Fox, CBS bust out for sweeps

Nov 12, 2001  •  Post A Comment

While Fox and CBS have the most to crow about after the first week of November sweeps, they might not want to start dreaming of all those ad dollars just yet.
Three reasons: the World Series, the Emmy Awards and the Country Music Association Awards.
Those three telecasts all took place in the first week of November sweeps, something that normally doesn’t happen.
“The beginning of this sweeps is very atypical in its dynamics, in terms of Fox’s schedule rolling out within it, which is certainly more unusual than most any other sweeps period I’ve seen,” said John Rash, chief broadcast negotiator for Minneapolis-based Campbell Mithun. “The second half of the sweeps will be more telling, but it does appear that the audience has begun falling back to normal viewing patterns.”
Coming off the clinching Game 7 of the World Series posting a 23.5 rating/34 share in households and 14.6/32 in adults 18 to 49 on Nov. 4, Fox saw the first-ever November baseball series inflate the network to an unusual 39 percent margin of victory in adults 18 to 49 over NBC for the first week of sweeps (6.8/17 vs. 4.9/12).
Gail Berman, president of Fox Entertainment, nevertheless, exhibited a great deal of restraint in suggesting that Fox could carry that momentum through the sweeps.
“Just because we had a highly rated World Series, it shouldn’t be forgotten we are still launching Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday series into the November sweeps, which is almost unprecedented,” Ms. Berman said. “We are going against competing network shows that have had time to build, so we’re almost going to have to dynamite our way in to get into the game.”
That challenge was illustrated by “24’s” highly promoted debut at 9 p.m. (ET) last Tuesday. “24,” a critically received serialized drama, turned in a third-ranked 5.4/13 in adults 18 to 49 as it faced off against ABC’s two-hour season opener of “NYPD Blue” (6.2/15) and NBC’s comedy combo of “Frasier” (6.3/15) and “Scrubs” (5.1/12). While it was not the grand slam some advertisers and critics had hoped for, taking into account its heavy promo exposure during the World Series, “24” held a top-ranked 5.6/15 score in Fox’s core adults 18 to 34 demographic.
“It’s fair to say `24′ still overperformed vs. the time period’s history, but underdelivered based on its creative potential and the promotional push that it got,” Mr. Rash said. “A serialized [programming] form makes it less likely of adding significant numbers of viewers and its challenging time period may have Fox re-examining another night where it could be better sampled. They’re just going to have to redouble efforts to sample the show for its cable run on FX and hope it brings them in for tune-in on Fox.”
Also complicating the picture on Tuesday was CBS’s continued strength in households, demos and total viewers with its troika of strong dramas-“JAG,” “The Guardian” and “Judging Amy.” The all-drama lineup took the night in households (9.9/15) and total viewers (14.4 million). Bookending that night, CBS’s fortunes continued to rise on Monday and Wednesday nights, with “The 35th Annual CMA Awards” finishing in a virtual dead heat with NBC’s all-drama lineup in households (11.0/17 each) and in adults 18 to 49 (CBS’s 5.9/15 vs. NBC’s 6.1/16).
Although it was almost one-quarter off its adults 18 to 49 ratings from its spring 2001 run, the third incarnation known as “Survivor: Africa” (8.5/19) has still improved the 8 p.m. Thursday hour by more than 230 percent over the fourth quarter 2000 average, when “48 Hours” held the slot. Similarly, “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” (8.5/20) has elevated the 9 p.m. Thursday slot by more than 200 percent compared with “City of Angel’s” year-ago average.
“Sure, some of our gains could [be] attributed to having `Survivor’ and `CSI’ on Thursday that [we] didn’t have before in November,” said Kelly Kahl, CBS’s executive vice president of program planning and scheduling. “But we have seen core strengths coming from our returning Monday and Tuesday shows, in addition to our new shows like `The Guardian’ and `The Amazing Race’ improving upon our year-ago performance.”
Meanwhile, UPN continues to show growth, with its season-to-date and sweeps ratings posting double-digit increases in the key adults 18 to 49 and 18 to 34 demos. Thanks to “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Star Trek” prequel “Enterprise” building 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday young demo beachheads, respectively, UPN is up 16 percent in adults 18 to 49 (2.2/6) and 26 percent in adults 18 to 34 (2.4/7) six weeks into the new season.
Competing weblet The WB, which did not debut its Tuesday and Friday lineups until mid-October, is just beginning to find its legs, down 11 percent in adults 18 to 49 (1.7/4) and 13 percent in adults 18 to 34 (2.0/6) season to date.