NBC takes week's A18-49 demo crown but cable rises

CBS and UPN did their part by improving upon their year-ago showings, but the last complete week of the November sweep was a downer overall for the broadcast nets.

Sweep months are the times when the Big Six command their largest slice of the pie in key demos, but cable (both pay and ad-supported) continues to chip away — and has nearly leveled the playing field.

According to Nielsen, the broadcasters combined for a 52 share in adults 18-49 during the week of Nov. 17-23, down from last year’s 57. They were also down 5 or 6 shares in other key categories such as adults 25-54 and adults 18-34.

It’s not that cable necessarily had a great week — its six highest-rated nets combined for a 12 share of the 18-49 aud — but the sheer volume of choices out there, combined with lackluster perfs from nets like Fox and the WB, spelled erosion for broadcasters.

For the week, NBC prevailed in adults 18-49 (4.5/12) over ABC and CBS (tied for second at 4.1/11), while Fox was well behind the pack (3.0/8) — as close to fifth-place UPN (1.9/5) as to the second-place nets.

In other categories, CBS nosed out NBC for the week’s 25-54 lead (5.2/13) and dominated once again in total viewers, averaging 14.2 million during an average minute of primetime. NBC was also on top in 18-34 (3.9/12), while Fox still had a grip on the 12-34 crowd (3.5/11).

Through Monday of this week — and two nights left to be counted — NBC led the November sweep in 18-49 with a 4.4 rating/12 share (down 14% from last year), followed by CBS (4.2/11, up 11%), ABC (3.7/10, down 10%), Fox (3.1/8, down 14%) and UPN (1.7/4, down 6%), tied with the WB (1.7/4, down 19%).

These ratings should change very little when Nielsen issues final numbers on Monday, but NBC has an outside shot at nabbing a 4.5, and ABC a 3.8. Also, CBS could dip to a 4.1.

The Eye web is on top in both adults 25-54 (5.3/13, up 6%) and total viewers (14.61 million, up 11%).

Last week, CBS was up slightly vs. the same frame a year ago thanks to a strong Sunday with an NFL overrun, the most-watched edition of “60 Minutes” (17.96 million) since January 2002 and the season’s most-watched movie, “Fallen Angel” (4.5/11 in 18-49, 17.39m).

Also of note was the best perf since its series premiere for Monday comedy “Two and a Half Men” (5.7/13, 15.98m), which retained nearly all of its “Everybody Loves Raymond” lead-in.

For UPN, contributing to its highest-rated week in 18 months was Friday’s “Vibe Awards” (1.8/6 in 18-49, 4.27m), which matched the net’s best results on the night in adults 18-49 and 18-34 (2.1/8) — more than double UPN’s Friday average this season (0.9/3).

Also, Tuesday’s “All of Us,” “Eve” and “Rock Me Baby” hit series-high ratings on Tuesday (Daily Variety, Nov. 20) and Wednesday’s “Star Trek: Enterprise” (2.1/6 in 18-49, 4.59m) beamed up its best results since February.

This was the first week since last December that UPN had moved ahead of the WB in adults 18-34 during the season (2.1/6 to 2.0/6).

NBC claimed the week’s top program in 18-49 — and the highest rating for a telecast on any net since premiere week — with Thursday’s “ER” (11.5/29 in 18-49, 23.41m).

Elsewhere, net’s “Will & Grace” logged its best 18-49 score since premiere week (8.5/21) and “Third Watch” hit a new high on Friday (3.6/11 in 18-49).

ABC had its best week since the Oscars in March, propelled by the two-hour finale of the fifth edition of “The Bachelor” (Daily Variety, Nov. 21) and a much-improved Thursday with a “Bachelor” spec and a two-hour Peter Jennings report on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Also, “8 Simple Rules” (4.2/12 in 18-49, 10.99m) and “I’m With Her” (3.9/10, 8.89m) led their Tuesday slots in 18-49, and Friday’s TGIF lineup again led from 8 to 10 in key demos.

Fox didn’t have much to talk about, although “The OC” delivered its highest ratings yet in the 12-34 demo (5.7/16) and Sunday’s “Malcolm in the Middle” notched season highs (4.5/10 in 18-49, 10.22m).

Things were pretty quiet at the WB, except for Sunday’s “Charmed” (2.5/6 in 18-49, 6.03m), which was second for its hour in 18-34. And on Monday, “Everwood” (2.2/5 in 18-49, 6.32m) hit some season highs.

ESPN easily ranked No. 1 in primetime among the ad-supported cable nets in both adults 18-49 (1.1/3) and total viewers (2.86m), as the Alabama-Auburn college football game joined the usual Sunday night NFL game among the top 10 cable shows of the week.

Bravo’s “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” was strong in its return, finishing as the top non-sports program of the week in all key adult demos.

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On Monday of this week, NBC edged CBS for the 18-49 lead while the Eye led in 25-54 and total viewers.

Peacock was led by the best numbers since February for “Fear Factor” (6.3/16 in 18-49, 15.00m), with its first all-family edition. “CSI: Miami” (6.7/17 in 18-49, 19.73m) paced CBS and was the top 18-49 draw of the night, while lead-in comedy “Two and a Half Men” (5.6/13 in 18-49, 17.14m) posted best-since-preem scores.

In latenight, CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman,” with Paul Newman and Clay Aiken as guest, scored a rare victory in the metered-market overnights over NBC’s “Tonight Show With Jay Leno” (5.3/12 to 4.7/11), although “Tonight” still could prevail in nationals.

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