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September 02, 2008

'Gossip' record for CW; 'Break' down for Fox

Gossip_girl That breeze felt over Hollywood this morning is the massive sigh of relief coming from the CW's Burbank offices.

Kick-starting from the network's deadest of dead summers, the second season of "Gossip Girl" posted its highest ratings ever in all key demos.

Aided by encouraging online reviews and a clever ad campaign, "Gossip" (3.4 million viewers, 1.7 preliminary adults 18-49 rating, a 5 share and a 2.3 adults 18-34 rating) returned up 6% from its premiere last year in the adult demo (and up 10% among the network’s key 18-34 demographic).

The numbers are particularly impressive since last year "Gossip" launched behind the CW's highest-rated show, "America's Next Top Model," whereas this year the series had to self start.

"Gossip" also served as a strong lead-in for the sixth season premiere of "One Tree Hill" (3.1 million, 1.6/4, 2.0), which also was up about 7% compared to last year's debut.

The numbers show the CW hasn't been stymied by its rerun-stuffed summer and sets the stage for a potential network-high number for the premiere of "90210" this evening. Like "Gossip," there's been plenty of ads (including skywriting and an airplane banner in West L.A. this weekend). Unlike "Gossip," there's still no reviews. Even CW employees claim not to have seen this show. I'm expecting an impressive initial rating, but morning-after reviews that say "90210" does not compare to "Gossip." (Update: The '90210' reviews are in).

Labor Day's other season premiere -- Fox's "Prison Break" -- didn't have as upbeat of a story. The two-hour "Break" premiere (6.5 million, 2.6/7) was down 21% from its debut last year and posted a series low.

Still, "Break" tied NBC's "Deal or No Deal" (10.9 million, 2.6/7) as the highest-rated show and led Fox to win the night. NBC placed second, with “Deal” giving away its first-ever million dollar cash prize, followed by the second episode of "America’s Toughest Jobs," dropping 11% (7.3 million, 2.4/6). CBS was third and ABC fourth with repeats.

UPDATE: Nielsen just announced it will not provide Monday's Republican National Convention coverage numbers since broadcast and cable networks mostly aired Hurricane Gustav coverage instead.

From a Nielsen statement: "On Monday September 1, 2008 television news coverage of Hurricane Gustav replaced planned coverage of the Republican Convention on most broadcast and cable networks. As a result, Nielsen will not be providing audience estimates for Monday night's convention. If normal convention coverage returns on Tuesday, Nielsen will plan to provide combined network audience estimates similar to those from last week's Democratic convention."

Among broadcaster nets, CBS aired coverage of Gustav and RNC. ABC aired "20/20" on Gustav. NBC mainly aired footage of Gustav. (Paul J. Gough contributed to this report)

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