Grey's Tops CSI

ABC becomes Thursday-night contender

In a head-to-head battle of season premieres, ABC's Grey's Anatomy beat CBS' CSI Thursday, winning the night among prized adults 18-49 and transforming ABC from a distant also-ran into a contender on the most lucrative night of the week.

Grey's averaged 25.14 million viewers and 10.9 rating/26 share in the demo for the hour, according to Nielsen fast overnights, versus CSI's 22.04 million viewers and 7.5/18. That put Grey's ahead of its own Sunday-night debut last season, when it averaged 18.98 million viewers and an 8.3/20. CSI lost nearly 7 million viewers and 3 rating points from a year ago.

“I can sleep again,” quipped Jeff Bader, ABC executive VP of programming and scheduling. “We were cocky enough to think it would be a good number, but we had no idea how it would do against CSI, and we never thought it would outperform them in adults 18-49.”

In fact, Grey's gave ABC its highest rating in the time period since Who Wants To Be a Millionaire in May 2000, its best Thursday season opener since at least 1991 and its highest 18-49 ratings ever on the night.

Vying against NBC's potent and top-rated ER, both CBS' Shark and ABC's Six Degrees suffered, but their networks are hoping to see a rebound in coming weeks.

For the entire debut week, ABC is projected to finish first in the 18-49 demo—despite losing nearly half its ratings on Monday night without football. NBC and CBS were in a tight race for second heading into Thursday night, but CBS' 17% drop on Thursday could give NBC an edge.

In other premieres last week, NBC's highly anticipated Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, airing at 10 p.m. Monday after a two-hour special Deal or No Deal, started about on par with what creator Aaron Sorkin's West Wing initially did.

NBC suffered on Wednesday with a disappointing start for Kidnapped behind a weakened Biggest Loser lead-in, although it is hoping that alternative platform airings can lift the serialized drama in future weeks.

On CBS, apocalyptic drama Jericho was no disaster, starting off strong at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday. The Class on 8 p.m. Monday and Smith at 10 p.m. Tuesday had decent performances.

Fox's new series appear to be struggling, while The CW got off to a strong start with America's Next Top Model.