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ABC’s comeback kids

Web rises up to take sweeps silver medal

With all the numbers in, ABC has edged out NBC to claim a solid second in the November sweeps — a stunning accomplishment for a network written off for dead just six months ago.

Counting actual viewers, ABC squeaked by NBC to finish second among adults 18-49 and first in adults 18-34. It’s the first time in a decade ABC has won any sweeps period in the latter category.

In the adults 18-49 race, the Alphabet and Peacock webs will tie for second, each averaging a 4.0/10 — a half-rating point behind CBS (4.5/12), which thoroughly dominated the ratings frame (Daily Variety, Nov. 30).

Any way you slice it, November was a tough month for NBC:

  • Net had the biggest year-to-year aud decline (9%) of any network in adults 18-49.

  • The must-see TV legacy of Thursday night, an icon of NBC on a par with “The Tonight Show” or “Today,” came crashing down, with the Eye ending NBC’s demo juggernaut on the night.

  • The once-mighty original Wednesday “Law & Order” fell victim to “CSI: New York” in adults 18-49 and ABC’s upstart “Wife Swap” in adults 18-34.

  • The Peacock’s one big made-for of the month — the Robert Halmi-produced big-budget musical “A Christmas Carol” — was a Nielsen disaster.

By contrast, it was a great month to work at CBS or ABC.

Eye trumpeted its gains earlier in the week, and the final numbers for Tuesday and Wednesday only put an exclamation point on the net’s victory. Highlight for Wednesday was the 40th anniversary airing of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” which drew its best aud since 2000 and also managed to take a small bite out of ABC’s still-red hot (and timeslot winning) “Lost.”

Of some concern to CBS: “CSI: NY” scored its smallest margin of victory yet over “Law & Order,” just 13%, even though at 9 p.m., Eye’s “King of Queens” had its best numbers yet. That doesn’t augur well for CBS’ 9:30 laffer, “Center of the Universe,” which took a major dive from its “King” lead-in.

ABC’s execs are remaining discreet with regard to the net’s sweeps gains, not wanting to get into what one Alphabet insider called a “penis measuring contest” with the other webs.

Nonetheless, net’s PR operation did make note of a number of ABC accomplishments during the sweeps.

Key gains

Alphabet was the only net to post gains in both viewers and all key demos, scoring its best overall finish for a sweeps in two years. Net had four shows in the top 10 in adults 18-49, including two frosh hours (“Desperate Housewives” and “Lost”). It’s the first time since 1997 that any net has delivered two new top 10 hits so early in the season.

Elsewhere, the WB’s so-so season had one big bright spot during November: The net’s Tuesday duo of “Gilmore Girls” and “One Tree Hill” added a million viewers and grew 29% in adults 18-34 vs. November 2003.

Over at UPN, Wednesdays were big. “America’s Next Top Model” gave the net a 100% boost in the 8 p.m. timeslot vs. year-ago averages, while “Kevin Hill” bettered the slot by 36% in the same demo.

Final figures for the November 2004 sweeps frame:

  • Among adults 18-49: CBS, 4.5/12 (up 7%); ABC, 4.0/11 (up 8%); NBC, 4.0/10 (down 9%); Fox, 3.0/8 (down 3%); WB, 1.6/4 (flat); UPN, 1.5/4 (down 6%).

  • Among all viewers: CBS, 14.32 million (down 2%); NBC, 10.74 (down 6%); ABC, 10.14 (up 6%); Fox, 7.04 (down 2%); WB, 3.91 (down 6%); UPN, 3.7 (down 6%).

  • Among adults 18-34: ABC, 3.4/10 (up 13%); NBC, 3.4/10 (down 11%); CBS, 3.2/10 (up 14%); Fox, 3.1/9 (down 6%); WB, 1.7/5 (down 11%); UPN, 1.5/4 (down 17%).

Meanwhile, in other ratings news, Bravo can’t catch a break. Net’s new fashion competish reality skein, “Project Runway,” launched to just 354,000 viewers and a 0.2 rating in adults 25-54 and 18-49.

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