ABC dusts rivals in sweeps win

ABC punctuated its November sweeps victory with a big Tuesday win last week, claiming its first major sweeps crown since February 1988 and its first November Arbitron triumph in 11 years.

A 90-minute Barbara Walters special and “Roseanne” helped ABC close out the national Nielsen tally corresponding with the Arbitron survey in resounding fashion, as the network finished the four-week period with a 13.4 rating, 22 share, up 6% in rating and 2 share over last year.

CBS finished the Arbitron window with a 12.7/20 (down 2% and one share); last year’s winner NBC yielded 3 share and 11% in terms of household ratings, although it edged CBS for second among the targeted demographic of adults 18-49 despite an 8% drop by that standard.

Fox Broadcasting Co. managed a solid performance, as reported (Daily Variety, Nov. 25), with an 8.2/13 average, up 5% despite its expansion to a new night. In seesaw-like style, the weblet enjoyed major surges on certain nights (particularly Friday and Saturday) that were nearly offset by losses Thursday and Sunday.

With a night to go, averages were the same for Nielsen, except for ABC, whose rating was a tenth higher. The Nielsen victory would mark ABC’s first by that measure for November since 1978 and only its fourth during the last 30 May, February or November sweeps periods, with two of the February wins (including the last, in ’88) due to the Winter Olympics.

The sweeps are significant because they’re used by affiliates to determine advertising rates. In that regard, ABC also dominated the half-hour leading into local news, thanks in part to its 10 p.m. news magazines (“PrimeTime Live” improved by 37% compared to last year’s sweeps) as well as the top-rated miniseries and theatrical movie of the sweeps–respectively, “The Jacksons: An American Dream” and “Pretty Woman.”

By contrast, NBC’s household ratings swoon can be traced in significant part to a decline vs. last year’s sweeps on two nights the network traditionally dominated –Thursday (down 18%) and Saturday (down 24%).

Fox, on the other hand, increased its Saturday average by 42% thanks to “Cops’ ” arresting performance, but fell 22% Thursday with the move of “Beverly Hills, 90210.”

The weblet also gave up another 6% on Sunday–the only night of the week when Fox programs more than two hours.

Fox research pointed out that “90210” was up 5% in terms of adults 18-49 in its new Wednesday time period and ranked first among females age 12-34 for that night–a key demographic for the web’s youth-oriented dramas. Still, Fox won’t have the luxury of moving an established show like “90210” when it launches its Tuesday lineup in January.

As reported, alternatives to the broadcast networks posted only minor gains during the sweeps period despite the 2% aggregate decline by the Big Three webs. Basic cable led the way with an 8% increase, independents (excluding Fox) dropped 7%, pay cable was flat and PBS gained 4%.

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