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Fox Locks Up Season

For the first time ever (but as expected for weeks), Fox finished the 2004-05 TV season as ratings champ in the coveted 18-49 demographic.

American  Idol, of course, was the network’s most valuable player, propelling Fox from a fourth-place standing before Idol premiered in January to the top spot when the season officially closed last Wednesday.

How big was Idol? So big that Fox didn’t even need last week’s two season finale episodes to cinch its win. It started the week with a 4.1 rating/11 share, and finished with the same numbers when the sweeps ended May 25.

The Tuesday night episodes of Idol ranked as the season’s most-watched, regularly-scheduled program, attracting an average 27.3 million viewers.

CBS’ Jerry Bruckheimer crime drama, CSI, followed with an average 26.5 million viewers and American Idol Wednesday ranked third with 26.1 million viewers. The lovely ladies of Wisteria Lane earned the fourth spot for Desperate Housewives, with 23.7 million viewers and CBS' Survivor: Palau rounded out the top five with 20.9 million viewers. 

But the 18-49 season race went down to the wire, with the spread between the winner and suddenly-fourth-place NBC narrower than it has been in years.

Fox just edged out CBS’ 4.0/11 in 18-49s. ABC improved on its fourth-place finish last year, moving to third with a 3.7/10. NBC tumbled from the top with a 3.5/9, compared to last year’s 4.3 rating, according to Nielsen.

Coming into the season, NBC had been tops in 18-49s for eight of the last nine years (it lost to ABC in 2000-01)

CBS was the winner in adults 25-54 and total viewers, averaging a 4.9/12 in 25-54s and 12.92 million total viewers.

Fox and ABC tied for second in 25-54s, followed by NBC. Fox also nearly tied ABC for second in total viewers, averaging 10.04 million to ABC’s 10.05 million. In 18-34s, Fox came out ahead, followed by ABC in second.