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CBS is still America’s most-watched network

And ‘American Idol’ remains the No. 1 show in the ratings

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Mark Harmon stars in "NCIS," which is the No. 1 scripted show of the 2009-10 television season.

Mark Harmon stars in “NCIS,” which is the No. 1 scripted show of the 2009-10 television season.

Sonja Flemming, CBS

NEW YORK — Television's champions for the season that concluded Wednesday are familiar: the CBS network and Fox's "American Idol" juggernaut.

CBS maintained its status as the nation's most-watched prime-time network for the seventh time in the past eight years. The network averaged nearly 2 million viewers a night more than Fox, the second-place finisher, the Nielsen Co. said.

Fox's "American Idol" was the nation's favorite program for the seventh year in a row. The show's Tuesday edition averaged 24.9 million viewers, and Wednesday had 23.4 million. Next came ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" at 19.7 million, although the dance show has beaten "Idol" three of the past four weeks.

The most popular scripted program of the year was CBS's "NCIS," its first such victory in seven seasons on the air.

Two of the three most popular new programs followed "NCIS" on CBS's Tuesday night schedule: "NCIS: Los Angeles" and "The Good Wife." That makes CBS's Tuesday the most popular night of TV during the week. CBS's "Undercover Boss" was the third.

CBS, NBC and Fox each had more prime-time viewers this season than the last one. That's a tribute to the power of sports as an attraction; take sports out of the equation, and each network saw its audience shrink this season. NBC was up 5 percent, for example, but without the Winter Olympics, the network's viewership was down 8 percent.

Football games were particularly powerful, with CBS's airing of the Super Bowl ranking as the most-watched TV event ever.

Fox is second, ABC third and NBC fourth in the season rankings

Last week, "Dancing With the Stars" narrowly beat "American Idol" as the most popular show on the air, and "Lost" sneaked back into the top 10 with Sunday's final episode. That was good news for ABC, which beat Fox to be the top-rated network among its target demographic of 18- to 49-year-olds for the first time ever on a week during which "American Idol" was televised.

Another finale, "Brooks & Dunn: The Last Rodeo," was the nation's 20th most popular show.

Among all viewers last week, CBS averaged 9.9 million (6.2 rating, 11 share). ABC had 8.9 million (5.5, 10), Fox had 7.8 million (4.6, 8), NBC had 5.9 million (3.8, 7), the CW had 1.4 million (0.9, 2) and ION Television had 900,000 (0.6, 1).

For the Spanish-language networks, Univision led with a 3.9 million average (1.9 rating, 3 share), Telemundo had 1 million (0.6, 1), TeleFutura had 920,000 (0.5, 1), Estrella had 230,000 and Azteca had 140,000 viewers (both 0.1, 0).

NBC's "Nightly News" topped the evening newscasts with an average of 7.7 million viewers (5.1, 11). ABC's "World News" was second with 6.9 million (4.7, 10) and the "CBS Evening News" had 5.3 million viewers (3.7, 8).

A ratings point represents 1,149,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation's estimated 114.9 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show.

The top 20

(AP) Prime-time viewership numbers compiled by the Nielsen Co. for May 17-23. Listings include the week's ranking and viewership.

1. "Dancing With the Stars," ABC, 19.04 million.

2. "American Idol" (Wednesday), Fox, 19 million.

3. "American Idol" (Tuesday), Fox, 18.68 million.

4. "NCIS," CBS, 15.96 million.

5. "NCIS: Los Angeles," CBS, 15.32 million.

6. "Grey's Anatomy," ABC, 15.24 million.

7. "The Mentalist," CBS, 15.22 million.

8. "The Big Bang Theory," CBS, 15.02 million.

9. "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," CBS, 14.35 million.

10. "Lost: The End," ABC, 13.57 million.

11. "Two and a Half Men," CBS, 13.28 million.

12. "Criminal Minds," CBS, 13.25 million.

13. "Dancing With the Stars Results," ABC, 13.19 million.

14. "The Good Wife," CBS, 12.04 million.

15. "Glee," Fox, 11.47 million.

16. "CSI: NY," CBS, 11.3 million.

17. "House," Fox, 11.06 million.

18. "CSI: Miami," CBS, 10.52 million.

19. "Lost," ABC, 10.47 million.

20. "Brooks & Dunn: The Last Rodeo," CBS, 10.15 million