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Fox Charts Its First-Ever Sweeps Victory

By Lisa de Moraes
Wednesday, March 2, 2005; Page C07

Historic February ratings sweeps? Meaningless February sweeps? It all depends on whether your network won.

Here's a look at the week's victories and defeats:


The Academy Awards, hosted by Chris Rock, was the week's most-watched broadcast. (Robert Galbraith -- Reuters)



WINNERS

Fox. Fox made history during the February ratings derby, winning its first sweeps since the network began broadcasting in 1987. Not coincidentally, Fox aired the Super Bowl, which for the first time was scheduled for the February sweeps (the 2002 Super Bowl also fell in the sweeps period after the football season was delayed in the wake of Sept. 11). Take away the Super Bowl and Fox finishes third, behind CBS and ABC, despite ratings-hit "American Idol." (It does stay on top among 18-to-49-year-olds.) CBS officially congratulated Fox on its win yesterday, and also saluted NBC's Olympics-driven win next February, while boldly declaring itself, home of Super Bowl XLI, the winner of the February 2007 sweeps. Meow.

77th Annual Academy Awards. When the final numbers came in, the Chris Rock-hosted Oscarcast clocked 42 million people, making it TV's most watched entertainment telecast this season to date. The annual trophy show, which this year lacked big box-office contenders, was down 1.5 million compared with last year, when "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" cleaned up. But its numbers improved among 18-to-34-year-old women, and the show clocked its best male teen stats since 1999, when Whoopi Goldberg hosted and "Shakespeare in Love" was named best picture. Go figure.

"Peter Jennings Reporting -- UFO: Seeing Is Believing." Nearly 10 years ago, Fox made TV history when it drew an average of 11.7 million viewers to "Alien Autopsy." Last week, this aliens-are-among-us-or-are-they? special scored 11.6 million viewers -- nearly doubling ABC's season average in the Thursday 8-to-10 p.m. time slot. Who knew a Fox concept could work so well for ABC?

"Stars Without Makeup." About 7.4 million learned an important lesson: Female celebs in their late forties through late fifties often do not look 20 years old when they go to the grocery store -- oh, and Elton John has a potty mouth. "Makeup" lured more viewers than "The O.C.," which aired right before it, and it nearly doubled Fox's season average in the Thursday 9 p.m. hour. Can an ABC special -- "Peter Jennings Reporting: Celebrity Makeup: Seeing Is Believing" -- be far behind?

"Project Runway." When Bravo's fashion design competition debuted in December, only 354,000 tuned in. By last week's finale, more than 2 million were hooked. That's the biggest audience for Bravo this season and a record for the network in the Wednesday 9-11 p.m. time period.

LOSERS

NBC. The once-dominant network finished No. 4 for the first time in any sweeps race. NBC points out that it would finish No. 2 if only you took away Fox's broadcast of the Super Bowl, CBS's broadcast of the Grammys and ABC's broadcast of the Academy Awards. Why would we do that? Those networks paid good money for those broadcast rights.

"One Day at a Time Reunion." A paltry 9.3 million watched CBS's sitcom reunion special -- particularly embarrassing since ABC's "Happy Days" reunion special, on the first night of the February sweeps, logged 20 million.

The week's 10 most watched programs, in order, were: ABC's broadcast of the 77th annual Academy Awards; Fox's Tuesday "American Idol"; CBS's "CSI"; ABC's "Oscar Countdown"; Fox's Wednesday and Monday "American Idol"; CBS's "Survivor: Palau" and "Without a Trace"; ABC's "Lost"; and CBS's "CSI: Miami."


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