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September 16, 2008

CW has best Monday ever; Fox's dramas decline

Gossipgirl_blair The CW had the best Monday night in the network's history as "Gossip Girl" hit a new series high and "One Tree Hill" delivered its strongest number in two years.

The third episode of “Gossip” (3.7 million viewers, 1.9 preliminary adults 18 to 49 rating and a 5 share) this season was up 11% from its previous two episodes and marked an all-time high in every demo category. Among the CW’s key women 18-34 demo (4.2/12), for example, “Gossip” was up 27% from its second season premiere.

The stronger lead-in boosted veteran “Tree” (3.4 million, 1.7/4) at 9 p.m. and the gains put the CW into second place among broadcast networks for the evening.

Fox tied repeat-driven CBS to win the night, but the victory was sullied by ratings declines for two of its key fall dramas.

The second week of “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” (5.5 million, 2.0/6) dropped 17% from its season premiere last week to tie with NBC’s “Deal or No Deal” (8.8 million, 2.0/6) and top 8 p.m. “Prison Break” (5.9 million, 2.4/6) was down 8% in its third week to place second at 9 p.m. after CBS’s comedy repeats. The male-friendly Fox dramas likely took some extra heat from ESPN's airing of Monday Night Football -- the Dallas vs. Philadelphia game drew very large numbers and is expected to rank as the top program once the cable ratings roll in.

Still, with ABC (which last night aired a movie) and CBS (which aired only repeats) set to turn on the lights next week, Fox’s drops could be problematic for its serialized Monday shows. How the CW handles the added competition should be interesting, as the younger-targeted “Gossip” and “Tree” have shown they're seemingly impervious to increasing pressure. For this week, at least, the growth of “Gossip Girl” has the fifth-wheel broadcast network playing in the majors on Monday night.

Also last night: NBC aired “America’s Toughest Jobs” (4.9 million, 1.6/4) and ”Dateline” (4.4 million, 1.4/3). A "Two and a Half Men" repeat (9.9 million, 3.0/7) was the night's highest-rated show.

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