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Call 'Em the May 'Squeaks'

4/20/2003 08:00:00 PM Eastern

Heading into the home stretch, the race to claim victory in the key adults 18-49 demographic is much tighter this year than last, when NBC dominated the season with strong scripted programming and the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Photo Finish?
Going into the May sweeps, how the 18-49 Nielsen race compares with the same period last year
'02-'03 Rank '01-'02 Rank
Ratings are for 9/23/02-04/13/03 vs. 9/24/01-4/14/02
Source: Nielsen Media Research
NBC 4.5/12 1 5.3/14 1
Fox 4.2/11 2 4.1/11 2
ABC 3.9/10 3 3.6/10 4
CBS 3.9/10 3 3.9/10 3
The WB 1.8/5 4 1.6/4 6
UPN 1.5/4 5 1.9/5 5

Entering May sweeps, Fox is closing in on NBC, with a 4.2 rating/11 share season-to-date average in adults 18-49 versus NBC's 4.5/12. The race for third place is even tighter, with CBS and ABC tied for third at 3.9/10 each. Last year at this time, NBC had a commanding lead with a 5.3/14; the rest, comparatively speaking, were in another county.

This year, Fox has the lead in adults 18-34 with a 4.3/13, compared with NBC's 3.9/12. Last year, NBC had the lead in the young demo, with a 4.4/13 to Fox's 4.1/12.

Without the Olympics, NBC is down in all demos season-to-date, dropping 14% in viewers and 15% in adults 18-49. CBS, by comparison, is up 3% in viewers, flat in adults 18-49 and second to NBC in CBS's key demo, adults 25-54. Fox also is up across the board: 4% in viewers, 5% in adults 18-34 and 2% in adults 18-49.

The WB is up 10% in viewers, 11% in persons 12-34 and 11% in adults 18-34. UPN is down all around: 18% in viewers, 20% in persons 12-34 and 16% in adults 18-34.

So May is, for a variety of reasons, a battleground where the objectives are either to regain lost ground or to actually topple the competition.

NBC hopes to fend off Fox with big season finales of Friends, Will & Grace, ER
and Law & Order, all laden with big-name guest stars.

But Fox's three-hour finale of American Idol
is likely to give the network a good shot at winning May and will make the race for this season's 18-49 crown very close. If the May 19 finale of Fox's next reality show, Mr. Personality, does well, Fox could be unstoppable. Or maybe not: Fox's latest reality program, Married by America, hasn't been the ratings powerhouse that Joe Millionaire
was.

CBS is airing controversial miniseries Hitler: The Rise of Evil
on May 18 and 20. The finale of Survivor: The Amazon
on May 11 and the season finale of Everybody Loves Raymond
on May 19 also promise to bring in big audiences.

ABC, which is limping into May after a better-than-expected start, has Julie Andrews in a special movie, Eloise at the Plaza, on April 27. Season finales expected to do well for ABC are Alias's two-hour closer on May 4 and The Bachelor's third rendition on May 18.

The WB hopes to hit with the series finale of Dawson's Creek on May 14, the two-hour season finale of Charmed
on May 11, the 90-minute season finale of The Jamie Kennedy Experiment on May 1, and Rory Gilmore's graduation from high school on the Gilmore Girls on May 20.

UPN also has several big events coming in May, largest among them the series finale of cult fave Buffy the Vampire Slayer
on May 20 followed by the premiere of reality show America's Next Top Model.

 

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