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Nets neck-and-neck

CBS and Fox remain in tight race for sweeps

Riding balanced lineups that performed well throughout the week, Fox and CBS split primetime ratings honors again last week and remain in a tight battle for the May sweep’s demo crown.

ABC used a boffo Sunday to deliver the largest year-to-year gains of any network, while NBC again placed fourth and showed huge dropoffs.

According to Nielsen estimates for the week of May 2-8, Fox prevailed in adults 18-49 with a 4.2 rating/12 share, followed by CBS (3.9/11), ABC (3.7/10) and NBC (3.4/10). It’s the fourth straight week Fox has held at least a share of first place in the key demo, helping it hold off CBS for the season’s leadership position.

With less than three weeks remaining in the 2004-05 campaign, Fox (4.05 rating in 18-49) is poised to edge out CBS (3.98 rating) 4.1 to 4.0. ABC should finish at 3.8, NBC at 3.6.

CBS will be able to claim No. 1 status for the season in both adults 25-54 and total viewers, two categories it won again last week.

As for the May sweep, the 18-49 race was snug through Monday of the current week as CBS (3.9/11) narrowly led Fox (3.8/11) and ABC (3.7/11). The Eye again has it in both adults 25-54 and total viewers.

‘Deperate’ times

Looking at the first full week of May, ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” reigned as the top program in both 18-49 (11.4/27) and 25-54 (12.4/27), with CBS’ “CSI” the most-watched show overall (26.65 million viewers).

Leading the way for Fox was “American Idol,” whose season averages impressively are up 2% in 18-49 and 4% in total viewers vs. a year ago.

Wednesday’s results show edition set the pace last week (10.8/27 in 18-49, 25.39m), closely followed by Tuesday’s performance edition (9.9/28, 24.42m) — the Nos. 2 and 3 programs of the frame in 18-49.

Fox was solid elsewhere, including Monday’s “24” (4.7/11 in 18-49, 10.88m), Tuesday’s slot-leading “House” (7.0/17 in 18-49, 17.14m), Saturday’s dominant NASCAR race (3.6/13 in 18-49, 9.27m).

Sunday produced more hot results for the resurrected “Family Guy” (4.5/11 in 18-49, 9.90m). Also, back-to-back firstrun episodes of “The OC” propelled the net to first place among females 12-34 on Thursday (5.3/16).

Over at CBS, “CSI” (9.0/23 in 18-49, 26.65m) and “Survivor: Palau” (7.1/21, 20.07m) combined for an easy Thursday victory, and the strong 9-11 p.m. block of “CSI: Miami” (7.3/18, 20.70m), “Everybody Loves Raymond” (6.3/15, 19.42m) and “Two and a Half Men” (5.8/13, 17.93m) helped the Eye capture another Monday.

‘Race’ to the finish

“The Amazing Race” remained hot one week before its finale (5.2/13 in 18-49, 12.84m) and “Numbers” again led its Friday hour (3.2/10, 11.80m), but two-part biopic “Elvis” opened to only so-so numbers on Sunday (3.9/9 in 18-49, 13.85m).

ABC ran fourth on both Monday and Tuesday but picked up the slack nicely in other spots on its sked, including three rookie dramas among the week’s top 10 skeins in 18-49: “Desperate Housewives” (11.4/27), “Grey’s Anatomy” (8.5/22) and “Lost” (6.3/18).

Net also scored with “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” on Sunday (6.2/17 in 18-49, 15.35m) and on Wednesday with its special “Primetime Live” report on “American Idol” (Daily Variety, May 6). Among regularly skedded newsmags, Friday’s “20/20” was the week’s highest-rated in adults 25-54 (3.1/8).

Fourth-place NBC was paced by the Thursday tandem of “ER” (7.1/19 in 18-49, 15.66m) and “The Apprentice” (5.8/15, 13.00m), which again built sharply on its lead-in from “Will & Grace” (3.4/10, 7.62m).

A two-hour “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” on Tuesday featuring cast members from “L&O: Trial by Jury” averaged a strong 5.3/13 in 18-49 (the net’s best showing in the time period since January), and Sunday’s “The Contender” (2.9/8 in 18-49, 6.21m) hit its highest rating in the 8 o’clock hour in six weeks.

‘Model’ behavior

UPN was again in growth mode, keyed by “America’s Next Top Model” (2.3/7 in 18-49, 4.94m) and “WWE Smackdown” (1.8/5, 4.66m), which rallied 20% ahead of the same week a year ago.

At the WB, Monday and Tuesday’s dramas remain strong and new Friday comedy “Living With Fran” continues to look good, retaining 100% of its “Reba” 18-34 lead-in for a second straight week (1.3/5).

On the cable side, TNT used NBA playoff action on six nights to notch an easy victory for the week in 18-49 (1.21 rating), 25-54 (1.18) and total viewers (2.96m). FX’s “The Shield” was the frame’s top-rated scripted skein (1.6/4 in 18-49, 3.22m).

* * *

CBS notched a routine victory on Monday of the current week, led as usual by “CSI: Miami” (6.9/17 in 18-49, 20.02m), “Everybody Loves Raymond” (6.1/15, 19.79m for its penultimate firstrun episode) and “Two and a Half Men” (5.8/14, 17.96m).

Also solid on the night were NBC’s “Medium” (4.8/12 in 18-49, 12.79m) and Fox’s “24” (4.8/12, 11.01m). And at the weblets, UPN’s “Girlfriends” (1.7/4 in 18-49, 3.75m) and “Half and Half” (1.6/4, 3.59m) were on the high end, and the WB’s “Everwood” (1.6/4, 4.44m) retained all of its 18-49 lead-in from “7th Heaven” (1.6/5, 4.76m)

Not clicking was the ABC 10 o’clock spec “Extreme Makeover: Wedding Edition” (2.2/5, 5.50m).

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