Fox Rides High in Sweep, NBC Surprises

Feb 24, 2008  •  Post A Comment

While most networks are struggling during this year’s February sweep because of a writers strike-related lack of original programming, Fox is riding high thanks to the Super Bowl and “American Idol.” The surprise? NBC’s sweep surge.
NBC is close to matching its number from last year, bucking television prognosticators who thought the network was destined to be most hurt by the strike.
As of day 22 of the February sweep, Fox leads the way, up 50% from last year’s sweep numbers in the 18-49 demographic (5.0 vs. 7.5). Fox also leads in total households and total viewership.
2008’s Super Bowl was the most-watched Super Bowl ever, and the second most-watched show ever (just narrowly losing out to the final episode of “M*A*S*H”), which was a fine buoy for Fox.
Knock out the Super Bowl from Fox’s total and the network’s audience is still slightly up from last year, thanks to “American Idol,” “Moment of Truth” and some original episodes of “House” stored up.
The biggest surprise, though, is NBC. During TelevisionWeek’s semi-annual critics poll, multiple critics pointed to the Peacock as the network headed for the biggest fall due to the strike.
NBC “had started to show some tenuous signs of recovery, but those will be wiped away quickly. The emergency January-February lineup is too one-note and will drive viewers away,” one critic said.
“NBC’s future is most dire, though. How much ‘Deal or No Deal’ can one viewer watch?” asked another critic.
Compared with reruns, the answer, surprisingly, is “a lot.”
NBC viewership fell only 10% from last year’s ratings in the 18-49 demo (2.9 vs. 2.6), making it second in that category during sweeps. It was fourth last year.
The Peacock has subbed out its scripted reruns like “The Office” and “30 Rock” for huge blocks of reality fare, including the brand-new “American Gladiators,” which posted big numbers during its premiere in January. It was the biggest NBC premiere since “Heroes.”
Also among the substitutes was “Deal or No Deal,” which is like glue for the NBC lineup, appearing almost every other day on the schedule and usually placing first or second in the time periods where it airs.
ABC is third in the 18-49 demo, currently (2.5), down 31% from last year. ABC does have its ace in the hole, “Lost,” plus a smattering of other new scripted fare (“Eli Stone,” “Cashmere Mafia”).
Removing new episodes of schedule lynchpins such as “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Desperate Housewives” did put a solid dent into ABC’s score.
Fourth-place CBS is reeling compared with last year, when it had the Super Bowl. The network is way down (58%) from last year (5.5 vs. 2.3).
CBS powerhouses like “CSI” and “Two and a Half Men” were in repeats, and this year’s Grammys hit a record ratings low, making things difficult for the network.
The CW takes fifth right now in the sweeps numbers, down 31% (from 1.3 to a 0.9.) Interestingly, however, The CW has more original episodes in its arsenal than most: “Everybody Hates Chris” had a complete 22-episode season finished before the strike, while “Friday Night Smackdown!” airs new every week.
Looking forward, will viewers stick with unscripted programming once audience favorites start returning to the schedule?
Come May, the sweeps horse race, used by stations and cable networks to help negotiate advertising rates, could have a completely different set of rankings, giving a clearer picture of who’s leading after the strike-embattled winter.
Correction: Super Bowl stats corrected in fourth graf. (Feb. 26, 12:17 p.m.)

One Comment

  1. Hey how are you doing? I just wanted to stop by and say that it’s been a pleasure reading your blog. I have bookmarked your website so that I can come back & read more in the future as well. plz do keep up the quality writing

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