Originally created 05/26/06

CBS, Fox on top as 2005-06 television season ends



NEW YORK - CBS and Fox reign supreme at the end of a television season marked by stability in Americans' viewing habits.

CBS was the nation's most popular broadcast network for the fourth consecutive year, according to Nielsen Media Research. Fox, after winning last year for the first time among the 18-to-49-year-old demographic advertisers pay a premium to reach, repeated that feat.

The conclusion of the May ratings sweeps period, Wednesday night, marks the traditional end of a TV season. Fox and ABC were to wrap things up with the "American Idol" finale and the "Lost" season-ender, both two hours long.

Through Sunday night, CBS was averaging 12.6 million viewers a night in prime time, down 2 percent from last year. ABC was the second-most popular network (10.8 million average), followed by Fox (9.9 million) and NBC (9.7 million). The numbers may change slightly when this week's figures are added in, but the rankings won't - and they're exactly the same as last season.

ABC was the only broadcast to increase in viewership this year, bolstered by the growth of "Grey's Anatomy" and a new hit in "Dancing With the Stars," Nielsen said.

The race among 18-to-49-year-old viewers was closer. After first-place Fox, ABC was second, followed by CBS and NBC. The only change from last year was ABC and CBS switching places.

It was another disheartening showing for NBC, which repeated last year's unprecedented fourth place rankings and lost viewers even in a season where it broadcast the Winter Olympics.

The Tuesday edition of "American Idol" was the nation's most popular television show for the second straight year. It's even stronger than ever: last year's edition averaged 27.3 million viewers, while this year it jumped to 31.1 million.

The "American Idol" results show came in second for the season, followed in order by CBS' "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" and ABC's "Desperate Housewives" and "Grey's Anatomy."

Nine of last season's top 10 shows repeated the feat this year, with "Dancing With the Stars" replacing "Everybody Loves Raymond" in the rankings, Nielsen said.