NBC's package of nostalgia TV (tied to the network's 75th anniversary) and its regular program lineup got the job done in the first half of the May sweeps. Through the first two weeks, the network is winning in households, total viewers, adults 18-49 and adults 25-54.
CBS is a solid No. 2 in all the aforementioned categories, an average 1 million viewers per night behind NBC.
NBC is up 9% from last year's May sweeps in households and up 13% in among adults 18 to 49—and holds a commanding 49% lead in that key demo.
CBS is down 12% in household and 14% in 18-49 demo. But that's in part because, last May, the Survivor: Outback
finale was included in the first half of the sweeps. But the Survivor: Marquesas
finale doesn't air until the second half of the sweeps. That leads CBS executives to conclude that the network will hang on to second place in the key measurements.
Despite the hearty competition from Survivor
on Thursdays, NBC has won the night, with Friends
driving the victories. The network has also dominated Wednesdays with West Wing
and Law & Order.
And on Sunday nights, which the network plans to revamp next season, NBC has stunted well in the sweeps. A three-hour 75th anniversary special on May 5 added two Nielsen household rating points to its season average for Sundays—that's a whopper.
And this Thursday, the Friends
season finale, Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) is about to have her daughter—and NBC is no doubt about to have one of its best-viewed half-hours of comedy since the last year of Seinfeld.
Against NBC, CBS's regular shows have also held up well in the sweeps, especially Monday nights, and last week, CSI
on Thursday had the biggest audience of any show in prime time. In the specials category, an Everybody Loves Raymond
6th anniversary special performed strongly. The CBS miniseries Living With the Dead
with Ted Danson also put up some winning numbers.
Then there's ABC. Its May numbers reflect its problems: down 18% in households, down 15% in total viewers, down 13% in adults 18-49.
But the network has shown some flashes of brilliance in the sweeps. It won last Tuesday in the key demos with a pair of specials: Laverne & Shirley: Together Again
and Favorite Stars: Then & Now. And NYPD Blue put up solid numbers that night as well. My Wife and Kids
and According to Jim
have also delivered solid demo ratings.
For ABC, the best better be yet to come: the highly promoted mega-miniseries Dinotopia
is the prehistoric epic that ABC needs to keep from near Nielsen extinction.
Fox is down 14% in both household and 18-49 ratings in the sweeps. Despite the declines, Fox is still ahead of ABC among adults 18 to 49. And it's No. 2 among adults 18-34 and tops with teens. The Simpsons, Malcolm in the Middle, That '70s Show
and Boston Public
all remain bright spots. Still to go in the sweeps: series finales for The X-Files
and Ally McBeal, another Celebrity Boxing, and the final two episodes of 24.
As for the weblets, both show growth in May, more so for The WB, which is up 13% among adults 18 to 49. Still, it's very competitive, with WB averaging a 1.8 rating in the demo while UPN's at a 1.7, up 6%. Both are averaging a 5 share in that demo. In total viewers, The WB is up 17% (the best growth story of all the networks) and averaging 4.2 million viewers a night vs. 4 million (up 8%) for UPN.