"Dancing with Stars" leads TV's opening night

LOS ANGELES Wed Sep 24, 2008 10:33am EDT

Cheryl Burke (L) and Kym Johnson from the television show ''Dancing with the Stars'' perform during the taping of the 2008 ''NCLR Alma'' awards at the Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, California, August 17, 2008. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Cheryl Burke (L) and Kym Johnson from the television show ''Dancing with the Stars'' perform during the taping of the 2008 ''NCLR Alma'' awards at the Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, California, August 17, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Twenty-four hours after co-hosting one of the biggest ratings flops in Emmy history, ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" emcee Tom Bergeron presided over the top broadcast on opening night of U.S. television's new season.

Monday's two-hour season premiere of "Dancing with the Stars" averaged 21.3 million viewers to rank as the night's most watched show and lead ABC to a first-place finish in the overall network rankings, Nielsen Media Research reported on Tuesday.

ABC's average audience for the night as a whole, 17.2 million viewers, also ranked as its biggest season-opening Monday audience in nine years and the most watched for any network since 2002.

But CBS eked out a No. 1 showing for the first time since 2002 in ratings for viewers aged 18 to 49, the group most prized by advertisers in prime time, on the strength of its returning comedy bloc and police drama "CSI: Miami."

Network television overall got off to a promising start, as the five top networks combined -- ABC, CBS NBC, Fox and CW -- drew 1.3 million more viewers this year than last (48.3 million, vs. 47.0 million).

It was certainly a more robust beginning than was presaged by Sunday's ABC broadcast of the 60th annual Primetime Emmys, which tied the record for the least watched presentation of the awards with an average audience of just 12.3 million viewers.

The awards telecast also drew some of the most scathing reviews in Emmy history, especially for the collective hosting duties shared by Bergeron and four fellow reality show emcees -- Howie Mandell, Ryan Seacrest, Jeff Probst and Heidi Klum.

"The show never fully recovered after an opening clunker thanks to the five reality show hosts," read the caption in a review in the Los Angeles Times.

ABC owned by the Walt Disney Co., CBS is a unit of CBS Corp NBC is a unit of NBC Universal parent General Electric Co and Fox is a division of News Corp.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

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