Fast National ratings for Thursday, January 20, 2011

Thursday was a night of big moves in the network TV business, as "American Idol" began its regularly-scheduled Thursday stint for FOX, while NBC unveiled a new six-sitcom lineup. And the news was mostly good for FOX, NBC and even CBS (ABC was in repeats), rewarding network programmers' belief that there are enough viewers to go around if you give them programming they want to see.

Though "Idol" was down a significant amount both from Thursday and from last year's second episode, FOX easily won the night on the backs of it and "Bones," with a 5.7/15 rating/share in the adults 18-49 demographic, and 16.8 million viewers overall. CBS was second with a 3.1/8 demo and 13.6 million, and NBC a close third in the demo, at a 2.8/7 (but way back in viewers, at 5.4 million). ABC's repeats were fourth with a 1.7/5 and 5.4 million, and the CW was largely irrelevant at a 0.5/1 and 1.3 million.

8 p.m. -- "Idol" averaged a 7.7/21 in the demo and 22.6 million viewers overall, which was down 10 percent in viewers and 15 percent in demos compared to the first hour of Wednesday's premiere, and down more than 20 percent compared to last year's second episode. CBS and NBC were largely unaffected. CBS' "Big Bang Theory" (4.2/12, 13.6 million) was only off a few hundred thousand viewers from its last original episode, while "$#*! My Dad Says" (2./7/7, 10.3 million) was virtually identical to its previous episode. NBC's "Community" (2.2/6, 4.7 million) was stable in overall audience from its last original episode and actually up a few percentage points in the demo, and at 8:30, the premiere of "Perfect Couples" (2.1/6, 4.2 million) retained most of that audience. Hardest-hit was actually ABC's "Wipeout" (2.6/7, 8.3 million), a reminder that a reality show is more likely to steal viewers from another reality show than a sitcom. A "Vampire Diaries" repeat on the CW was way back at a 0.6/2 and 1.4 million.

9 p.m. -- NBC won the hour in the demo thanks to a very strong "The Office" number (4.5/12, 8.3 million) and solid retention from the "Parks and Recreation" premiere, which drew the show's highest demo rating ever (3.2/8, 6.2 million).

(To compare, the last time NBC aired original episodes of "The Office" and "Outsourced" back to back, "Outsourced" lost 26 percent of the total audience and 33 percent of the 18-49 audience, as compared to 25 percent in total viewers and 29 percent in demos for "Parks and Rec." Assuming that retention holds, or heaven help us, goes up, NBC will be very happy with that kind of performance.)

FOX was a close second in demos with "Bones" (3.9/10, 7.2 million) getting a big "Idol" lead-in boost, followed by "CSI" (3.1/8, 14.3 million) holding its own for CBS. ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" repeat was a distant fourth (1.6/4, 4.7 million), and CW's "Nikita" repeat even more distant fifth (0.5/1, 1.3 million).

10 p.m. -- And here's where things get even more interesting, with FOX and "Idol" effects now removed from the equation. CBS easily won the hour in both demos (2.8/8) and viewers (14.7 million) with "The Mentalist," but the 10-10:30 timeslot was extremely close in demos with "30 Rock" (2.7/7, 5.3 million), before "Outsourced" (1.8/5, 4 million) losing a third of its young-adult lead-in. ABC's "Private Practice" repeat was in third (0.9/3, 3 million).

All ratings information comes from preliminary Fast National Nielsen data, which includes live and same-day DVR viewing. All numbers are subject to change.