Fox leading March sweep

Network tops in adults 18-49 demo for shifted period

The March sweep is coming to a close this week with Fox in the lead, followed by CBS, ABC, NBC and the CW.

Nielsen pushed back the tradition February sweep period to avoid setting ad rates during the government-mandated deadline for stations to transition to digital (the changeover later was moved to the summer). The collected data stands as an anomalous outing without comparable sweep periods. Even measuring against last year doesn't quite work, given that March was disrupted by the WGA strike.

For what it's worth, with 26 of the 28 sweep days tallied and seven-day DVR data for the first 10 days of the sweep, Fox has a 3.9 rating (on par with the same period last year) in the adults 18-49 demographic, with CBS at 3.2 (up 14%), ABC at 2.7 (unchanged), NBC at 2.2 (down 4%), the CW at 0.8 (down 20%) and MyNet at 0.6 (up 20%).

Fox also won last week in the ratings, led by "American Idol" (26 million viewers, 9.3 rating/24 share in adults 18-49), which was pushed to Wednesday because of President Obama's primetime news conference Tuesday. On Thursday, "Hell's Kitchen" (10.1 million, 4.5/11), aided by an "Idol" lead-in, had its best rating since the season premiere.

CBS was in second place for the week in the demo but first among total viewers. The network had the two most-watched scripted shows of the week with Tuesday's "NCIS" (17.8 million, 4.0/10) and "The Mentalist" (17.6 million, 3.9/10), both of which aired an hour later than usual because of the president's news conference. Sunday's "The Amazing Race" (12 million, 3.7/9) also had its best ratings in more than a year.

Third-place ABC was topped by the highest-rated show of the week, Thursday night's "Grey's Anatomy" (16.1 million, 5.6/13), with its spinoff, "Private Practice" (10.1 million, 3.6/10), continuing to perform strong.

NBC's top-rated show was Thursday's "The Office" (8.7 million, 4.5/11), which had a strong episode last week, with "30 Rock" (7.2 million, 3.4/8) continuing to act as a muscular partner. On Sunday, "The Celebrity Apprentice" (8.7 million, 3.3/8) improved slightly.