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ABC Sweeps Into Second

ABC is poised to grab second during the February sweep in the key 18-49 sales demo, pushing CBS into third place, thanks to some help from Sunday's Oscars telecast.

It will mark the network's best showing in 18-49's in a February sweep in five years, according to ABC.

It's the latest sign that the network may be able to leverage the success of Desperate Housewives and Lost into a broader turnaround for the network that placed last among the Big Four during the 2003-2004 season.

Fox will win the sweep, as has long been expected thanks to the Super Bowl and American Idol, with an assist from 24 and especially, House, which has been Tuesday night's top drama thanks to its Idol lead-in and the strength of brilliantly quirky lead Hugh Laurie.

Just how much the competition was crediting the Super Bowl for Fox's win was summed up by CBS ratings guru, David Poltrack. "We congratulate our friends at Fox for their impressive victory, salute NBC's Olympic-driven win next February, and boldly declare CBS, home of Super Bowl XLI, the winner of the February 2007 sweep."

That may have been stretching it a bit, since Fox also had the top-rated series of the sweep in American Idol. CBS claimed the top scripted series with CSI.

The battle for second place has been hotly contested, with CBS and ABC trading spaces several times over the course of February.

The Oscars drew a smaller audience than last year, pulling a 15.1 rating in the 18-49 demo vs. a 15.3 for last year. Still, that was a large enough number to tip the scale in favor of ABC.

Here's how the networks ranked among 18-49s based on final ratings for Sunday, the 25th day of the 28-day sweep: Fox:  6.3 rating/16 share; ABC: 4.1/11; CBS: 3.8/10; NBC: 3.6/9; WB: 1.4/3; UPN: 1.3/3.--John Eggerton contributed to this report.