The one-two punch of the Super Bowl and “American Idol” has brought Fox within spitting distance of a February sweeps victory.
Though the numbers will shift during the final week, the network’s 67 percent increase over last year’s sweeps in the 18 to 49 demo for the first three weeks of sweeps gives Fox a near lock, according to data from Nielsen Media Research. For the first 21 days of the February sweeps period, Feb. 3-23, Fox enjoyed a 7.0 rating in adults 18 to 49. CBS remained in second place with 3.9 in the demo, down 9 percent from the first three weeks of the 2004 February sweeps. ABC followed with a 3.8, up 19 percent. NBC’s troubles continued with a 3.6 rating, down 27 percent. The WB had a 1.4, down 18 percent, and UPN received a 1.3, down 24 percent.
Fox also held a big lead in total viewers after three weeks of sweeps with 16.90 million, up 75 percent from the same period in 2004, to second-place CBS’s 12.63 million, down 13 percent.
Looking at the bigger picture, the 2004-05 season-to-date numbers through Feb. 23 reflected a much tighter race. Broadcast season-to-date totals remained essentially unchanged from the previous week, with Fox, ABC and CBS in close to a dead heat in the demo.
Fox and CBS have each pulled down a 4.0 for the season so far, followed closely by ABC, which had a 3.9. Fox’s rating is unchanged from the same period last year, but CBS is down 2 percent and ABC is up 15 percent thanks to the scripted twin superpowers of “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives.” NBC isn’t far behind with a 3.7, but that’s a 12 percent drop from last year. In another tie, The WB and UPN are locked at 1.4. But while UPN’s figure is unchanged from last year, The WB is down 7 percent.
Among individual shows in the third week of sweeps, “Idol” dominated every time period in which it aired-pulling a 9.9 on Monday and an 11.5 on both Tuesday and Wednesday. The freshman drama “House” benefited from the “Idol” lead-in, earning a 6.4.
ABC continued to win time periods with its popular trifecta of “Lost” (6.7), “Desperate Housewives” (11) and “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” (7.8). “Lost” gained from the previous week, when it faced “Idol” competition, but “Alias” continued to drop in the face of the reality competition, falling 13 percent from the previous week.
The Feb. 17 premiere of the 10th installment of CBS’s “Survivor” generated a 9.1, the highest-rated Thursday-night premiere for the veteran reality series since 2001. Following the “Survivor” lead-in, “CSI” enjoyed its highest rating in three months with a 10.9, while CBS’s “Without a Trace” posted a hearty 6.9.
The two-hour ABC “primetime>live” special “Michael Jackson’s Secret World With Martin Bashir” pulled a solid 3.0, but that was down sharply (73 percent) from Mr. Bashir’s 2003 documentary “Living With Michael Jackson.”
Among total viewers, the Feb. 17 episode of “CSI” was the top-rated show during the third week of sweeps, drawing 30.7 million viewers.