NBC, as expected, officially secured its eighth consecutive sweeps win in the November book that ended Nov. 27, and CBS snared its third consecutive second-place finish by nosing out ABC.

The final household tally for the four weeks showed NBC averaging an 11.3 rating/18 share to CBS’s 10.2/17, ABC’s 10.1/16 and Fox’s 7.7/12. It marked a 6% dip in NBC’s overall viewership from last November (when it scored a 12.0/20).

In fact, only CBS and Fox showed ratings improvement year-to-year in overall homes, each rising a modest 3%. Fox was the only network to show gains in any of the three prime demographic groups, climbing 8% in 18-34; 4% in 18-49, and 6% in 25-54 while the competition slipped.

ABC took the biggest hit in households and demos, diving 11% in homes, 15% in 18-34 and 16% in 18-49 and 25-54.

Disney’s Alphabet web barely outlasted Fox in 18-49: 5.9 to 5.6. Fox claimed nearly a dead heat with ABC in common-time competition and a No. 1 finish in 18-34 when measured head-to-head with ABC, NBC and CBS.

Sour November

November wound up painting a dismal ratings picture for the Big Three as a whole. Cable erosion claimed still more of the viewer pie, with NBC, CBS and ABC combining for a 31.6 rating (down from 33.2 last November) and a 53 share (compared with 52 in Nov. ’95).

That contrasts with a jump in basic cable viewership from 16.3/26 to 17.9/29 – a 1.6 point improvement, the precise number that the three broadcasters plunged.

The network drop in teen viewership was even more dramatic, with NBC losing 28% of its adolescent audience, ABC 12%, Fox 11% and even CBS – not exactly a teen hotbed to begin with – slipping 4%.

But there was no doom and gloom Monday from CBS Entertainment prexy Leslie Moonves, who reveled in his net’s second-place showing in sweeps; in a teleconference with reporters, he emphasized that CBS finished closer to NBC than it had for any sweeps since February ’95.

“We’ve cut our deficit behind NBC in half from a year ago, and I have to be pleased about that,” Moonves said. “I’m especially pleased in that, when we talked about improvement for the year, we expected most of it to come post-football season. The fact that we’re doing it before the end of football pleases us very much.”

CBS’ ratings tourniquet

While Moonves wasn’t ready to make predictions on when he expects CBS to pull even with and pass NBC, if ever, Moonves was happy that CBS has “stopped the bleeding.”

CBS was also hyping some season-to-date numbers Monday that show the web as the only one whose new series have shown time-period improvement over last year, and the only Big Three outlet whose new series have shown ratings improvement (up 5%, while ABC’s are down 10% and NBC’s 8%).

Moonves didn’t point out that Fox tied CBS in the Eye web’s target demo of 25-54, with each scoring 5.5. In fact, CBS was down year-to-year in every key demo, yet managed a modest household ratings increase.

Moonves did, however, acknowledge on Monday the impact of erosion, exemplified by the fact that the season’s top-rated freshman drama (CBS’ “Early Edition”) is barely registering ratings in the double-digits for the season with a 10.1.

“There’s no question we’re all concerned that cable is taking some viewers from us,” Moonves said. “It’s a significant contributor to the erosion.

“Maybe what we need to do is eliminate sweeps so we can better spread our bigger events throughout the year, and do away with the ‘Gone Fishing’ sign we put out at the end of May that signals everyone to go over to cable. We need to pay a bit more attention to that.”

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