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CBS Surprises With 18-49 Sweeps Results

CBS has become the network to watch this November sweeps. As the ratings period reaches its halfway point, CBS can point to several early victories, the most important of which is notching its first weekly adults 18-49 win during a November sweeps since 1987, when Nielsen began using "people meters" to measure ratings.

With Fox falling apart early on, NBC still seems virtually guaranteed an 18-49 sweeps victory, but NBC and everyone else has been surprised by CBS's unexpectedly strong 18-49 performance. CBS's 18-49 victory for the week ended Nov. 9 was actually a tie—a 4.3 rating/12 share—with NBC, but, for CBS, which usually skews old, parity with NBC is unusual.

At No. 3, ABC trails NBC in the key demo by almost a full ratings point, followed by Fox, more than a half ratings point behind.

CBS also is winning viewers by a large margin, more than 3 million ahead of second-place NBC. And sweeps-to-date, CBS is winning adults 25-54, the network's key demo but one CBS usually loses to NBC.

Besides strong performances from its regular schedule, CBS has also aired several successful specials. The Country Music Awards
earned its best ratings since 1996 in viewers, since 1998 in adults 25-54 and since 2000 in adults 18-49, and it improved on last year's performance by 14% in adults 25-54, by 2% in adults 18-49 and by more than 3 million viewers.

CBS also won its first November-sweeps Thursday night in adults 18-49 since 1987, with Survivor: Pearl Islands
beating Friends
in viewers on Nov. 13, although Friends
remains prime time's top-rated comedy in the demo. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
went on to dominate the night in viewers and all key adult demographics.

Two Sunday-night TV movies, NBC's Saving Jessica Lynch
and CBS's The Elizabeth Smart Story, fought it out, with Smart
narrowly beating Lynch. Just over 16 million viewers tuned in to Smart; just under 15 million watched Lynch. Smart
scored a 6.3/15 in adults 25-54 and a 5.4/14 in adults 18-49, making it the most-watched TV movie of the season and the top-rated movie in both adults 18-49 and adults 25-54. Lynch
wasn't far behind, with a 6.3/13 in adults 25-54 and a 5.4/13 in adults 18-49.

More good sweeps news for CBS: During the week ended Nov. 7, new daddy David Letterman enjoyed a double-digit ratings increase over last year, as well as the most-watched Late Night With David Letterman
broadcast in two years.

In that week, Late Night
was up 23% year-to-year in households and 25% in viewers. The show also was up 18% in adults 18-34, 13% in adults 18-49 and 17% in adults 25-54. On Tuesday, Nov. 4, the day Letterman returned to the show after son Harry Joseph's birth, Late Night
beat Jay Leno's The Tonight Show
on NBC in households, viewers and adults 18-49.

So far, CBS is the only network to be up in viewers and adults 18-49 comparing this November sweeps period with last year's: 2% in viewers and 11% in adults 18-49. Every other network is down year-to-year in both categories.

Paige Albiniak
Paige Albiniak

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.