premiere Week, NBC and CW Not So Much

The “official” fall TV premiere week just ended on Sunday, and the scores are in. ABC attracted the most viewers with its favourites-filled schedule (one of its two new shows has yet to debut nor have the net’s questionable returning dramas). Meanwhile, NBC also scored (to a far lesser extent) on returning hits, but three of its new series have yet to premiere, and the one that did, a Knight Rider reboot, bombed.

Reportedly, NBC programming head Ben Silverman’s job hinges on whether he can deliver a successful TV season.

The CW is also still trying to build a sizable audience. Ratings for much-hyped shows like Gossip Girl and 90210 have been improving but are still low by traditional network standards. At Fox and CBS, meanwhile, this fall wasn’t much different from seasons past.

Forbes breaks it down, network by network*:

ABC: Returning hits like Dancing with the Stars, Desperate Housewives and Grey’s Anatomy are largely responsible for the Walt Disney (nyse: DIS news people )-owned net’s success, garnering 21.3 million, 18.7 million and 18.5 viewers, respectively. Far less impressive: ABC’s only premiere week newcomer, reality series Opportunity Knocks, garnered just 6.6 million viewers. Still to come is the network’s only other fall newbie Life on Mars, as well as many of its questionable sophomore returns.

NBC: Once the Olympics, politics and football were out of the way, turns out there wasn’t much left in the tank at Silverman’s fourth-place network. While ending the week ahead of rival Fox thanks to still more football and the much-hyped return of Heroes, General Electric‘s (nyse: GE news people ) NBC delivered only 8.3 million viewers in prime-time, down 16% from last season’s premiere-week audience, says Nielsen.

But the true test is yet to come for the network–and its controversial programming chief. Three of its most heavily promoted series, Kath & Kim, My Own Worst Enemy and Crusoe, have yet to hit the air. The only newcomer on Silverman’s premiere week schedule: a Knight Rider reboot, which delivered dismal reviews and just 7.3 million viewers. Even for a chief focused more on margins than ratings, this doesn’t bode well.

The CW: While rumours of its demise still swirl, ratings-deprived CW finally has something to brag about: The young-skewing network’s traditional premiere week audience grew 5% in total viewers and 12% in 18- to 49-year-olds when compared to the same period last year, according to Nielsen. Less impressive: That audience amounted to just 2.9 million viewers, 1.7 million of them aged 18 to 49.

Note: We left off Fox and CBS’s results because we felt they were less interesting, but you can check them out for yourself here.

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