CBS on top of the heap

The home stretch of the February sweeps is going pretty much the way the rest of the February sweeps went, with CBS galloping along far ahead of the pack.

The Eye network had no trouble coming home first for the Feb. 22-28 prime-time Nielsen week, with the highest-rated Grammy Awards in five years, plus the films “The Wizard of Oz,””Rio Diablo” and “Judgment Day,” all of which helped CBS win six of the week’s seven nights. That’s the best CBS has done without Olympics help since Dec. 24-30, 1984.

No network has won six nights in a week without an Olympics boost in more than four years, since NBC did it Jan. 16-22, 1989.

So through Monday of the current week, with just one night left to count in the Arbitron sweeps and two in the Nielsen, the standings are: for the Arbitron period, CBS, a 15.1 rating, 24 share (down 10% compared to its rating at this point a year ago); ABC, 13.0/20 (up 9%); NBC, 11.5/18 (down 13%); Fox Broadcasting Co., 8.4/13 (down 3%).

In Nielsen, it’s CBS, 15.2/24 (down 10%); ABC, 12.9/20 (up 8%); NBC, 11.5/18 (down 12%); Fox, 8.4/13 (down 3%).

When final results are announced today for the Arbitron period and tomorrow for the Nielsen race, CBS will have nailed down its third-straight February victory. The month is clearly a charmed one for CBS, since it hasn’t won a major sweep besides February since November 1984.

Though it thoroughly dominated this February, CBS’ monthlong average and margin of victory are down from last year, when the web enjoyed the powerful two-week boost of the Winter Olympics.

Still, the CBS comedown will be nothing compared to NBC’s, which is down dramatically despite not having to face anything nearly as tough this year as last year’s Winter Olympics. Also, NBC will finish last in a February sweep for the first time since 1984.

CBS easily won the sweep despite ABC claiming February’s highest single rating with the colossal “Michael Jackson Talks … To Oprah” spec, which scooped the best rating for any non-Super Bowl telecast since “The Day After” Nov. 20, 1983. That’s helped ABC to post the only sweeps-month rating gain this year compared to last.

CBS countered with the mini “Queen” (the highest rated multi-parter since “I Know My First Name is Steven” May 22-23, 1989), plus the Grammy Awards and the telefilms “Skylark” and “Family of Strangers” (the two highest-rated one-part vidpix on any network since “Sarah, Plain and Tall” on CBS, Feb. 3, 1991).

CBS’ victory in the Feb. 22-28 week is its 16th in the season’s 23 weeks to date and 11th in the last 12 weeks (the only exception being Super Bowl week, won by NBC). ABC took the other six weeks.

The net also led comfortably last week in the younger demos that sometimes prove to be its Achilles heel. The Feb. 22-28 adults 18-49 averages were: CBS, 8 .5/21; NBC, 7.5/18; ABC, 6.9/17; Fox, 5.3/13. CBS even won the week among adults 18-34, thanks in part to the Grammys.

On Monday of the current week CBS’ regular lineup easily prevailed, as part one of NBC’s “Bloodlines” looked anemic (10.7/17). NBC, which could have used a late-sweeps rally, instead got the lowest first-episode rating from a first-run regular-season multi-parter in at least 11 years.

The Feb. 22-28 CBS triumph was capped with another easy Sunday win. The Kenny Rogers vidpic “Rio Diablo” made CBS a winner in the Sunday film race for a fourth-straight week, soaring nationally over its metered-market results. Still, the competing “Journey to the Center of the Earth” dug up NBC’s top adults 18-49 Sunday-pic rating of the season and won the slot by 5 shares.

Fox’ special 10-11 p.m. programming, “Edna Time” and an extra “Married … With Children,” lured in the second-best Fox shares that hour since Sept. 13.

ABC’s tiring “America’s Funniest People” landed fourth in its half-hour behind the highest-rated “Roc” since last March 22.

Saturday went to CBS’ “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman,” which appears to be settling in at an impressive, slot-dominating level. Fox again won Saturday among adults 18-49.

Friday’s audiences were off to see “The Wizard of Oz,” which produced CBS’ second-highest Friday score of the season. “Oz” rating ballooned 7% from its last broadcast, Nov. 27, 1991 (12.3/21). Fox also enjoyed its highest-rated Friday ever and has set a season-to-date Friday high now four weeks in a row. Usual Friday winner ABC narrowly beat out NBC for second on the night, as NBC’s “Soap Opera Awards” won its two hour slot and lathered up NBC’s best Friday rating of the season. The kudocast did slip 7% below its ’92 rating (13.9/24) and was down 16% from last June’s “Daytime Emmys” (15.3/26).

An 8-9 p.m. showing of “Days of Our Lives” plunged 25% in rating below a similar showing last year.

ABC’s “Camp Wilder” headed for hiatus with its lowest share in 13 weeks, and the in-house sitcom is winless in all 21 of its tries in the 9:30 slot. Thanks to “The Wizard,””Dinosaurs” also left the “TGIF” lineup with the series’ lowest share in nine weeks, and with just five slot wins in 20 tries this season in the 9-9:30 half-hour.

To cap the frustrating night for ABC, “20/20” lost its hour for the second week in a row, after having gone 27 airings without a timeslot defeat.

Thursday went to NBC, which enjoyed its strongest Thursday rating since the Summer Olympics. The best news for the Peacock was that both “Wings” and “Seinfeld” improved on their lead-in ratings from the soon-to-be-shuttered “Cheers.””Wings” won the 8:30 half-hour, NBC’s first on a Thursday since Nov. 12 , and “Seinfeld” set a series-record rating and grabbed the week’s top adults 18 -49 rating.

Wednesday was Grammy night, and CBS walked off with all the honors — its highest Wednesday rating since the Winter Olympics last Feb. 19; its highest non-sports Wednesday rating since Feb. 8, 1989 (“Lonesome Dove”); and the highest Grammycast rating in five years (Daily Variety, Feb. 26).

The improvement from last year was a stunning 23%, the Grammy’s biggest year-to-year increase since 1984’s 42% surge. For the fifth year in a row, though, the Grammys couldn’t match the rating of ABC’s “American Music Awards.” Excluding 1988, when the “AMA” was interrupted by the State-of-the-Union address , the Grammys have not prevailed in that comparison since ’84.

By wrapping up this year’s Grammys in three hours, the kudocast gave the average rating a solid boost. Some recent Grammy shows have nearly equaled this year’s numbers from 8-11 p.m. but then plunged in rating with their post-11 p.m. spillover.

ABC’s counter-programming move, the news spec “For Men Only: Your Body, Your Life” did a higher share among women 18-34 than men 18-34.

Tuesday continues to fall to CBS, which has now won or tied for first on the night nine of the last 10 weeks. Strong telefilms, including last week’s “Judgment Day,” have played a key role.

ABC did manage an adults 18-49 Tuesday win last week, but by a single share. A key problem is “The Jackie Thomas Show,” which has lost more than one-third of its “Roseanne” lead-in rating for three consecutive airings.

NBC’s dying “Quantum Leap” fell to a five-week timeslot low.

Monday was a virtual dead heat, though CBS’ usual lineup edged out ABC and NBC’s strong vidpic competition (Daily Variety, Feb. 24). NBC inched ahead for the night among adults 18-49.

Each rating point represents an estimated 931,000 households, or 1% of the country’s TV homes. The share is the same sort of percentage, except that it’s measured against only the households watching TV during the slot involved.

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