CBS to Win First February Sweeps Since 1998

Meanwhile, NBC falls to fifth place behind Univision

With just two nights remaining in the period, CBS is on track to win its first February sweeps in 15 years.

Per Nielsen live-plus-same-day ratings for the period spanning Jan. 31 through Feb. 24, CBS is averaging a robust 4.3 among adults 18-49, marking a 54 percent increase from a 2.8 in last February’s sweeps. The Tiffany network is also running away with the race for adults 25-54, averaging a 5.2 in its guaranteed demo.

Thanks in large part to its broadcast of Super Bowl XLVII and the 2013 Grammy Awards, CBS has dominated sweeps, more than doubling the deliveries of its nearest competitor. Whereas CBS is averaging 15.5 million prime-time viewers, ABC is drawing 7.32 million.

A similar proportion holds sway in the demos, with CBS outscoring ABC by a margin of 2.1 ratings points. Heading into the home stretch, ABC’s 2.2 in the dollar demo marks a decline of 4 percent versus the year-ago period.

The last time CBS won a February sweeps, its top-rated shows included Touched by an Angel, 60 Minutes, Chicago Hope and Walker, Texas Ranger. 

Third-place Fox is averaging a 2.0 in the demo, a drop of 17 percent versus last year’s 2.4 rating.

Meanwhile, NBC’s well-documented free fall has taken on historic significance, as the Peacock is on the verge of becoming the first English-language broadcaster to lose a sweeps campaign to Univision. Through Sunday, NBC is averaging a 1.2 in the demo, down a staggering 67 percent from last February’s 3.6, while Univision is a lock for fourth place with a 1.5.

Nearly two-thirds of NBC’s overall deliveries have evaporated, as the net is averaging 3.96 million viewers in sweeps. A year ago, NBC was serving up 10.3 million viewers per night. (Of course, year-over-year comps are skewed by the 40.5 rating NBC delivered with its Feb. 5, 2012, broadcast of Super Bowl XLVI. The network also averaged an 8.1 in the demo with the Season 2 premiere of The Voice and four subsequent episodes. The fourth cycle of The Voice bows March 25.)

After scorching the competition in the fall—as late as mid-December, NBC was averaging a 3.1 in the dollar demo, an improvement of 24 percent versus the year-ago period—the Peacock’s fortunes have darkened considerably. Midseason series Do No Harm was canceled after just two episodes, while Deception and 1600 Penn are averaging a 1.4 and a 1.2, respectively.

Setting aside the Super Bowl, Grammys and ABC’s coverage of the 85th Academy Awards, the two hottest shows in the coldest month were CBS’ NCIS and The Big Bang Theory. The Feb. 7 episode of TBBT was the highest-rated scripted broadcast in the period, scaring up a 6.2 in the 18-49 demo. NCIS’ Feb. 5 installment boasted the greatest reach, averaging 21.8 million total viewers.

Now in its 10th season, NCIS is drawing more viewers than ever before. Season to date, the show is averaging 22.1 million viewers, up from 19.5 million a year ago.