Ratings Race: Backbiters Beat Nail-Biters

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CBS continued to ride nail-biting NCAA basketball March Madness Sunday (three overtime games out of four on the weekend), but desperation shots were still not enough to overcome Desperate Housewives.

In the early Nielsen ratings returns, CBS won the 7-8 p.m. hour Sunday night in the key 18-49 ratings demo with Michigan State's double-overtime victory over Kentucky, though its 7.2 rating/22 share will be adjusted once the West Coast ratings returns come in (the overnight ratings are not reflective of live programming since they are time-period performances of a full network lineup).

Even so, CBS says it was its best numbers with NCAA basketball in the time period since 1990.ABC won the night on the strength of a new Desperate Housewives, which recorded a 10.7/24 at 9-10. That, and the debut of Grey's Anatomy at 10 (7.2/18), powered ABC to a 6.7/17 prime time average.

Boston Public is taking a rest while ABC builds audience for the new show, a hospital drama in the mold of ER with a little of Fox's House thrown in.

CBS was second with a 4.3/11, thanks to a double-overtime thriller in the NCAA tournament. But it's Lifetime-like tear-jerker made-for, Suzanne's Diary, appeared to be leaking viewers, though, again, the preliminary numbers are incomplete.

The film had the handicap of airing until almost midnight on the East Coast, but the upside was that, pushed back by over an hour by basketball (double overtime), it didn't have to compete head to head with Housewives.

NBC was third with a 3.0/8. It's top show was Crossing Jordan at 10-11. Boxing reality show, The Contender didn't. Like just about everything else at 7-8 up against basketball, the boxing show hardly landed a punch--not surprising since the male demos were all over at CBS watching the game--recording a 1.3/4 for fourth place in the time period, beating only a repeat of Charmed on The WB.

Fox was fourth for the night with a 2.2/6, with its best performer a repeat of The Simpsons.

The WB was fifth with a .8/2 for an all-repeat lineup of Charmed and Steve Harvey's Big Time.

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