01/31/2012 04:14 EST | Updated 04/01/2012 05:12 EDT

Resurgent 'Big Bang Theory' on CBS scores unusual victory over Fox's 'American Idol'

NEW YORK, N.Y. - The geeks have bragging rights over the superstar strivers.

The CBS comedy "The Big Bang Theory" had a slightly larger audience than Fox's "American Idol" during the half hour when the shows were in head-to-head competition on Thursday, the Nielsen Co. said. The advantage was slight — 16.13 million to 15.56 million — but significant. It is believed to be the first scripted series to beat the Fox juggernaut in head-to-head competition.

That speaks to a slow start for "American Idol" this year, even though the show's Wednesday edition was the top-rated program of the week.

"The Big Bang Theory," meanwhile, is up 15 per cent in viewership this season in what has been a strong year for comedy. Syndication may be a big factor in its success. It's the first year reruns of the comedy from past seasons are being shown elsewhere on the TV dial, and that often attracts more viewers to the fresh episodes.

The comedy's success is also helping Rob Schneider's new sitcom "Rob," which immediately follows it on CBS' schedule. "Rob" finished among Nielsen's top 10 last week.

Fox News Channel is celebrating a milestone. The end of January marks 10 years since it eclipsed CNN as the top-rated cable news network, a status it has not relinquished. Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes said he was "extremely proud" of the achievement and recognizes how difficult it is to sustain such a level of success.

Also on Tuesday, HBO announced that after one week on the air, the horseracing drama "Luck" starring Dustin Hoffman has been renewed for a second season. An estimated 3.3 million people saw the first episode in either one of the three airings on Sunday or during a December sneak preview.

CBS was the top broadcast network with an average of 9.3 million viewers in prime time last week (5.9 rating, 10 share). Fox averaged 8 million (4.7, 7), NBC had 6.1 million (3.8, 6), ABC had 5.7 million (3.6, 6), the CW had 1.1 million (0.8, 1) and ION Television had 1.1 million (0.7, 1).

Among the Spanish-language networks, Univision led with a 3.7 million average (1.8, 3), Telemundo had 1.4 million (0.7, 1), TeleFutura had 610,000 (0.3, 1), Estrella had 220,000 and Azteca 190,000 (both 0.1, 0).

NBC's "Nightly News" topped the evening newscasts with an average of 9.3 million viewers (6.2, 11). ABC's "World News" was second with 8.2 million (5.4, 10) and the "CBS Evening News" had 6.7 million viewers (4.5, 8).

A ratings point represents 1,147,000 households, or 1 per cent of the nation's estimated 114.7 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show.

For the week of Jan. 23-29, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: "American Idol" (Wednesday), Fox, 19.67 million; "American Idol" (Thursday), Fox, 17.14 million; "The Big Bang Theory," CBS, 16.13 million; "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," CBS, 14.26 million; "Criminal Minds," CBS, 13.82 million; "Undercover Boss," CBS, 13.15 million; "NCIS," CBS, 12.55 million; NFL Football: Pro Bowl, NBC, 12.5 million; "Touch," Fox, 12.01 million; "Rob," CBS, 11.5 million.

(Note: The "American Idol" number from Thursday on the list exceeds "The Big Bang Theory" because it is an average audience for the competition's full hour on the air, not just the half hour when the comedy was airing on CBS.)


ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co. CBS is owned by CBS Corp. CW is a joint venture of Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS Corp. Fox and My Network TV are units of News Corp. NBC and Telemundo are owned by Comcast Corp. ION Television is owned by ION Media Networks. TeleFutura is a division of Univision. Azteca America is a wholly owned subsidiary of TV Azteca S.A. de C.V.