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Basketball tournament nets CBS top ratings

David Bauder Associated Press

Despite the Easter Sunday return of “Desperate Housewives” on ABC and an extra “American Idol” on Fox, CBS scored an easy ratings victory last week thanks largely to the most-watched NCAA men’s basketball tournament since 1994.

The four regional finals this past weekend – three of them overtime contests – drew an audience 44 percent higher than the same games last year, according to Nielsen Media Research. And CBS still has this weekend’s Final Four to anticipate.

After a five-week absence that left some fans grumbling, “Desperate Housewives” returned with an original episode and was seen by 24.1 million people. That helped the debut of the medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy” directly after it, which was sampled by 16.2 million viewers.

ABC has three more “Grey’s Anatomy” episodes scheduled for upcoming Sunday nights, and then will decide on a regular time slot for the show.

Between “Grey’s Anatomy” and Fox’s “House,” NBC’s “ER” – still a popular show – was only the third most-watched medical drama last week.

Last week’s “American Idol” flub, where the voting had to be done over after the wrong phone numbers were given out over the air, gave Fox an opportunity to air a special third edition Thursday. It was seen by 20.2 million people.

For the week, CBS averaged 13.9 million viewers (8.8 rating, 15 share) and won among the 18- to 49-year-old demographic advertisers seek.

Fox was second with 10.3 million viewers (6.3, 10), while ABC averaged 8.7 million (5.6, 9), NBC 8.6 million (5.7, 9), UPN 3.2 million (2.1, 3) and the WB 2.6 million (1.7, 3).

A ratings point represents 1,096,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation’s estimated 109.6 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show.

The top 10 shows for the week ending Sunday: “American Idol” (Tuesday), Fox, 27.6 million viewers; “Desperate Housewives,” ABC, 24.1 million; “American Idol” (Wednesday), Fox, 20.9 million; “American Idol” (Thursday), Fox, 20.2 million; “Survivor: Palau,” CBS, 19.2 million; “CSI: Miami,” CBS, 18.9 million; NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament: Kentucky vs. Michigan St., CBS, 17.9 million; “House,” Fox, 17.3 million; “CSI: NY,” 16.7 million; “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” ABC, 16.4 million.

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