May 1, 2012

The Sked: MAY SWEEP UPDATE (through 5 nights)

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Written by: Mitch Salem
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>With five nights of the May Sweep in (Thursday-Sunday’s official ratings and Monday’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. 

Monday night helped CBS get back in the game for the May Sweep.  With its Monday schedule weakened last May because of the Two and a Half Men repeats (caused by the Charlie Sheen fiasco), CBS enjoyed a 27% year-over-year increase last night with a night that performed on par with recent original CBS Mondays.  Read more about Monday night’s fast national ratings here.  CBS is now even with last May, looking at the average rating for the first five nights.   

              MAY SWEEP
  Adult 18-49 Rating Live+Same Day
     (through 5 of 28 nights)

            2012  2011
        ABC  2.0   2.2  -11%
        CBS  1.9   1.9  – 0% 
        FOX  1.9   2.3  -15% 
        NBC  1.5   1.7  -12%
FOX was down 11% last night from the same night last year, and the five-day FOX average is now pacing 15% behind last May’s rating for the first five nights.  Last year, FOX’s 2.3 average after the first five 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).

NBC had a remarkable 115% increase last night over the same night last year, replacing Chuck, The Event and Law & Order: Los Angeles with The Voice and Smash.  NBC is now 12% behind last May’s five-night pace, but that will be as good as it gets.  The yearly declines will pick up again tonight (when only one hour of a weakened Voice is compared to two hours last year) and especially on Wednesday night (which has turned into a veritable black hole this year).

ABC was down 34% on Monday night from the same night last year, moving it 11% behind last year’s pace for the first five nights.  Although ABC is in first place this May for the moment, CBS and especially FOX will surge ahead in the next day or two.

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."