In the end, the big game proved too much for TV’s biggest series and a not-so-big Olympics.
ABC has captured the February sweep in primetime’s key young-adult demo, taking a huge lead on the opening weekend with the Super Bowl and then holding on behind hit series like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Dancing With the Stars.”
Fox, powered by the hottest season yet of “American Idol,” placed second, with Winter Olympics host NBC settling for a close third. CBS, which opted for a slew of repeats opposite the Games, ran a distant fourth.
The February sweep, with the recent inclusion of mega events like the Super Bowl and Academy Awards, has been rendered relatively unimportant. Nets usually still load up with mostly original episodes during the month, but the winner is determined by who airs pro football’s title game, which is far and away the highest-rated telecast of the season.
This year, the Oscars were pushed back out of the sweep but the month featured 17 nights of the 2006 Torino Games on NBC. They turned out to be the lowest Games on record, however, so a struggling Peacock — despite being the most-watched network overall for the month — had to settle for the bronze among adults 18-49.
According to final Nielsen in-home viewing estimates for the Feb. 3-March 2 sweep, ABC won in adults 18-49 with a 5.3 rating/13 share, followed by Fox (5.1/13), NBC (4.9/12) and CBS (3.5/9). In its first measured sweep by Nielsen, Spanish-language broadcaster Univision (1.8/5) came in ahead of the WB (1.4/3) and UPN (1.1/3).
For ABC, it’s the highest rating for a sweeps month since May 2000, when celebrity editions of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” dominated.
ABC also prevailed in adults 25-54 (6.0/14), while a heavy 50-plus audience for the Olympics helped NBC win in total viewers with an average of 15.7 million to 14.4 million for runner-up ABC.
Month’s top series averages in adults 18-49 went to “American Idol” editions on Tuesday (12.5/31) and Wednesday (12.5/30), followed by ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” (12.3/28, which includes its post-Super Bowl seg) and “Desperate Housewives” (9.9/21).
“Dancing With the Stars” also played a key role in the Alphabet’s victory, with its finale delivering the highest 18-49 score for a reality show finale on any net (excluding “American Idol”) since May 2004 (8.6/19).
Also looking good for Fox were dramas “House” and “24” — both up sharply year-to-year, with the former establishing a series high in the month (8.7/20 in 18-49, 22.24m).
CBS put out the “gone fishing” sign opposite the Olympics by airing virtually all repeats, resulting in what’s believed to be its first fourth-place finish in total viewers during a sweep. Net limited its losses vs. last February to 8%, though, and was actually up 10% in 18-49 vs. 2002 (4.4 vs. 4.0) when the Olympics were much stronger on NBC.
Wednesday, on the final night of the sweep, Fox dominated with another “American Idol”-heavy lineup.
Music show crushed the competish with an expanded seg from 8 to 9:31 p.m. (12.2/31, 29.64m), providing nice sampling for new slacker comedy “Free Ride” (6.1/15, 13.57m). Latter moves to its regular Sunday slot next week.
“Idol” seemed to have an effect on ABC’s “Lost” (6.9/16 in 18-49, 16.43m from 9 to 10:03) and CBS’ “Criminal Minds” (3.4/8 in 18-49, 11.72m), both of which posted firstrun season lows.
The Eye was also on the low end but still won as usual at 10 with “CSI: NY” (4.3/11 in 18-49, 13.76m), topping NBC’s “Law & Order” (4.0/11, 12.39m) and ABC’s “Barbara Walters Oscar Special” (3.7/10, 9.69m); latter had run on the night of the Academy Awards prior to this year.
From 8 to 9, NBC’s “Deal or No Deal” (3.2/9 in 18-49, 10.25m) placed second with the net’s best series showing opposite “Idol” in the hour since May 2004. The WB also fared well given the “Idol” competish with one of the best scores of the season for “One Tree Hill” (1.4/4, 3.36m).