Fox, CBS Battle for Sweeps Crown

May 23, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Fox and CBS are neck-and-neck for first place in the May sweeps-and the 2004-05 television season-in the 18 to 49 demo. But with the “American Idol’ finale on Fox right around the corner, CBS may have a tough time fending off its rival.

After 21 days of May sweeps, which began April 28, CBS had the lead with a 4.3 average rating in the demo, with Fox on its heels with a 4.2, according to Nielsen Media Research. A week earlier Fox led CBS 4.3 to 4.0. But the season finales of “Survivor: Palau” and “Everybody Loves Raymond” helped CBS leapfrog Fox despite the continued strength of “American Idol.”

ABC is still in third for the sweeps with a 3.7; NBC is fourth with a 3.2. UPN (1.6) and The WB (1.5) are fighting for fifth.

The season-to-date 18-to-49 averages tell a similar story. For the 2004-05 season through the middle of last week, Fox (4.1, up 2 percent from last year) and CBS (4.0, up 3 percent) are in a tight race for the lead, followed by ABC (3.7, up 12 percent) with NBC in fourth place (3.5, down 19 percent. UPN and The WB are tied at 1.4 (UPN unchanged, The WB down 7 percent).

Year-to-year sweeps comparisons in adults 18 to 49 had UPN and ABC posting the biggest gains, with former leader NBC experiencing the greatest loss. UPN was up 33 percent over its three-week sweeps performance from last May. ABC was up 23 percent, CBS was up 13 percent and Fox was up 5 percent. The WB was down 12 percent and NBC was down 36 percent.

In addition to ABC’s rise and NBC’s fall, the sweeps numbers mark a significant change for The WB and UPN. Last year The WB dominated with a 1.7 average in the demo and UPN trailed with a 1.2; this year they’re running nearly even.

Among total viewers, CBS easily won the first three weeks of sweeps with 14 million viewers (up 13 percent from last year). Among the other major networks, results were closer: Fox was second with 9.9 million (up 8 percent), ABC was third with 9.6 million (up 19 percent) and NBC was fourth with 9.3 million (down 28 percent). Here too, UPN and The WB nearly tied. UPN averaged 3.6 million (up 21 percent) to The WB’s 3.5 million (down 8 percent).

Going night by night among viewers 18 to 49, CBS won Thursday, May 12, with the triple punch of the penultimate “Survivor: Palau” (7.1), “CSI” (9.1) and “Without a Trace” (5.9). The first two programs won their respective time periods, while “Trace” was behind NBC’s “ER” (8.0). The season finale of NBC’s “Joey” (3.6) ranked second in the 8 p.m. hour, but that was down from its season average (4.4).

CBS took Friday, May 13, with its “Elvis by the Presleys” special (3.1) and the season finale of “Number3s” (3.4). ABC’s “20/20” (3.3) also was a strong draw. The two-hour series finale of “Enterprise” on UPN posted its strongest 18 to 49 performance of the season (1.7).

Fox was No. 1 on Saturday, May 14, with a half-hour rerun of “Cops” (2.4) at 8:30 p.m. that managed to match a rerun of CBS’s one-hour “CSI” at 9 p.m. At 10 p.m., a “Law & Order” repeat on NBC (2.3) beat CBS’s “48 Hours Mystery” (2.2). ABC ranked third for the night with its NBA playoff game (1.8). NBC finished fourth.

Sunday, May 15, belonged once again to ABC and “Desperate Housewives” (11.0), which held off a challenge at 9 p.m. from the second half of the two-hour finale of CBS’s “Survivor: Palau” (7.8 overall). At 8 p.m., however, “Survivor” beat ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” (6.4). At 10 p.m. the “Survivor: Palau Reunion” special (6.5) was unable to match ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” (8.0).

Monday, May 16, was dominated by the series finale of CBS’s “Everybody Loves Raymond” (11.2). The one-hour “Raymond” lead-in special, “The Last Laugh” (7.5), also handily won its time period. The CBS momentum boosted “Two and Half Men” (8.1) after the “Raymond” deluge. On ABC, the three-hour “Bachelor” season finale (3.9) gave the network its best Monday night in three months.

On Tuesday, May 17, Fox won its first night of the week with “American Idol” (10.4), followed by the time-slot-winning “House” (7.0). CBS came in a distant second for the night with “The 40th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards” (3.8). ABC offered a string of sitcom season finales, with “My Wife and Kids” (2.0), “George Lopez” (2.5) and “According to Jim” (3.3), but all underperformed compared with their season averages. The debut of “Britney & Kevin: Chaotic” on UPN (1.9) ranked fifth in the 9 p.m. hour.

Wednesday, May 18, found Fox in the top spot once again with “American Idol” (11.8) and the one-hour season finale of “That ’70s Show” (4.3), but not without getting some heat from ABC’s “Lost” (6.7) and a two-hour “Alias” (3.5). With its “Idol” lead-in, the Fox sitcom “Stacked” (5.3) also performed well. The 90-minute season finale of The WB’s “Smallville” (2.5) drew its largest audience in six months.