‘Idol’ Leads Fox to Sweeps Victory

May 22, 2006  •  Post A Comment

After several years of networks running neck and neck during the May sweeps ratings period, this year the “American Idol” talent show has propelled Fox to an easy first-place victory among the 18 to 49 age group. But the race for the season could still be a photo finish.

May sweeps kicked off April 27, and the double-punch of “Idol” and medical drama “House” has kept Fox in the lead. As of last Thursday Fox had garnered a 4.4 average rating, according to Nielsen Media Research.

CBS is running second at 3.7, helped by its trio of “CSI” cop shows and the “Survivor” reality-show finale. ABC holds third place with a 3.4, while NBC is fourth with a 3.2. The WB and UPN are tied at 1.2.

Compared with the same period last year among adults 18 to 49, the sweeps, which set local advertising rates for the rest of the year, reflect modest growth for Fox (up 5 percent), stagnation for NBC (flat) and losses for everybody else.

Though sweeps periods are not representative of a network’s average viewership, they are used to set local advertising rates for the rest of the year.

Among total viewers, CBS leads with 12.8 million, followed by Fox with 10.7 million. In this category, “Deal or No Deal” has helped NBC climb into third place with 9.4 million viewers, followed by ABC with 9.1. The WB and UPN are about tied, with the Warner Bros. network posting a 2.9 and Viacom-owned UPN delivering a 2.8.

Season to date through May 17 the race is tighter. Fox and ABC are tied with a 4.0 rating among viewers ages 18 to 49-yet a Fox victory is likely, given the “Idol” finale set for May 24. CBS is close behind with a 3.8, while NBC is a distant fourth with a 3.3. UPN and The WB are tied at 1.3.

Compared with the same period last year, the numbers most represent a position reversal between CBS and ABC, with ABC having its best season in five years. Last year CBS had 4.0 and ABC 3.7, respectively.

Going night by night among viewers 18 to 49, on Thursday, May 18, the season finale for “Will & Grace” scored an 8.4, with its clip show garnering a 5.4. “Grace” narrowly bested the finale for “CSI” (8.3). For Wednesday, May 17, “Idol” once again dominated, giving the night to Fox with a 10.7. The news was less sunny for most of the other Wednesday night fare. ABC’s “Lost” earned second place with a 6.1, falling 12 percent from the previous week and posting its lowest rating for the season.

In its final Wednesday performance before its finale today, “Alias” (1.8) matched its lowest delivery ever. The two-hour season finale of “The Amazing Race” (3.4) garnered its best Wednesday night rating but was down 50 percent from last year’s Tuesday finale. The “Law & Order” 16th-season finale (4.5) garnered its best rating since September.

Tuesday night, May 16, belonged to Fox, with “Idol” (11.0) and “House” (9.0) claiming their usual top spots, despite being down slightly from the week before. CBS enjoyed second place with the season finale of “NCIS” (3.8) and a back-to-back-episodes finale for “The Unit” (4.2). NBC’s “Scrubs” also concluded with back-to-back episodes, ending its fifth season with a 3.4, up from last year’s finale. NBC’s “Law & Order: SVU” (5.2) was another story, however, with its lowest-rated season finale in three years. ABC’s two-hour “Boston Legal” finale had an even worse performance, 2.6-matching the lowest-ever rating for the series.

‘Grey’s’ Matters

For Monday, May 15, a two-hour finale for ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” (9.9) led the night, up 77 percent over second-place “CSI: Miami” (5.6). The finale for Fox’s “Prison Break” (4.5) was the show’s best performance since November. CBS’s “New Adventures of Old Christine” posted a 4.0.

Sunday, May 14, was dominated by “Grey’s” (9.7) and “Desperate Housewives” (8.2). The series finale of NBC’s “The West Wing” (2.9) gave the show a season-high rating. CBS’s two-hour finale for “Survivor” (6.2) was the lowest-rated in the series’ history.

On Saturday, May 13, NASCAR drove Fox to a clear victory (2.9), easily besting ABC’s NBA playoffs (1.7). That left CBS and NBC averaging 1.9.

For Friday, May 12, viewers continued to say yes to “Deal or No Deal” (3.6), which helped NBC win the night with a

2.9 average. CBS got second place.