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Nielsen ratings report season lows for Thursday

Whether it was the upcoming religious holidays, nice spring weather, school vacations or just plain boredom with the choices, many television viewers took a siesta from their sets last Thursday.

CBS' comedy "The Big Bang Theory" had its smallest audience of the season for a new episode, the Nielsen Co. said. ABC's "Missing" had a series low. All the originals on NBC's lineup -- "Community," "30 Rock," "Up All Night" and "Awake" -- had season lows.

The NBC showing is particularly eye-opening, especially considering the network's former "must-see TV" status on Thursday nights.

Only "Community" reached 3 million viewers. The comedies "30 Rock" had 2.79 million, "Up All Night" had 2.58 million and "The Office" had 2.52 million for a repeat episode. The hourlong drama "Awake" had 2.56 million viewers, Nielsen said.

On the same first Thursday in April 10 years ago, NBC reached 28.5 million viewers for "ER" and 22.6 million for "Friends."

Maybe half of that drop could be attributed to the same factors that have hurt broadcast TV in general, such as DVR usage, video games and more aggressive competition from cable. But not all of it.

"My guess is it just comes down to the shows," said Robert Seidman, a ratings guru for the website TV By the Numbers.

Elsewhere during the week, NBC had been seeing some positive momentum with "The Voice," but that has faded compared with old favorites "American Idol" and "Dancing With the Stars."

Kentucky's victory over Kansas in the men's NCAA basketball championship was the week's most popular program, and the only one to exceed 20 million viewers, Nielsen said.

That helped CBS to an easy victory with an average of 10.3 million viewers in prime time (6.4 rating, 11 share). ABC had 7.7 million (5.0, 9), Fox had 6.6 million (4.0, 7), NBC had 5 million (3.2, 5), the CW had 990,000 and ION Television 960,000 (both 0.7, 1).

Among the Spanish-language networks, Univision led with a 3.7 million viewer average (1.9, 3), Telemundo had 1.3 million (0.7, 1), Telefutura had 690,000 (0.4, 1), Estrella 200,000 and Azteca 150,000 (both 0.1, 0).

NBC's "Nightly News" topped the evening newscasts with an average of 7.9 million viewers (5.4, 11). ABC's "World News" was second with 6.8 million (4.7, 10) and the "CBS Evening News" had 5.8 million viewers (4.0, 8).

A ratings point represents 1,147,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation's estimated 114.7 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show.

For the week of April 2-8, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: NCAA Men's Basketball Championship -- Kansas vs. Kentucky, CBS, 20.87 million; "American Idol" (Wednesday), Fox, 17.09 million; "Dancing With the Stars," ABC, 16.87 million; "Dancing With the Stars Results," ABC, 15.61 million; "American Idol" (Thursday), Fox, 14.34 million; "Person of Interest," CBS, 13.69 million; "The Big Bang Theory," CBS, 13.3 million; "The Mentalist," CBS, 12.59 million; "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," CBS, 12.06 million; and "60 Minutes," CBS, 11.73 million.

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