Taut Tuesday ratings race takes shape

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The new Tuesday night battle has begun.

The debut of heavily-hyped new Fox drama 24 produced mixed results and ABC's two-hour season premiere of NYPD Blue got the network back in the game on Tuesday nights. Fox's 24 opened with 11.6 million viewers and a 5.4 rating/13 share in adults 18-49 at 9 p.m. ET/PT, according to Nielsen Media Research fast-national results.

It was the best Fox results in the time period in a year and 24 also won its time period in adults 18-34.

But the new action drama didn't hold its lead-in audience from The Simpsons (13.1 million viewers and a 7.0/17 in adults 18-49) very well. Combined with That `70s Show (12.5 million; 7.0/19), Fox won the night in adults 18-49 with an overall average of a 6.2/15.

ABC, which shook up its Tuesday night schedule to get NYPD Blue into the 9 p.m. Tuesday hour, posted its strongest results on the night with the return of Blue. The two-hour premiere averaged 16.1 million viewers and a 6.3/16 in adults 18-49 from 9-11 p.m. and obviously had an effect on 24's results.

"We were up against extraordinarily formidable competition and I salute ABC for getting in there and doing their business," said Fox Entertainment President Gail Berman.

"We knew that when they put NYPD Blue into that time period it would be difficult for us, but overall we are excited about 24 and we had our highest ratings in that time period in a long while."

NBC's combination of Frasier (14.4 million viewers and a 6.3/15) and Scrubs (10.9 million viewers and a 5.1/12) from 9-10 p.m. were also fighting for viewers Tuesday night.

CBS's JAG (8-9 p.m.) was the night's most-watched show with 16.1 million viewers. - Joe Schlosser

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