May 21, 2013 11:01am PT by Michael O'Connell
CBS Wraps TV Season With Landmark Demo Win, Fox Tumbles With 'Idol'
CBS is now the most-watched and highest-rated of the broadcast networks. With the May sweep concluding on Wednesday night and only three nights of reported ratings yet to come in, rankings are essentially fixed.
For CBS, a top spot with the adults 18-49 demographic -- which it easily owns with an average 2.9 rating in primetime -- marks its first win in 21 years. The network hasn't topped in the ad-friendly demo since the 1991-92 season. Most-watched for the 10th time in 11 years, CBS averaged 11.85 million viewers -- giving it a robust 4 million-viewer advantage over its closest competition.
Top rankings often come with an asterisk for networks that also played home to the Super Bowl, which CBS did to the tune of a 39.7 adults rating and 108.7 million viewers, but the network still holds the top slot without taking the big game into account. That's a distinction president and CEO Les Moonves was quick to emphasize for the crowd of Madison Avenue buyers during the network's recent upfront presentation.
Super Bowl bragging rights, and the accompanying boost, go to Fox next season.
CBS' demo average, no doubt helped by broadcast champ Big Bang Theory, has it falling the least of the Big Four -- just three percent. In total viewers, it's also poised to be the only grower with a 1 percent improvement from a year ago.
On the heels of eight consecutive seasons on top in the key demographic, Fox slipped to second place with adults 18-49. The network dropped 22 percent from last year's top slot, averaging a 2.5 rating among adults 18-49. Despite successes such as midseason entry The Following, autumn preemptions and delays (18 of the first 39 nights of the season) American Idol's significant losses in the spring and a disappointing relaunch for The X Factor in the fall held the network back. And though the Idol drop has been exhaustively documented, it ends the season still a top 5 performer.
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The network falls to third-place status in total viewers, averaging 7.06 million -- a 20 percent drop from 2011-12.
NBC comes in a strong third place with an average 2.4 rating among adults 18-49, a score that had a shared second-place status with Fox just out of reach. The Peacock, down 4 percent from last year's Super Bowl-boosted effort, has The Voice to thank for its competitive status. The network flatlined in between cycles of the singing competition in January and February, falling below Univision in the February sweep for the first time ever.
Still, finishing within a tenth of a point of Fox has NBC in its most competitive position in nine seasons. In total viewers, NBC averaged 6.96 million viewers, a loss of 6 percent from last year.
Retaining fourth-place status is ABC. The network drops 12 percent from the previous season to an average 2.2 rating with adults 18-49. Like the season before, ABC again didn't see a breakout hit in its freshman crop. And with stalwart Dancing With the Stars continuing to dip, sophomore slumps for Revenge and Once Upon a Time and the absence of former scripted flagship Desperate Housewives, it doubled its demo losses from the last season.
Though it's down 6 percent, ABC retains some edge in total viewers -- averaging 7.85 million and besting Fox and NBC for second place.
The CW managed to curb the double-digit drops seen last season. A new solid night in Wednesday's Arrow-Supernatural combo had the smaller net rival NBC on some nights and helped it earn an average 0.7 rating among adults 18-49. That's even with last season, as opposed to last year's 22 percent dip. The network averaged 1.78 million viewers, inching up 5 percent
As for Univision, the Spanish-language network enjoyed a steady season. Averaging an even 1.5 rating with adults 18-49, the channel was up 2 percent among total viewers with an average 3.7 million. Telemundo also grew -- by 9 percent in both adults 18-49 (0.5 adults) and total viewers (1.33 million). And between 8 and 10 p.m., Monday through Friday, it managed to outperform the CW for the first time ever. It bested the net's demo average by 4 percent.
Adults 18-49 (rating, change from 2011-12 season)
CBS: 2.9, down 3 percent
Fox: 2.5, down 22 percent
NBC: 2.4, down 4 percent
ABC: 2.2, down 12 percent
Univision: 1.5, even
CW: 0.7, even
Telemundo: 0.5, up 9 percent
Total Viewers (in millions, change from 2011-12 season)
CBS: 11.85 million, up 1 percent
ABC: 7.85 million, down 6 percent
Fox: 7.06 million, down 20 percent
NBC: 6.96 million, down 6 percent
Univision: 3.7 million, up 2 percent
CW: 1.81 million, up 8 percent
Telemundo: 1.33, up 9 percent.