September 22, 2009 / 8:33 PM / 10 years ago

Fox wins first night of TV season; Leno slides

LOS ANGELES, Sept 22 (Reuters) - Fox won the closely fought opening night of the U.S. television fall season for the first time in the network’s history, despite a strong challenge from ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars”, early ratings showed on Tuesday.

CBS, which finished the 2008-09 season as the most-watched TV network overall, came in 3rd place on Monday, while struggling NBC again finished at the bottom of the leading networks with a disappointing slide for its “The Jay Leno Show” primetime experiment.

“Dancing with the Stars” was the most-watched TV show on Monday with 17.5 million viewers as the networks launched their biggest offerings at the official start of the new season, Nielsen figures showed.

However the 9th season of the hit dance show on Walt Disney Co’s (DIS.N) ABC delivered its lowest premiere audience ever, dropping 23 percent from last year.

Fox, a unit of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. (NWSA.O), powered through to claim top overall average audience for the night, thanks to a strong two-hour season opener for medical drama “House”, which attracted 16.5 million viewers.

On CBS Corp’s CBS.N CBS, “CSI:Miami” drew 13.7 million viewers overall, winning the 10 p.m. hour, and helping to send “The Jay Leno Show” on NBC down to a low of 5.7 million average viewers.

The cost-cutting comedy and chat show went from being the highest-rated network show on Monday last week, to the lowest among the four main networks.

The returning “Heroes” also proved disappointing for NBC, a unit of General Electric Co (GE.N). The drama series drew just six million viewers overall — a 40 percent drop from its start in 2008.

According to the preliminary Nielsen figures, Fox had 16.5 million average total viewers on Monday; ABC 14.8 million, CBS 12.0 million and NBC 5.9 million.

Spanish-language network Univision UVN.UL had 3.9 million average viewers and the young female-oriented CW network, a joint venture of CBS and Warner Bros TWX.N, had 2.3 million. (Reporting by Jill Serjeant, editing by Leslie Gevirtz)

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