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Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Thurs., March 5) -- first day of the March "sweeps"

Yeah, that's right, the March sweeps.

That's because Feb. 17th originally was supposed to be D-Day for digital conversion until Congress pushed it back to June 12th. But Nielsen Media Research, anticipating widespread ratings meter unrest, already had put the February sweeps out of business for this year only.

So March is the month (March 5 to April Fool's Day to be exact), even though CBS stations in particular won't be paying all that much attention. That's because the network's annual "March Madness" march through the NCAA basketball tournament will be blotting out or delaying local newscasts on at least four weeknights.

That said, here are Thursday's D-FW news derby results on opening day of the less than hair-raising March sweeps.

CBS11 won at 10 p.m. in total viewers (265,720), with WFAA8 close behind (239,148 viewers). WFAA8 in turn nipped CBS11 among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

At 6 a.m., Fox4 picked as good a time as any to end NBC5's double-pronged, nine-weekday winning streak. The two stations tied for first place in total viewers (119,574 apiece), but Fox4 had the edge among 25-to-54-year-olds. WFAA8 climbed out of an unaccustomed last place for two days running, knocking CBS11 back into that spot.

WFAA8 ran the table at 6 p.m., despite a false fire alarm at Victory Park that turned its newscast into improv theater. NBC5 and WFAA8 tied for first place in total viewers at 5 p.m., with the Peacock tops among 25-to-54-year-olds.

The prime-time Nielsens again put Fox's American Idol on top at 7 p.m., with 338,793 total viewers. CBS then took over from 8 to 10 p.m., with both CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (391,937 viewers) and Eleventh Hour (345,436 viewers) drawing larger audiences than Idol.

Over on TNT, the Dallas Mavericks' run-out-of-gas road loss to the New Orleans Hornets drew 73,073 viewers. During halftime, analyst Charles Barkley again expressed his long-held disdain for the Mavs, who will go nowhere in the playoffs if they get there, he says.

It's hard to muster the enthusiasm to argue with him. By the way, Josh Howard is injured again.