This sweep can go under the rug

3 of Big 4 down year-over-year as strike forces shuffling

ABC is on track to win the November sweep in adults 18-49, and CBS will be first in viewership, while Fox and Univision are the only big networks to show year-over-year increases.

The sweep, which ended Wednesday, took place this year against the backdrop of the writers strike. It caused some shuffling of programs that wouldn't normally have happened, including a quick end to original episodes of NBC's "The Office" and repeats of other key shows.

Fox still was stuck in fourth place among the Big Four, one-tenth of a point away from NBC in adults 18-49, but it was the only network to show an increase. Fox (3.1 rating/8 share) was up 3% year-over-year in the November sweep, while first-place ABC (3.7/10) was down 8%, CBS (3.4/9) was down 8% and NBC (3.2/9) was down 14%. The CW (1.1/3) was down 21% in adults 18-49 and even further in adults 18-34.

In viewership, CBS (12 million) edged ABC (11.5 million) for the lead, while CBS was down 7% and ABC was flat. NBC averaged 8.6 million viewers, down 18%, while Fox's 7.9 million viewers was up 9%, and the CW (2.7 million) was down 22%. Fox is the No. 1 network among adults 18-34.

NBC had taken a particular hit in the month due to the fact that last year "Deal or No Deal" was on a lot and in its ratings ascendancy and because the net had been trending downward for the first three weeks of the sweep with "Sunday Night Football." (This past Sunday's "SNF" matchup featuring the undefeated New England Patriots helped.)

Fox was aided by the strong performance of "House," which boosts its Tuesday, as well as football overrun on one Sunday night and some strong adults 18-49 ratings for "The Simpsons" and "Family Guy," also on Sunday night. The network also has seen some improvement on Thursday nights with the reality duo of "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" and "Don't Forget the Lyrics!" plus the introduction of "Kitchen Nightmares," another reality series that has helped Fox. The CW has seen tough sledding so far this season for all but "America's Next Top Model."

CBS saw increases in November for 14 of its series, compared with its performance in the beginning of the season. ABC rode the wave of "Dancing With the Stars" and "The Bachelor" as well as heavyweights "Grey's Anatomy" and "Desperate Housewives."

While the data likely will be down, with the exceptions listed above, the networks said the declines are somewhat misleading because the Live+7 ratings for the November sweep are weeks away. Many of the missing viewers are time-shifting.

At the same time, Univision had a strong November sweep. The Spanish-language network said it showed a 14% year-over-year increase in adults 18-49 and a 12% increase in adults 18-34. It was led in the month by the novella "The Essence of Love," which averaged about 2 million adults 18-34, as well as the telecast of the Latin Grammys, which averaged 6.2 million viewers.
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