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Fox’s clean sweep

ABC poised to sweep into 2nd in key demo

“American Idol”-fueled Fox and “Lost”-led ABC topped Wednesday’s primetime ratings action to close out the third week of the February sweep — and the nets are headed for a 1-2 finish for the month as well.

The Feb. 6 Super Bowl had long ago made it a foregone conclusion that Fox would win the February ratings book (Feb. 3-March 2), but ABC is set to claim the silver in the key adults 18-49 race.

ABC figures to top CBS on at least five of the sweep’s remaining seven nights — including Sunday with the Academy Awards — to pull ahead of the Eye, which led by a tick through three weeks.

According to Nielsen estimates for the first three weeks of the February sweep, Fox led in adults 18-49 with a 7.0 rating/18 share, followed by CBS (3.9/10), ABC (3.8/10) and NBC (3.6/9). (Fox is also ahead by a sizable margin if Super Bowl Sunday is taken out of the equation for everybody.)

What a difference a year makes for NBC, meanwhile, as big declines for its Thursday comedies and Monday reality staple “Fear Factor” have the net plummeting 27% year-to-year — from the penthouse to the outhouse.

ABC is the biggest leader of all the nets, rising 19% from a distant fourth place a year ago.

CBS figures to finish the month in second place behind Fox in adults 25-54 and total viewers, with the Eye holding an edge of half a ratings point on the Alphabet through three weeks in the 25-54 category (4.8 vs. 4.3).

It’s been a weak month for the weblets, meanwhile, with fifth-place WB down 18% vs. a year ago in 18-49 (1.4 vs. 1.7) and sixth-place UPN off 24% (1.3 vs. 1.7).

UPN could finish the month with a kick, though, as the last night of the sweep includes the finale of “Road to Stardom” and the start of the latest “America’s Next Top Model.”

Looking at Wednesday’s action, it was a great night for Fox’s “American Idol” at 9 (11.3/26 in 18-49, 26.66 million viewers overall) and ABC’s “Lost” at 8 (7.5/20 in 18-49, 19.49m).

The first Wednesday “Idol” results show of the season won its hour with ease over ABC’s second-place “Alias” (4.1/9 in 18-49, 9.74m), CBS comedies “King of Queens” (3.2/8, 9.48m) and “Yes, Dear” (3.0/7, 9.00m) and NBC’s “The West Wing” (2.8/7, 9.93m).

“Lost,” meanwhile, racked up its third best 18-49 score to date, doubling Fox’s combo of “That ’70s Show” (3.8/10 in 18-49, 8.27m) and “The Simple Life 3” (3.6/9, 8.17m). Also in the hour, CBS’ “60 Minutes” was on the high end at 8 (2.3/6 in 18-49, 9.44m), and UPN’s “The Road to Stardom With Missy Elliot” hit series highs in women 18-34 (2.7/7).

The 10 o’clock battle was a tight one, with CBS’ “CSI: NY” topping NBC’s “Law & Order” in 18-49 (4.8/12 vs. 4.4/11) and the shows tying in 25-54 (5.7/13). “Law” led narrowly in total viewers (14.54m vs. 14.31m).

Peacock crime hour was down 17% year-to-year in 18-49, while “CSI: NY” nearly doubled CBS’ perf in the hour a year ago with “48 Hours” (2.5/7).

Fox won the night (7.5/18 in 18-49, 17.44m), followed by ABC (5.1/13, 12.56m) and CBS (3.4/8, 10.99m).

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