April 30, 2012

The Sked: MAY SWEEP UPDATE (through 4 nights)

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Written by: Mitch Salem
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>With four nights of the May Sweep in (Thursday’s official ratings and Friday-Sunday’s fast national ratings), here’s an early look at the final major ratings sweep period of the broadcast season, when ratings are measured locally in each of the 214 television markets across the country. 

Sunday night was very cruel to CBS and especially NBC.  Sunday night on CBS is down 20% from the same night last year, pushing CBS to a double-digit decline for the first four days of the sweep. CBS is now in third place four nights in, compared to a tie for second last year at this point.  NBC is down 40% on the first Sunday of the May Sweep, and the network is now down 35% from last year’s pace through the first four nights.   

              MAY SWEEP
  Adult 18-49 Rating Live+Same Day
     (through 4 of 28 nights)

            2012  2011
        FOX  1.9   2.3  -17% 
        ABC  1.8   1.8  + 1%
        CBS  1.6   1.8  -10%
        NBC  1.1   1.7  -35%

Last year, FOX’s 2.3 average after the first four nights turned into a 3.1 rating for the entire May 2011 Sweep period (with the American Idol finale on the last night of the sweep pushing FOX well ahead of the pack).

The four-day CBS average of a 1.8 rating last May ended up rising to a 2.1 rating for the final 28-day number, as low-rated Friday and Saturday nights have a disproportionate impact on the four-night average for CBS and the other networks.   
ABC’s four-day 1.8 average turned into a 2.4 rating for the full May 2011 Sweep, as its strongest time periods (Dancing with the Stars and Modern Family are yet to be reflected in the averages).
Finally, NBC’s 1.7 rating after four nights turned into a 1.9 rating for the full May 2011 Sweep.  With The Voice still to be factored in, NBC’s May 2012 rating should lift to about a 1.3, still solidly in fourth place.
The best read on the 2012 May Sweep will come Thursday morning when we have ratings for the full first week of the period (Thursday-Wednesday nights).  We will continue to update the sweep averages throughout the month.   

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 Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."