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Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (opening night of the May "sweeps," April 24)

Wow, what's up with that percolating Peacock?

The four-week May "sweeps" began Thursday, and the early morning local news numbers continue to be an eye-opener. NBC5, a third place non-factor in the February competition, has been aglow with rising, shining Nielsen ratings of late.

In Thursday's 6 a.m. home opener, it tied WFAA8 for the top spot in total homes and took the gold among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming. So much for paying a price for dumping veteran meteorologist Rebecca Miller last month. NBC5 has been prospering with fill-ins until The Weather Channel's version of Jennifer Lopez joins the station in June.

Here's the 6 a.m. break-down of Thursday's close three-way race:

Total Homes
NBC5 and WFAA8 -- 94,988 apiece
Fox4 -- 85,246

NBC5 -- 79,502
Fox4 -- 73,613
WFAA8 -- 70,668

It's not as if viewers are "warming up" their sets for the NBC network's 7 to 9 a.m. Today show. Fox4's Good Day again comfortably won that time period in both ratings measurements Thursday, with Today finishing third in total homes and in a second-place tie with ABC's Good Morning America among 25-to-54-year-olds.

The other three key local news battlegrounds were pretty much business as usual Thursday.

WFAA8 swept the 10 p.m. ratings, with NBC5 running second ahead of CBS11 despite a comparatively weak lead-in audience from the Peacock's once super-potent ER. WFAA8 also opened defense of its 5 and 6 p.m. titles with across-the-board wins.

In prime-time, the first new post-writers' strike episode of ABC's Grey's Anatomy ran just a hair behind CBS' competing CSI: Crime Scene in the total homes Nielsens. But Grey's edged CSI among 18-to-49-year-olds, the advertiser target audience for entertainment programming.

At 9 p.m., a new and very compelling episode of ABC's Lost lost to CBS' Without A Trace in total homes, but easily vanquished it among 18-to-49-year-olds.

The 7 p.m. competition went to CBS' Survivor: Micronesia in both measurements.

NBC had its largest audience with The Office, which nonetheless ran fourth at 8 p.m. in total homes while moving up to third in the 18-to-49 demo.