The CW has always been a fifth place network, coming in behind ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX. But now, on Friday nights, that’s no longer true.

In total viewers, the CW beat FOX on Friday night, led by the 200th episode of Smallville that earned the show’s best rating since moving to Friday nights last season. The lead-in also helped give Supernatural a huge boost.

At 8pm, Smallville had 3.18 million viewers, which actually allowed the show to finish in third place in the time slot, beating a repeat of House on FOX (2.6 million) and the series premiere of NBC’s makeover show School Pride (2.9 million). Even for a reality show on Friday night, School Pride is in serious trouble if that’s what it gets for the first episode.

At 9pm, the CW’s Supernatural had 2.81 million viewers, improving by more than 600,000 over the previous week. It also helped defeat a new episode of FOX’s The Good Guys, which had just 2.3 million.

For the CW, finishing in fourth place for the night is a huge win, especially since the network also gets a big boost in DVR viewership. While this is definitely the last season of Smallville, the strong performance by Supernatural may be just what the show needs to get another season, especially since some worried that moving to Fridays might hurt it.

The news is much more depressing for the more “major” networks. It’s never a good sign when the lowest-rated episode of TV on Friday nights is a new episode of a FOX comedy, nor is it good when NBC launches a new show to such dismal numbers.

In recent years CBS has dominated Friday nights, and the one primary result is that the rival networks have largely given up. NBC pushed back the premiere of School Pride and FOX delayed the premiere of Human Target. ABC abandoned Friday altogether, pushing its scheduled shows (Dana Delaney’s Body of Proof and the reality series Secret Millionaire) to mid-season.

With ABC, NBC and FOX running scared, the CW has taken the challenge and decided to put established shows with strong bases on Fridays, and it is working. The CW isn’t scared of CBS, and thanks to Smallville and Supernatural, the CW isn’t a fifth place network anymore. At least for one night.

(Image courtesy of the CW)

John Kubicek

Senior Writer, BuddyTV

John watches nearly every show on TV, but he specializes in sci-fi/fantasy like The Vampire DiariesSupernatural and True Blood. However, he can also be found writing about everything from Survivor and Glee to One Tree Hill and Smallville.