NBC and CBS maintain comfortable ratings advantages at the halfway point of May sweeps, with each net fortifying its standing with strong Wednesday perfs.
According to Nielsen, winning scores from dramas “The West Wing” and “Law & Order” have enabled the Peacock net to take a 12% advantage in adults 18-49 into the final two weeks over second-place CBS and a 14% edge on No. 3 Fox. With its two remaining Thursdays expected to rank as the top-rated nights of the sweep’s final 14 days, NBC appears a lock to capture its seventh consecutive May sweep in the demo.
The Eye improved its ranking as the month’s most-watched net by notching strong second-place finishes Wednesday with the 36th annual Academy of Country Music Awards (13.86 million, 4.4/12 in adults 18-49). CBS — the net showing the biggest gains this month across the board — leads second-place NBC by more than 2 million viewers and appears a cinch to win the month in overall audience for the first time in at least 15 years.
A down-to-the-wire battle is also emerging for the seasonal crown in total viewers, with CBS pulling to within 5,000 viewers of front-runner ABC (12,598,500 vs. 12,593,500). The Eye could move into the lead this weekend for the first time since early October.
The last two weeks of the sweep (and season) will also decide the runner-up to NBC for the season in adults 18-49. ABC and Fox are tied at 4.5/12 (behind NBC’s 4.7/13) and may find themselves deadlocked at the finish line as well.
It’s also been a pretty strong sweep for Fox and the WB, which aside from “Survivor”-fueled CBS are the only nets to improve year-to-year in target demos.
Through 14 nights of the May sweep, the adults 18-49 standings are NBC, 4.8 rating/14 share (down 4% in rating vs. a year ago); CBS, 4.3/12 (up 30%); Fox, 4.2/12 (up 5%); ABC, 3.9/11 (down 32%); UPN, 1.6/5 (down 6%), tied with the WB, 1.6/5 (up 7%).
In total viewers: CBS, 13.76 million (up 21% vs. a year ago); NBC, 11.63m (down 1%); ABC, 10.61m (down 34%); Fox, 8.62m (up 4%); UPN, 3.66 (down 8%); and the WB, 3.62m (up 5%).
In other races, Fox has the edge on NBC in adults 18-34 (4.3/14 vs. 4.1/13) as it attempts to win a May sweep by this measure for the first time ever. Net has already locked up the teens crown, taking a 6-share advantage over the WB after two weeks.
The Peacock leads the way in adults 25-54 (5.6/15), followed most closely by CBS (5.3/14).
Wednesday’s action was led by NBC’s powerhouse drama combo of “West Wing” (17.01m, 6.7/17 in A18-49) and “Law & Order” (18.82m, 7.8/20), which won each half-hour by all key measures from 9-11 and delivered their best numbers since Feb. 28. Leadoff drama “Ed,” though, approached firstrun season lows (9.44m, 3.9/12 in A18-49).
NBC won the night by 5 shares in adults 18-49 and by 1.2 million viewers over second-place CBS and was up vs. the same night a year ago by 24% and 11%, respectively.
The three-hour country music kudocast was down 2% in total viewers vs. a year ago (13.86m vs. 14.13m) but up a tick in adults 18-49 (to 4.4/12) and up 11% in adults 18-34 (to 3.9/11). It’s the smallest gathering ever for the ACMs, but the show did boost CBS by at least 30% over its Wednesday seasonal averages, including a rare victory on the night in women 18-34 (5.5/15).
ABC, which continues to show big year-to-year losses due primarily to the decline of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” placed third Wednesday in adults 18-49 and total viewers. Rookie laffer “My Wife and Kids” won its half-hour in the demo (3.9/13), while a celeb edition of “Millionaire” (14.20m, 5.1/13 in A18-49) placed a solid second at 10 to NBC’s “Law & Order” and gave the Alphabet its strongest showing in the hour since Nov. 29 (“David Blaine: Frozen in Time”).
‘Boot Camp’ trips
Fox had one of its weakest Wednesdays in a while as “Boot Camp” dipped another 17% in adults 18-49 to a lowest-yet performance (3.9/10) and its opening-hour comedies fell 3 shares out of the 18-49 lead. Overall (7.0 million, 3.5/10 in A18-49), it was Fox’s worst Wednesday with regular programming since December.
The WB had a strong night in its target demos, with “Dawson’s Creek” topping the opening hour in women 18-34 (5.1/16) and female teens (5.0/19) and “Felicity” tying Fox’s “Boot Camp” and NBC’s “West Wing” in females 12-34 (4.4/12).
UPN’s “Star Trek Voyager,” two weeks away from its series finale, grabbed its best 18-49 score in nine weeks (2.8/7).