‘Two and a Half Men’ Draws Record Viewers With Kutcher Debut

“Two and a Half Men” attracted 28.7 million viewers on CBS last night in its first episode featuring Ashton Kutcher in place of the fired Charlie Sheen.

The audience was the largest ever for the show, which drew a 10.7 rating in viewers ages 18 to 49, a group targeted by advertisers, New York-based CBS Corp. said today in an e-mail.

CBS is counting on Kutcher to help “Two and a Half Men” remain the most-watched comedy on television. The show is made by Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros., which fired Sheen at the end of last season after the actor made disparaging comments about the program’s creator, Chuck Lorre.

“We had a good opening night,” Leslie Moonves, CBS’s chief executive officer, said today at an investor conference sponsored by Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

The season premiere outdrew ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.” The New York Giants victory over the St. Louis Rams averaged 11.9 million viewers, according to an e-mailed statement from Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN.

In Canada, “Two and a Half Men” attracted 5 million viewers, or one in three people who had their sets turned on, according to a statement from CTV, the nation’s largest private broadcaster. It was Canada’s most-watched show in six years.

CBS, controlled by Chairman Sumner Redstone, fell 69 cents to $23.76 at 4:01 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares have risen 28 percent this year.

Viacom Inc.’s Comedy Central hosted a roast of Sheen last night that drew a total audience of 6.4 million, according to a statement from the network.

The large “Two and a Half Men” audience carried CBS to a win for the night in the 18-to-49-year-old demographic, according to preliminary Nielsen data supplied earlier by the networks.

Disney’s ABC, which aired “Dancing With the Stars,” was the most-watched network overall for the night, averaging 16.9 million viewers compared with CBS’s 15.7 million.

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