Nagano sweeps CBS to gold

February sweeps historic for Fox, dismal for ABC

NEW YORK — Aside from the expected CBS Olympics-driven sweeps victory, February proved to be historic for Fox, promising for the WB and dismal for ABC.

The 17 nights of Nagano helped CBS cruise to a 13.8/22 for first place in the February sweeps, according to Nielsen Media Research.

ABC executives just want to forget February altogether. For the first time ever, Fox had more viewers than one of the Big Three, and the victim was ABC. In February, Fox had 12,220,000 viewers compared to ABC’s 11,701,000. The two networks tied in household ratings with an 8.0/13.

Fox Entertainment president Peter Roth took a shot at networks that conceded the month to CBS. “Conceding, assuming or taking anything for granted is the first step to eventual decline,” said Roth, whose network aggressively programmed reality specials.

ABC also finished fourth in its stated core demographic of adults 18-49 with a 4.7/12. CBS won in adults 18-49 with a 7.1/18, followed by NBC with a 6.0/16 and Fox at a 5.8/15.

Looking on the bright side, ABC did have the highest-rated movie of the sweeps. “Oprah Winfrey Presents: The Wedding” was the No. 1 movie with adults 18-49, women 18-49 and total viewers.

ABC also has two of only three new shows that have improved their time period performance among young adults: “Dharma & Greg,” up 25%, and “The Wonderful World of Disney,” up 15%.

The WB was the only network aside from the Eye net to gain compared to last February during the sweeps. The weblet, boosted by its new Tuesday lineup of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Dawson’s Creek” grew 26% in households to a 3.4/5.

Among young viewers, the WB did even better. The net increased its adults 18-49 demo by 38% and adults 18-34 by 27%. In contrast, WB rival UPN dropped 34% in adults 18-49 compared to a year ago. In households, UPN dropped 21% to finish February with a 2.7/4.

The new “Dawson’s Creek” is the WB’s highest-rated program, scoring a 5.0/7 in households during the February sweeps. In its new Tuesday time period, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” averaged a 4.1/6 household rating.

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