Tight Race in November Sweeps
By Anne Becker -- Broadcasting & Cable, 11/20/2005 7:00:00 PM
CBS rookies battle ABC sophomores for top spot in — CBS rookies battle ABC sophomores for top spot in 18-49Midway through sweeps, it's a two-horse race between CBS and ABC in the crucial 18-49 demo.
Neck and neck as sweeps' second week finished Nov. 16, CBS nosed ahead with a 4.5 rating/12 share in 18-49 during prime time to ABC's 4.3/11, according to Nielsen Media Research. CBS was nonetheless down about 6% in ratings from last year at this time, while ABC was up 8%.
With ABC's strong fall season, the closeness of the race surprised many in the industry.
“Did I think it would be a flat-footed tie? No,” says Horizon Media Senior VP/Director of Research Brad Adgate. “I'm a little surprised CBS caught up with ABC.”
The two are employing different plans of attack: ABC hung tough with strong sophomores Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy, while CBS found winners in rookies such as Close to Home; meanwhile, pillars such as the CSI trio and Survivor have dropped year-to-year.
CBS also got a boost from its two-part miniseries Category 7: The End of the World Nov. 6 and 13, as well as the Country Music Association Awards on Nov. 15, which averaged a whopping 17.7 million total viewers.
As for the rest of the field, NBC took third with a 3.3/9—about a 20% drop in ratings from last year.
NBC's weak Thursday-night performance has prompted speculation that the network will move its season champion My Name Is Earl in order to bolster the night. Earl has lifted newcomer comedy The Office on Tuesdays; NBC is hoping to nurture that program until audiences warm up to its quirky humor.
Fox came in fourth with a 3.1/8 in 18-49 (up 3% year-to-year), not faring well with live-action comedies such as Stacked but posting slight year-to-year sweeps gains with hit dramas Prison Break, Bones and House.
The WB and UPN brought up the rear—each averaging 1.5/4 in 18-49, and each down 6% from last year.
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