The Daytime Emmy telecast pushed ABC ahead of CBS on the final night of the May sweeps — ending the only suspense left in the NBC/”Cheers”-dominated 28-day ratings survey.

As a result CBS has to swallow its first third-place finish in a major November, February or May sweep since November 1990 — before the network began its two-year streak atop the prime time ratings — and ABC has recorded its only second-place May results since 1986. (ABC and CBS finished tied for second in Arbitron, which begins and ends a day earlier.)

The Daytime Emmycast delivered a stellar 16.4 rating, 27 share, up 7% from last year’s 15.3/26 on NBC and 21% better than its first prime time airing two years ago on CBS. In the process, the Emmy show trounced NBC’s third torn-from-the-headlines movie, “Without Warning: Terror in the Towers” (9.3/16), and dumped CBS’ “48 Hours” to its worst numbers since it faced ABC’s Michael Jackson-Oprah special on Feb. 10.

That left ABC with an 11.4/20 for the sweeps, down 2% compared to May ’92 but good enough to top CBS’ 11.2/19, representing a 6% decline. NBC finished with a 12.4/21 in Nielsen, up 3%, while Fox Broadcasting Co. (7.4/13) dropped 4%. The three-network total fell a mere 1%, and the four-service tally was actually up 2 % when figuring in that Fox programmed four additional hours this year.

NBC, which has won nine consecutive May surveys in households, also enjoyed solid wins in key demographics. Among adults 18-49, the average ratings were, NBC, 7.6; ABC, 6.6; CBS, 5.4; and Fox, 5.1.

With NBC winning May, 1992-93 marks the first time in more than 20 years and perhaps ever that each of the networks has won one of the major sweeps in households during a single season.

Fox actually finished just out of second place among its core audience of adults 18-34, where averages were NBC, 7.2; ABC, 6.1; Fox, 6.0; and CBS, 4.4. CBS fared significantly better in the older 25-54 demographic, with a 6.1 average, well ahead of Fox (4.6) while trailing NBC (8.1) and ABC (7.1).

In the 10:30-11 p.m. lead-in into late affiliate newscasts, averages, with adults 18-49 in parenthesis, were NBC, 13.8 (8.6); ABC, 12.0 (7.1); and CBS, 11. 5 (6.1).

ABC research estimates that the three networks would have finished within a few tenths of each other excluding May 20, when NBC broadcast “Cheers,” with NBC and ABC roughly tying in both households and the adult 18-49 demo. All three webs bumped at least 28% of their schedule to make room for specials and stunt programming.

The Daytime Emmys delivered 30-plus shares in all female demographics and again significantly outdrew the previous year’s Primetime Emmy show on Fox, which posted a 13.9/24. The awards, which aired last year on June 23, were moved up specifically to coincide with the sweeps.

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