Sweeps Shoot-Out Still Very Real
Reality shows have fueled ratings successes for networks
By Paige Albiniak -- Broadcasting & Cable, 2/16/2003 7:00:00 PM
The battle between Fox and NBC over adults 18-49 promises to get even more ferocious over the next two weeks, as some reality shows head into their finales and others launch.
As of last Thursday, the race remained extremely close between Fox and NBC for the adult 18-49 category, with Fox up by one-tenth of a ratings point and the two tied in share: 5.1 rating/13 share to 5.0/13.
CBS remains on top in viewers, with 12.9 million viewers compared with 12.6 million viewers tuning into NBC. Fox is third in that race with 11.04 million viewers, and ABC trails with 10.9 million.
The WB is continuing its winning performance in sweeps, beating CBS for fourth place in adults 18-34 by a slim margin. It has a good lead in persons 12-34, women 12-34 and women 18-34. The WB also is growing across the board, up 24% in adults 18-49, 26% in adults 18-34 and 19% in persons 12-34.
UPN continues to be down year-to-year, showing a 20% drop in adults 18-34, a 24% drop in persons 12-34, a 25% drop in women 12-34 and a 19% drop in men 12-34.
After last Wednesday, ABC had pulled ahead of CBS in adults 18-49, 4.1/11 to 3.6/9. CBS was hoping to improve its numbers in the key adult demographic with last Thursday night's premiere of Survivor: The Amazon. But, in the same time slot, ABC launched Are You Hot? The Search for America's Sexiest People, which had the potential to take a good share of the 18- to 49-year-olds not watching either Survivor or NBC's super-sized, super-starred, double run of Friends.
While last Thursday night promised a tough battle among the Big Three, this Thursday night promises to be even more competitive, with Fox airing the Michael Jackson-approved version of his interview with British journalist Martin Bashir from 8 to 10 p.m. ET. Even against Survivor, Friends and another Bachelor tell-all special from ABC, the special will give Fox a good shot at boosting its strong 18-49 numbers even more.
The two-hour finale of Fox's Joe Millionaire, on Monday, Feb. 17 at 8-10 p.m. is likely to score the highest numbers of any program in the sweeps, even though some viewers felt misled last week when Evan Marriott didn't make his final choice. Fox will try to extend the show's ratings success with a follow-up special, Joe Millionaire: The Aftermath, to air Monday, Feb. 24 at 9 p.m.
To try to counter Joe Millionaire's pull, ABC will repeat its Michael Jackson special. The move has angered NBC executives, who plan their own Dateline special on the King of Pop.
Fox also is extending its other reality franchise this Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET with special American Idol: The Best of the Worst in an effort to blunt what promises to be a highly rated finale for ABC's The Bachelorette.
Wednesday-night reality has definitely hurt NBC's critically adored The West Wing. Last week's Bachelorette tell-all special beat Aaron Sorkin's political drama by 74% among adults 18-49, 8.2/20 vs. 4.7/11. That gave ABC a head start on the finale of Celebrity Mole Hawaii, which scored a 5.9/15 in adults 18-49, ABC's best outing in the demo in that time slot in four years. Still, NBC's Law & Order remained the top 18-49 show of the hour, scoring a 6.6/17.
ABC is hoping to get a big 18-49 boost out of the launch of both Are You Hot? and I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here.
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