The major broadcasters were nothing if not tightly bunched in the May sweep, with all four separated by about 125,000 viewers in the adults 18-49 demo.
The close finish shows that, at least in a month when none of its rivals gets a big boost from sports, ABC can be pretty competitive. The net may have finished the season that ended Wednesday night in fourth place, but it tied CBS and Fox for the 18-49 lead in preliminary Nielsen estimates for the April 25-May 22 period — the first time in 13 years that the Alphabet finished first for the sweep.
Of course, the tight finish for the sweep also shows how the networks have fallen: As the numbers drift lower and lower, it’s only natural that we would see closer races.
NBC, which placed fourth in May (1.7 rating) but just one tenth behind ABC, CBS and Fox (all at 1.8), was the only Big Four network to improve upon its May sweep performance of last year, as 17 original hours of “The Voice” contributed to a6% year-over-year gain. NBC trailed Fox by 0.8 last year and by 1.3 in 2011; it hadn’t finished closer than 0.8 prior to this year since 2004.
CBS was off 10% from last year, ABC by 14% and Fox slid by 25%.
ABC won the final full week of the May sweep (May 13-19) in adults 18-49, behind “Modern Family” (3.7), the “Billboard Music Awards” (3.6), “Scandal” (3.2) and “Grey’s Anatomy” (3.1). This marked the first time that Fox had not won the week in which it aired the “American Idol” finale.
Boosted by an improved “Scandal,” ABC was also the only network up weeknights in the 10 o’clock hour vs. last year, and stood No. 1 in both 18-49 and 25-54.
For the month, the top series in same-night 18-49 averages were: CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” (4.8), NBC’s “The Voice” on Monday (3.9) and Tuesday (3.7), “Modern Family” (3.5) and CBS’ “NCIS” and “Two and a Half Men” (both 3.2).
In total viewers, the leaders were: “NCIS” (CBS), 18.5 million; “The Big Bang Theory” (CBS), 15.8 million; “Dancing With the Stars” (ABC), 13.7 million; “NCIS: Los Angeles” (CBS), 13.3 million; and “Person of Interest” (CBS), 13.1 million.
For the sweep, CBS won in total viewers with 8.7 million (down 8% from last year), followed by ABC (7.8 million, down 8%), NBC (5.5 million, up 2%) and Fox (5.4 million, down 27%).