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‘Idol’ bowls over Fox competish

Net ahead of game mid-sweeps

Fox is sitting pretty at the halfway point of the February sweep — and not just because of the Super Bowl.

Although its victory for the month became a foregone conclusion once the Patriots and Eagles kicked off Feb. 6 on the net, Fox is also its typical February force thanks to the unstoppable “American Idol” franchise.

And the net isn’t letting up on the gas pedal, skedding six hours of “Idol” for the second half of the sweep.

On Wednesday, “Idol” dominated primetime’s middle hour with an 11.5 rating/27 share in adults 18-49 and 26.3 million viewers overall, according to Nielsen — enough to top the combined demo deliveries put up by ABC, CBS and NBC from 9 to 10.

Fox, which has also performed well this month with dramas “House” and “24,” takes an insurmountable lead into the second half of the ratings period in all categories. Through Wednesday, it’s averaging an 8.0 rating/20 share in the key adults 18-49 demo, followed by CBS (3.9/10) and ABC and NBC, tied for third at 3.6/9.

Taking Super Bowl Sunday out of the equation, Fox still leads with a 4.5/12 in 18-49 (up 10% in rating vs. a year ago), followed by CBS (4.1/11, down 11%), NBC (3.8/10, down 22%) and ABC (3.7/10, up 19%). But CBS moves into the lead over Fox in both adults 25-54 and total viewers.

NBC, which led at this point a year ago, is down more than 20% year-to-year and is destined for a rare fourth-place sweeps finish. CBS and ABC figure to be in a tight battle for silver as the sweep winds down, with a strong expected finish for the Alphabet (Oscars, “NYPD Blue” finale) giving it the inside track.

Frog leaps ahead

At the weblets, the WB is ahead of UPN in most categories, with the latter showing steep year-to-year declines without “America’s Next Top Model” (24% in adults 18-34 and 29% in 18-49). Frog is down 6% in both 18-34 and 18-49 year-to-year excluding Super Bowl Sunday.

Looking at Wednesday’s action, Fox also was a solid runner-up at 8 with “That ’70s Show” (4.0/11 in 18-49, 8.58m) and “The Simple Life” (3.9/10 in 18-49, 8.73m).

ABC ran second but each of its shows was lower-rated than in recent weeks. “Lost” (6.7/18 in 18-49, 17.88m) easily won the 8 o’clock hour, performing more like its first couple of months than its peak scores of January. “Alias” then hit season lows at 9 (3.9/9 in 18-49, 9.60m) but remained second to “Idol,” and “Wife Swap” placed third at 10 (3.6/9 in 18-49, 8.07m).

CBS again won at 10 with “CSI: NY” (4.9/13 in 18-49, 14.04m) and ran third from 9 to 10 with “King of Queens” (3.4/8 in 18-49, 9.92m) and the season premiere of “Yes, Dear” (3.1/7 in 18-49, 8.77m).

NBC picked up some week-to-week but remained fourth, led by “Law & Order” at 10 (4.3/11 in 18-49, 13.74m). A repeat of “Medium” at 8 (2.2/6 in 18-49, 6.43m) provided a more compatible lead-in for “The West Wing” (3.1/7 in 18-49, 10.17m), which built by more than 10% from its all-time firstrun lows of a week earlier.

Combo of “Road to Stardom With Missy Elliott” and “Kevin Hill” gave UPN its best Wednesday since Dec. 15 (“America’s Next Top Model 3” finale), averaging a 1.5/4 in adults 18-34 and a 2.1/5 in women 18-34.

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