ABC's new season of Dancing with the Stars got off to very strong rating start last week, with Thursday night's special two-hour performance show ranking as the week's sixth most watched non-sports program and the show's new Friday night results show also winning its time period.

Dancing with the Stars 2's Thursday, January 5 premiere was ABC's most watched regular programming in the 8-10PM ET/PT time period in well over five years, averaging 17.5 million viewers and a 4.8/12 rating/share in Adults 18-49 demographic during the two-hour block.

Although Dancing with the Stars 2's premiere still placed second to CBS' CSI in the 9PM hour, the show easily won the Survivor-less 8PM hour, with the first hour of NBC's newly relaunched Thursday night comedy block proving to be no match for the ballroom dancing competition (NBC's comedy slate averaged 9.2 million viewers and a 4.3/11 rating/share in Adults 18-49 over the two-hour period.)

Despite stiffer in-season competition from the other networks, Dancing with the Stars 2's Thursday premiere numbers were well above the season debut numbers of the first Dancing edition that ABC aired during Summer 2005 (17.5 million and a 4.8/12 in Adults 18-49 versus 13.5 million and a 4.3/12 for Dancing with the Stars 1's June 1, 2005 premiere.)

Dancing with the Stars 2's Thursday performance broadcasts will certainly face tougher ratings competition once CBS' Survivor returns (Survivor: Panama will premiere February 2), however for now it appears to have instantly made ABC a Thursday night power. Dancing 2's premiere actually lapped ABC's previous series programming average in the 8-10PM time period, boosting ABC by 273% in viewers (17.5 million versus 6.4 million) and by 118% in Adults 18-49 (4.8/12 versus 2.2/6.) Combined with a 10PM ET/PT Primetime edition that investigated the West Virginia coal mine tragedy, Dancing 2's premiere gave ABC its best Thursday night non-sports ratings performance in nearly a year.

Overall, the two-hour premiere ranked twelfth in the week's football-dominated viewership rankings, trailing only CSI, Desperate Housewives, Without A Trace, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, 60 Minutes and six college and NFL football broadcasts.

Dancing with the Stars 2's Friday night half-hour results show also performed very well for the network, averaging 12.9 million viewers, a 3.0/9 rating/share in Adults 18-49, and a 2.0/7 rating/share in Adults 18-34 -- numbers that placed it first in the time period among all three measurements. The results show's 12.9 million viewers average represented ABC's largest non-sports audience in the time period in nearly five years, as well as its best Adults 18-49 non-sports number since November 2003.