NBC Rises to No. 3 Network, ABC Falls to Fourth in Key Demo

'The Voice' (Photo: NBC)

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Broadcast network NBC rose out of the ratings basement for the first time in eight years to claim third place among 18- to 49-year-olds – the age group prized by advertisers, according to ratings data released on Thursday.

ABC slipped to fourth in the category but maintained its third-place standing among total viewers for the 2011-12 season, according to Nielsen data provided by Horizon Media.

Comcast-owned NBC was lifted by the Super Bowl and “Sunday Night Football,” the season’s most-viewed primetime program, plus the popular singing competition “The Voice.”

“We’ve taken some key first steps toward rebuilding primetime,” NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt said in a statement.

Among 18- to 49-year-olds, NBC averaged 2.8 million viewers per week, ahead of the 2.6 million for ABC, according to Horizon Media.

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ABC, owned by Walt Disney Co, said it topped NBC in that age group by 4 percent, if NBC’s Super Bowl broadcast was excluded.

ABC also said it could move into a tie for third once final data from digital video recorder viewing is compiled.

NBC’s rise could be short-lived as it relied largely on “The Voice” and football, said Brad Adgate, media analyst for Horizon Media.

“Day-to-day, ABC has a stronger programming lineup, and they are even returning six first-year shows, more than any other network,” he said. “It would not surprise if ABC beats out NBC next season.”

ABC’s top programs included “Modern Family,” the No. 1-rated comedy and “Grey’s Anatomy,” the No. 1 drama.

CBS, owned by CBS Corp, held its grip on the No. 1 spot overall with a crop of hits including “NCIS” and “The Big Bang Theory.” News Corp’s Fox network finished second, boosted by “American Idol,” “New Girl,” and “The X Factor.”

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