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Fox Tops First May Sweeps

On the strength of the American Idol season finale, Fox nabbed its first-ever May sweeps win in the key 18-49 demo, while CBS won in households.

Households are for show, but the demos are for dough since those are what the ad time is sold on.

The two-hour Wednesday Idol finale drew 4% more adults 18-49 than last year’s two-hour finale and ranked as the month’s second most watched program in the demo with a 12.5 rating/31 share (ABC’s finale of Desperate Housewives earned a 13.4/31). Season four of American Idol out-sung last year’s season in the demo by 3% (11.1 vs. 10.8).

While Fox crows, NBC has lost its tune. The Peacock is reeling, plummeting from first place a year ago to a fourth-place finish in May. NBC dropped between 16 and 29% in the various key demos, including a 27% drop in 18 to 49s to a 3.2 rating, a 29% dip in 18 to 34s to a 2.7 rating and a 20% loss in total viewers to an average 9.3 million.

For the second straight May sweeps, CBS finished second in 18-49. CBS was tops in total viewers and adults 25-54. CBS benefited from several huge finales, including the series send-off for Everybody Loves Raymond (39.2 million viewers), CSI’s season finale (30.7 million viewers) and the conclusion of Survivor: Palau (20.8 million viewers).

The comeback story belonged to ABC. The network moved up to third place in 18-49s and gained more than 20% in all the key demos, including a 30% jump in 25-54.

Desperate Housewives' May 22 finale recorded 30.3 million viewers, making it the most-watched finale of a freshman drama on network TV since ER in 1995. ABC’s own medical show, Grey’s Anatomy, sizzled in its season finale, drawing 22.8 million viewers.

Among the younger-skewing weblets, UPN edged out the WB in 18-34s, with a 1.5/5 to the WB’s 1.5/4. The WB is off 17% in the demo from last May, while UPN is up 25%.