MBPT Spotlight: CBS, ABC Give It A Shot, But NBC Wins February Sweeps With Big Assist From The Super Bowl

The February sweeps are over and NBC has repeated as sweeps winner in both viewers and the 18-49 demo—no surprise since last season the network had help from the Olympics and this season it televised the Super Bowl.

NBC finished this year’s February sweeps, which ran from Jan. 29 through Feb. 25, averaging 11.2 million viewers per night compared to 9.7 million for CBS, 7.4 million for ABC, 4.7 million for Fox and 1.6 million for The CW. Among viewers 18-49, NBC averaged a 3.4 rating, compared to 2.1 for ABC, 1.8 for CBS, 1.5 for Fox and 0.6 for The CW.

With the Super Bowl and not the multiweek telecast of the Olympics to assist it, NBC was down from its February sweeps numbers last season when it averaged 15.6 million viewers and a 4.04 18-49 rating. Last season, while the network clearly won in viewers, it just edged out Fox, which carried the Super Bowl, in the 18-49 demo. Fox averaged a 4.01, according to Nielsen ratings data.

Without the Super Bowl this February, Fox took a significant ratings hit, falling from an average of 12 million viewers last February to 4.7 million this February. And its 18-49 demo rating for sweeps fell to a 1.5.

The three other networks showed viewer and demo gains for this year’s sweeps, but that’s not unusual since last year the networks mostly ran repeats up against NBC’s primetime Olympics coverage.

ABC showed significant gains in this year’s February sweeps, increasing average nightly viewership for the month by 68% from 4.4 million viewers. It also increased its 18-49 demo rating by 75% from 1.2.

CBS boosted its viewers by 31% from 7.4 million last February, and increased its 18-49 demo rating by 29% from a 1.4. The CW increased viewership by 14% from 1.2 million viewers and hiked its 18-49 demo rating 50% from a 0.4.

In addition to running mostly all first-run programming this February, CBS and ABC also had some help from two major events that were moved into the month.

The Grammy Awards were televised on CBS on Jan. 26 last year, outside of the February sweeps period, but this year they aired on Feb. 8. On ABC, The Oscar’s were televised on March 2 last year, but this year they aired on Feb. 22.

This year’s Grammy telecast added 25.3 million viewers and an 8.5 18-49 demo rating to CBS’ sweeps averages, while The Oscars telecast added 37.2 million viewers and an 11.0 18-49 demo rating to ABC’s averages. The Nielsen ratings include the entire length of the Oscar telecast, from 8:30 p.m. until 11:48 p.m.

ABC’s viewer and demo growth in this year’s February sweeps was assisted by new drama How to GetAway With Murder and sitcom Black-ish. Murder in February averaged 8.7 million viewers and a 2.9 demo rating. That compares to Killer Women that aired in the same time period last February and averaged 3.1 million viewers and a 0.7 demo rating.

Black-ish also helped, averaging 6.6 million viewers and a 2.2 demo rating in February. Last season in its time period, Super Fun Night averaged 3.6 million and a 1.0 in the demo.

Also helping ABC secure a better February sweeps showing was The Bachelor, which averaged 8.8 million viewers and a 2.6 demo rating this year, compared to 8 million and a 2.4 last year. On Wednesday nights, sitcom The Goldbergs averaged 7.1 million viewers and a 2.3 demo rating, compared to 3.4 million and a 1.1 last February when it aired in repeats. ABC’s most-watched sitcom Modern Family averaged 9.4 million viewers and a 3.3 demo rating this February compared to 6.8 million and a 2.3 demo rating when it aired in repeats last year.

ABC also aired first-run episodes of its veteran drama Grey’s Anatomy in February and it averaged 8.2 million viewers and a 2.5 in the demo. Last February, ABC aired cooking competition series The Taste in that time period and it averaged just 3.2 million and a 1.0 demo rating.

Eye On Some Gains

CBS was pretty aggressive going up against the Olympics last February airing many of its top shows in first-run episodes. But they still got hurt a little by viewer defection to the Olympics. Top CBS sitcom TheBig Bang Theory averaged 14.6 million viewers last February but jumped to 15.8 this February. Its most-watched drama NCIS averaged 14 million viewers and a 2.1 demo rating last February, but this February it increased to 18.2 million viewers and a 2.6 in the demo.

But what also helped CBS produce solid viewer and demo gains over last February sweeps was its telecasts of series finales of The Mentalist and Two and a Half Men. For the month, The Mentalist averaged 9.6 million viewers, while Men averaged 11.1 million and a 2.6 in the demo. Last February, Two and a Half Men averaged 7.6 million and a 1.7 in the demo.

Finally, CBS got a boost this February from new drama series Scorpion, which averaged 10 million viewers and a 2.0 demo rating for the sweeps period. Another new CBS drama, NCIS: New Orleans averaged 15.3 million, filling the time period occupied by NCIS: Los Angeles last February. NCIS: LA averaged 11.3 million last February.

Up Like a ‘Flash’

All of The CW returning primetime series this February sweeps were down in both viewers and the 18-49 demo, but the network’s overall averages were up because of new drama series The Flash, which averaged 3.8 million viewers and a 1.4 18-49 demo rating.

Fox, in addition to not having the Super Bowl this year, also saw all of its program ratings drop in February, including both nights of American Idol. The lone highlight for Fox in the February sweeps and for the season so far has been the incredibly strong showing of new drama series Empire. During the sweeps, Empire averaged 12.6 million viewers and a 5.0 18-49 demo rating. That demo rating makes it the highest-rated non-sports broadcast network series this season.

Since NBC televised the Olympics in primetime for most of the February sweeps period last season, it’s hard to do comparisons with this season’s February programming. Even the February viewer numbers for The Blacklist are skewed because NBC televised an episode leading out of the Super Bowl.

The highlight for NBC continues to be singing competition series The Voice. It returned for its new season during the last week of the February sweeps and averaged 13.9 million viewers and a 4.1 demo rating on Monday night and 14.1 million and a 3.9 demo rating on Tuesday night.

Looking ahead in primetime beyond February, NBC seems like it still has a major problem on Thursday nights. The network moved The Blacklist there three weeks ago, but the series has averaged only 8.7 million viewers and a 1.9 demo rating after averaging 10.1 million and a 2.7 demo rating on Monday nights in the fourth quarter.

Not helping The Blacklist is that its new lead-in, freshman drama series The Slap, is averaging just 4.5 million and a 0.9 in the demo, while its lead-out, another freshman drama Allegiance, is averaging only 4 million viewers and a 0.9 demo rating.