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NEW YORK — Univision was the most popular network among television viewers aged 18 to 49 years old last week, the first time a Spanish-language station has beaten the English ones in this key demographic in the United States.
Soap operas reaching key points in their stories combined with a desultory week of reality and reruns at the English broadcast networks made the milestone possible.
On television, the 18-to-49-year-old demographic is considered so important to advertisers that ABC, NBC and Fox pay more attention to these ratings than they do for viewership as a whole.
Compared to the other broadcasters, Univision's audience is markedly younger. Last week, 2.1 million of Univision's prime-time average of 3.8 million viewers were in that youthful demographic, the Nielsen Co. said. By contrast, 1.8 million of CBS' 5.7 million viewers were in this group.
Univision has made a conscious decision to go after these viewers, said Cesar Conde, president of Univision Networks. In some cases, that means supporting programming that would be familiar to English-speaking viewers: a reality series "Desafio: La Gran Batalla" ("The Challenge: The Big Battle") is popular now, and a celebrity dance competition is coming in the fall.
Its backbone, however, is the prime-time soap operas, known as telenovelas, that run five times a week. One episode of the 9 p.m. telenovela, "Soy tu Duena" ("I'm Your Owner"), finished among Nielsen's top 20 among all viewers last week.
In that show, the character Valentina Villalba, who found love again after being abandoned at the altar, saw her new love come face to face with her ex-fiance.
In the 8 p.m. show, "Hasta Que El Dinero Nos Separe" ("Until the Money Separates Us"), a woman plans to ask her husband for a divorce because she suspects him of infidelity. She wants to marry a man who had earlier caused the couple to be injured in an auto accident.
"The Hispanic demographic connects with this type of programming because of its cultural relevancy," Conde said. "Viewers at the end of the day want to watch high-quality programming that they connect with, regardless of language."
Univision also telecast a popular soccer game involving national teams from Mexico and Ecuador.
In July, Univision beat all the broadcast networks for the month among viewers aged 18 to 34, Nielsen said. With a growing Latino population and that youthful audience, last week's milestone could become commonplace.
Also last week, the Disney Channel's "Camp Rock 2," about a group of teen friends and band mates at camp, was seen by 8 million viewers, making it the most-watched cable TV movie of the year so far. It was the most-watched program for a Friday night in six months for broadcast or cable, Nielsen said.
CBS' 5.7 million prime-time viewership average (3.7 rating, 7 share) led the broadcast networks last week. NBC averaged 5.2 million (3.3, 6), ABC had 4.7 million (2.9, 5), Fox had 3.6 million (2.3, 4), ION Television had 1.3 million (0.8, 2) and the CW had 980,000 (0.6, 1).
Univision's 3.8 million average (1.9 rating, 3 share) easily led the Spanish-language networks. Telemundo averaged 810,000 and TeleFutura 730,000 (both 0.4, 1), Azteca had 210,000 and Estrella 180,000 (both 0.1, 0).
News ratings were up markedly with Hurricane Earl threatening the East Coast. NBC's "Nightly News" topped the evening newscasts with an average of 8 million viewers (5.3, 11). ABC's "World News" was second with 7 million (4.7, 10) and the "CBS Evening News" had 5.4 million viewers (3.6, 8).
A ratings point represents 1,159,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation's estimated 115.9 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show.
For the week of Aug. 30-Sept. 5, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: "America's Got Talent" (Tuesday), NBC, 11.5 million; "America's Got Talent" (Wednesday), NBC, 10.47 million; "Two and a Half Men," CBS, 9.14 million; "The Big Bang Theory," CBS, 8.92 million; "NCIS," CBS, 8.17 million; "Big Brother 12" (Wednesday), CBS, 7.87 million; "NCIS: Los Angeles," CBS, 7.84 million; "Big Brother 12" (Sunday), CBS, 7.19 million; "60 Minutes," CBS, 7.05 million; "Wipeout" (Tuesday), ABC, 6.93 million.