CBS, NBC Wrestling for Sweeps Top Spot

Feb 9, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Donald Trump, Mark Burnett and Jerry Bruckheimer were the three stars of the first night of sweeps last Thursday.
Mr. Trump and Mr. Burnett’s “The Apprentice” helped NBC shore up a Thursday lineup that was increasingly soft in the middle in adults 18 to 49. “Apprentice’s” 9.2/21 in adults 18 to 49, combined with first-place finishes by a supersize “Friends” (11.4/29) and “ER” (10.5/26), gave NBC a 10.2 /25 average for the night, a 20 percent margin over second-place CBS, according to Nielsen Media Research.
Mr. Burnett shared the love with CBS, with the eighth edition of the “Survivor” franchise going strong. “Survivor: All-Stars” finished second in adults 18 to 49 with an 8.9/22 and pulled 23.1 million viewers. While NBC improved with “The Apprentice,” it was no match for the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced juggernaut “CSI,” which matched its best 18 to 49 demo numbers this season with a first-place 10.5/24. “CSI” also won the total viewers race by almost 11 million viewers with 29.6 million viewers to “Apprentice’s” 18.6 million.
At 10 p.m., NBC’s “ER” easily beat CBS’s “Without a Trace” in adults 18 to 49 (10.5/26 vs. 6.2/15) but the race was closer in total viewers, with “ER” scoring a first-place 22.2 million to “Trace’s” 18.9 million. “Trace” scored its best-ever 18 to 49 numbers.
CBS was the clear victor in total viewers, averaging 23.8 million viewers-2.5 million more than NBC’s 21.3 million.
While the first night of sweeps was a two-network game, the race will get tighter next week once Fox’s “American Idol” makes its first sweeps appearances.
Brad Adgate, senior VP and corporate research director for Horizon Media, said February sweeps will be a competitive four-network race. “The [Big] 4 networks could be within a half of a rating point [of] each other among adults 18 to 49,” he said.
While Fox’s “American Idol” looks unstoppable-it has been averaging a 12.7 rating/32 share in adults 18-49, up 9 percent from last year, and 29.2 million total viewers, up 20 percent from last year-it might not be enough to win the demo.
“Last year they also had `Joe Millionaire,’ and this year they don’t,” Mr. Adgate said. “[Fox] is going to be very competitive, but there are some nights they aren’t putting any numbers up.”
John Rash, senior VP and director of broadcast negotiations, Campbell Mithun in Minneapolis, said Thursday and Friday are big concerns for Fox because none of the scripted shows the network has tried on those nights has paid off.
“Based on the early ratings-even before they have settled on a short list of key contestants-it would be very difficult to stop `Idol’-fueled Fox. But the quieter story is just how many regularly scheduled sitcoms and dramas continue to struggle in procuring an audience,” Mr. Rash said.
The networks started February sweeps on Thursday much closer to each other than they were at the same point last year. Through 19 weeks of the season last year, NBC had a five-tenths of a rating point lead over second-place ABC in adults 18-49. NBC still leads this year after 19 weeks, but that lead has been shaved to a tenth of a ratings point. Season-to-date NBC is averaging a 4.1 rating, with Fox and CBS nipping at its heels with 4.0 ratings.
CBS Extends Lead
CBS was winning total viewers by 1 million viewers after 19 weeks of the season last year, while this year it has a commanding 3 million-viewer lead going into sweeps.
The WB and UPN were neck and neck going into the sweeps this year, with The WB averaging a 1.5 rating in adults 18-49 and 3.8 million total viewers after 19 weeks, and UPN averaging a 1.4 rating and 3.7 million total viewers. This time last year, The WB was up by three-tenths of a rating point in adults 18-49 and 600,000 viewers.
UPN has been fueled by record-breaking ratings performances of “America’s Next Top Model,” which is averaging a 2.8 rating/7share in adults 18-49 and 6 million viewers, while The WB has seen ratings declines in its signature shows, including “Gilmore Girls,” “Smallville” and “7th Heaven.”