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Reality shows make splash as they return to air

NEW YORK (AP) — Two popular reality shows made a splash upon their re-entry during the past week — and a new one had a strong debut.

A new episode of "Dancing With the Stars" premiered on ABC last week before 17 million viewers, just behind CBS drama "NCIS" as the week's most popular program. It was down to 14.5 million Monday night, facing competition from the return of "The Voice" on NBC.

"The Voice," with Usher and Shakira as new cast members, premiered its spring season before 13.6 million on Monday, the Nielsen company said. Those are welcome numbers for NBC, which has been starved for viewers.

There's also likely to be a healthy rivalry with Fox's "American Idol" for the rest of the TV season. "Idol" reached 12.9 million viewers last Wednesday and 11.9 million viewers for its Thursday edition. Fox points out that when "Idol" debuted its new season in January, it did so with nearly 18 million viewers, far more than "The Voice."

NBC is encouraged by the relatively youthful appeal of its show. An estimated 6.1 million viewers of "The Voice" on Monday were in the 18-to-49-year-old demographic that advertisers seek. "Idol" last Wednesday had 4.5 million young viewers. "Dancing With the Stars" skews much older; its viewership in the young demographic was 3.1 million on Monday.

ABC's new series "Splash," with celebrities like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Louie Anderson and Keshia Knight Pulliam displaying their diving prowess, reached just over 9 million viewers with its first episode last week. That may not sound like much, but it was more than all but two of the network's scripted series last week.

In the week's ultimate reality show — the frenetic first week of the NCAA men's basketball tournament — Nielsen said viewership on CBS and its partner networks was up 9 percent over last year.

For the week in prime time, CBS averaged 8.5 million viewers (5.3 rating, 9 share). ABC was second with 7.5 million viewers (4.8, 8), Fox had 5.9 million (3.6, 6), NBC had 4.2 million (2.7, 4), the CW had 1.4 million (0.9, 1) and ION television had 1.2 million (0.8, 1).

Among the Spanish-language networks, Univision led with an average of 3.6 million viewers (1.9, 3), Telemundo had 1.3 million (0.7, 1), UniMas had 550,000 (0.3, 1), Estrella had 200,000 (0.1, 0) and Azteca 70,000 (0.0, 0).

NBC's "Nightly News" topped the evening newscasts with an average of 8.4 million viewers (5.7, 11). ABC's "World News" was second with 7.8 million (5.2, 11) and the "CBS Evening News" had 6.6 million viewers (4.4, 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 March 18-24, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: "NCIS," CBS, 19.79 million; "Dancing With the Stars," ABC, 17.06 million; "NCIS: Los Angeles," CBS, 16.84 million; "American Idol" (Wednesday), Fox, 12.94 million; "American Idol" (Thursday), Fox, 11.93 million; "Criminal Minds," CBS, 11.58 million; "Castle," ABC, 11.26 million; "The Walking Dead," AMC, 10.99 million; "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," CBS, 10.53 million; "60 Minutes," CBS, 10.5 million.

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