It's still early, but if the initial returns are any indication, ABC's counter-programming strategy of airing its popular Extreme Makeover realty series on Thursday at 9PM ET versus the hit lineups of CBS and NBC is showing signs of paying off.

According to the final Neilsen ratings for the week ending Oct. 5, 2003, the Thursday, October 2 episode of Extreme Makeover that aired opposite CBS' CSI and NBC's comedies (Will & Grace/Coupling) was up over the prior week by 1.4 million viewers (8.4 million vs. 7.0 million) and by 19% among Adults 18-49 (3.2/8 vs. 2.7/7) versus the prior week's broadcast. In fact, Extreme Makeover produced ABC's highest Adult 18-49 rating (3.2/8) in the hour in more than 7 months - 2/27/03.

Extreme Makeover also exhibited very strong viewer growth throughout its broadcast, especially as viewers tuned out from NBC's Coupling and turned over to ABC at 9:30PM. From its first half-hour to its second half-hour, Extreme Makeover surged by 2.6 million viewers (7.1 million to 9.7 million) and 46% among Adults 18-49 (2.6/7 to 3.8/9). At 9:30 p.m., NBC's "Coupling" lost 3.9 million viewers from its Will & Grace lead-in (12.9 million vs. 16.8 million).