May 17, 2012

The Sked: MAY SWEEP UPDATE Three Weeks Down, One To Go

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Written by: Mitch Metcalf
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With 21 nights in for the May Sweep (official ratings for April 26-May 15 and fast national ratings for May 16), the race is starting to solidify.  FOX will be able to claim victory in May, but CBS remains the only network with stable ratings and is well poised to win next season with the aid of the Super Bowl (and possibly able to win without it if one or two new programs hit with viewers).

FOX is starting to pull slowly away from CBS with three weeks complete in the May Sweep.  FOX’s 2.30 rating so far will certainly become a 2.4 rating one week from today with the finale of American Idol factored in.  Remember, FOX only has to gain a few hundreths of a rating point — anything above a 2.35 rating will round up to a 2.4 for the sweep.  But FOX remains down over 20% from last year, thanks to severe declines in the Idol tentpole and with nothing else catching fire to mitigate the losses.

              MAY SWEEP

  Adult 18-49 Rating Live+Same Day

     (through 21 of 28 nights)


             2012   2011  % chg

        FOX  2.30   2.92  -21% 

        CBS  2.23   2.24  – 1% 

        ABC  2.01   2.37  -15%

        NBC  1.64   1.88  -13%


CBS is tantalizingly close to maintaining last year’s May Sweep average, the only network able to make that claim.  ABC and NBC continue their fades versus last year.  NBC has a shot at moving up to a 1.7 rating for the entire sweep (just a hundreth of a rating point or two), but a 1.6 is more likely.


The May Sweep is an important measurement period because most local TV stations use these ratings for six months to set advertising rates (until the next major sweep in November) — including the rates paid by political candidates in the upcoming election.  It is also a very high profile ratings contest because the network performance is scrutinized by advertisers and agencies as the upfront process kicks off in a few weeks to establish advertising rates for next fall’s prime time schedules. 

About the Author

Mitch Metcalf
MITCH METCALF has been tracking every US film release of over 500 screens (over 2300 movies and counting) since the storied weekend of May 20, 1994, when Maverick and Beverly Hills Cop 3 inspired countless aficionados to devote their lives to the art of cinema. Prior to that, he studied Politics and Economics at Princeton in order to prepare for his dream of working in television. He has been Head of West Coast Research at ABC, then moved to NBC in 2000 and became Head of Scheduling for 11 years.