Fox Sings Sweetly in Sweeps

NBC, down 20%, finished in second place

Powered by an unstoppable American Idol, Fox this season won two consecutive sweeps periods in the key adult 18-49 demo for the first time in its history and positioned itself to overtake NBC as the No. 1 network in the demo next season.

American Idol
is so strong that even NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker took a moment during his own conference call with reporters last week to acknowledge the show. "Fox has used the franchise to great benefits, and we've got to give them credit for that."

Last Wednesday's Idol
finale, in which favorite Ruben Studdard took home the title, attracted more than one-third of the television audience with nearly 40 million viewers in its last half-hour.

That was the second-biggest entertainment night in Fox's history, behind its other reality blockbuster during the February sweeps, Joe Millionaire. The one-hour Idol
finale, which aired at 9 p.m. ET, delivered a 16.7 rating/37 share in adults 18-49. It was preceded by a one-hour Idol
special. Together, they combined for a 14.8/35 in adults 18-49.

Going into last Wednesday, Fox was tied with NBC for May-sweeps leadership in the adults 18-49 demo, each with a 4.4 rating/13 share, but the massive Idol
audience pushed Fox over the top. It finished with a 4.7/14, up 27% year-to-year. NBC ended the May sweeps in second place with a 4.4/12, down 20% from May 2002, when it celebrated its 75th anniversary.

CBS took third in adults 18-49 in the sweeps; ABC was fourth. ABC also finished fourth in households and viewers.

For the season, NBC won in adults 18-49 with a 4.5 vs. Fox's 4.3. Fox TV Entertainment Group Chairman Sandy Grushow said, with the help of Idol, Fox could record its first season win next year.

CBS and ABC tied for third in adults 18-49 for the season, but CBS won all three in-season sweeps in viewers and households, the first time CBS has claimed the year-round crown in those demos in 15 years.

The WB is coming off perhaps the best year in its history, finishing the sweeps in third place in its key demo of females 12-34. The netlet continued to see growth throughout May, which "surprised" even The WB Entertainment President Jordan Levin.

UPN remained down 15%-17% for the May sweeps in all demos and looks forward to fall, when it enters a rebuilding year now that Buffy the Vampire Slayer has gone off the air.

The Prime Time Race
2002-03 Season May 2003 Sweeps
Adults 18-49 Total Viewers Adults 18-49 Total Viewers
Rank/Net Rtg. Chng vs. '01-'02 Rank/Net Mill. Chng vs '01-'02 Rank/Net Rtg. Chng vs. 5/02 Rank/Net Mill. Chng vs. 5/02
Source: Nielsen Media Research
1 NBC4.5-15%1 CBS12.55+2%1 Fox4.7+27%1 CBS12.92-1%
2 Fox4.3+8%2 NBC11.65-14%2 NBC4.4-20%2 NBC11.52-16%
3 CBS3.8-3%3 ABC9.97+3%3 CBS3.7-8%3 Fox10.82+33%
3 ABC3.8+6%4 Fox9.96+8%4 ABC3.3-3%4 ABC8.84-4%
5 WB1.8+13%5 WB4.10+8%5 WB1.9+6%5 WB4.18-2%
6 UPN1.5-17%6 UPN3.52-18%6 UPN1.5-17%6 UPN3.41-17%