NEW YORK -- Americans avoided television in historic levels over the past week.
CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox together had the smallest number of prime-time viewers last week in two decades of record-keeping, the Nielsen Co. said. Given the dominance of the big broadcasters before then, you'd probably have to go back to the early days of television to find such a collective shrug.
The first week of July tends to be among the slowest weeks of the year in television, anyway, with families more engaged in barbecues and fireworks. The problem was magnified this year because July Fourth came on Sunday, largely knocking out one of a typical week's biggest viewing nights.
Together, the four networks averaged 18.9 million viewers last week, Nielsen said.
During the season, ''American Idol'' alone usually gets a bigger audience than that.
NBC's ''America's Got Talent'' is emerging as the summer's most popular show, with its two original episodes last week the only programs to top 10 million in viewership, Nielsen said.
While the biggest broadcast networks are suffering, the Spanish-language Univision is stepping up. Among the closely-watched 18-to-49-year-old demographic, Univision finished second only to Fox in prime-time last week.
It's not World Cup soccer that is behind Univision's success, it's the prime-time telenovelas ''Soy tu Duena'' and ''Hasta Dinero Separe.'' Those soaps accounted for eight of the 20 most-watched programs among 18- to 49-year-old viewers of all languages last week, Nielsen said.
For the week, CBS averaged 5.6 million viewers in prime-time (3.7 rating, 7 share), NBC had 4.7 million (3.0, 6), ABC had 4.5 million (2.9, 6), Fox had 4.1 million (2.5, 5), ION Television had 1.1 million (0.7, 1) and the CW had 950,000 (0.6, 1).
Among the Spanish-language networks, Univision led with a 3.5 million prime-time average (1.8 rating, 3 share), Telemundo had 1 million (0.5, 1), TeleFutura had 800,000 (0.4, 1), Estrella had 190,000 and Azteca 150,000 (both 0.1, 0).