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NBC, CBS Dominate February Sweeps

February sweeps featured a pitched battle for the key 18-49 demographic, with NBC emerging as the winner.

The network fended off strong competition from Fox’s American Idol and CBS’s steady regular schedule, with a boost from the Grammys. Through Monday, NBC had a firm hold on the lead, with a 4.8 rating/13 share.

NBC is expected to continue its dominance in the demo during the May sweeps, when the network will feature the season finale of The Apprentice and the series finales of Friends and Frasier.

As for the rest of the competition, CBS followed NBC in 18-49s with a 4.2/11. Fox came in third at a 4.0/11, down 29% from last February sweeps when the network’s combination of American Idol and Joe Millionaire was unstoppable. ABC was in fourth with a 3.6/10, down 8% from the previous sweeps, but boosted significantly by the Academy Awards last Sunday night.

At the lower end of the spectrum, UPN and The WB tied for fifth at 1.6/4. But that news wasn’t all bad for UPN, which was up 7% in the demo primarily on the strength of America’s Next Top Model. The WB, on the other hand, was down 16% from this sweeps to last.

CBS also finished a close second behind NBC in adults 25-54, with NBC pulling in a 5.5/13, a 2% drop from last year, and CBS garnering a 5.3/13, a 2% increase over last year. That marks the closest margin between the two networks in the demo since 1993, says CBS Chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves.

ABC was a distant third at a 4.2/10, a 7% drop year-to-year, followed by Fox at 4.0/9, down 26%. While UPN and The WB don’t care much about adults 25-54, UPN was ahead by a hair, with a 1.7/4 to The WB’s 1.6/4. That marks a 13% increase in the demo for UPN and a drop of 11% for The WB.

In the fight for total viewers, CBS prevailed for the fifth sweeps in a row, beating NBC by more than 2 million people and increasing its own performance by 1%. Second-place NBC, with 12.11 million viewers, was down 3% year-to-year.

ABC, helped by its Oscar bounce, finished in third place with 10.33 million viewers. Fox finished fourth with 9.31 million viewers, a 23% decline from last year.

UPN and The WB ran neck-and-neck with UPN winning by a nose with 3.91 million viewers to The WB’s 3.90 million viewers. UPN was up 7% in viewers, while The WB fell 10%.