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What I've Learned Over Sweeps - May 24

Well, here we are. Tonight and tomorrow are the last nights of sweeps. Which means no more of "Sweeps, the Universe, and Everything." The Feud is tucked safely away in reruns, while the other three of the big four syndies are in cycles until at least June. We'll have three new champions in 36 to 48 hours. One will have a seven-figure sum. One will have a six-figure sum. One will walk away a superstar.

What have we learned? Let's go to the numbers...

1) Fear is no longer a factor for anyone. Looking at the past four weeks in "Fear Factor"... Last night... we're still waiting on. Last week... wasn't even airing. Week before... a 5.4/9, hardly the hit it was in its heyday when it was right before "The Weakest Link." On the plus side: number one in adults 18-49 (2.8/9). Hmm... something's wrong here. Adults 18-49 are quite possibly the only ones watching the show... and yet NBC pulls the plug until midseason. My guess: NBC finally sees that there is life outside target demographic.

The week before, a 5.4/8 in the fast nationals. Also, a number one finish in A18-49. But this season was plagued with a dip in ratings. Conclusion: NBC was probably in its right mind giving the show a break. After all, it's become formulaic after a while. Even the most diehard of diehards will tell you.

2) If you go up against American Idol, you will lose. Tuesday shows have fared phenomenally well, almost doubling over their nearest competition (An average 14.5 percent ratings over their average 8). Wednesdays, different margin, same story (average of 15 over averages of 6 to 7). And NBC's so-called "Idol Killer" "Revelations" turned out to be anything but, which brings me to thing I learned #3...

3) Quoting Matt Damon: "I've seen what happens to the proud when they take on the throne." If you remember, ratings for "Fallen Idol" paled in comparison to the show from which it was inspired, as neither controversy nor constant news coverage could put a dent into the American Idol juggernaut. And text messengers are at the ready for tonight's finale.

4) Champions will make the strong stronger... but the Pope rules all. Due to some preemptions for the installment of Pope Benedict XVI, Only about 1.7 million adults 18-49 tuned in to the Ultimate Championship on Jeopardy (matching its season low with a 6.9 household rating). But that was special in the circumstances. We'll have to wait for at least another week before we get the judgment on the show as Ken Jennings makes his appearance at long last.

And to think, just last year... we were watching him sprout legs.

6) Everyone loves a hero. It doesn't mean that everyone love loves a hero. With "Desperate Housewives" in the competitive mix, the "Survivor" finale isn't as much "appointment television" as it once was. And while the most deserving winner arose in Tom Westman, an NYC firefighter, the women of Wisteria Lane outpointed the castaways on all fronts. Doesn't necessarily mean that no one is watching, though. The finale was a potent ending to a potent (if not at all dominating) season. The final numbers: 11.9/17 in the overnights, 20.31 million viewers and a 7.6/18 among adults 18-49 from 8-10 p.m. The live Survivor: Palau Reunion at 10 p.m. was also second with an approximate 9.6/15 in the overnights, 16.72 million viewers and a 6.9/16 among adults 18-49. Proving again that most people tend to just tune in to see the result.

7) The Amazing Race will always have a happy ending. And there will be someone watching. The finale of "The Amazing Race 7" earned some of the show's best ratings ever. CBS got a 9.1/14 from the first half of "The Amazing Race" finale. The conclusion posted a 10.1/16, beating NBC's "Law & Order: SVU," 9.8/16. Obviously the finale will climb as time goes forward, because a) more people are watching less networks, and b) momentum is coming to a head. Overall, the show notched a hefty 10.7/16 in the overnights, 15.99 million viewers and a 6.7/16 among adults 18-49 from 9-11p. Definitely an audience for the newest top racers, Uchenna & Joyce Agu.

8) Attaching a famous name to a title will not a hit make. The prelude to the Contender finale, in which Sergio Mora and Jesse Brinkley will fight for a million bucks, was dead last among the big four networks in overnights (3.8/8), viewers (5.94 million); A18-49: #4, 2.5/7). About the same as every episode before it. As a result, the show, manned by boxing-legend Sylvester Stallone ("Rocky"), one-third of the Dreamworks powerhouse Jeffrey Katzenberg, and reality impresario Mark Burnett, was cancelled by NBC in the upfront presentation last week. Tonight's show will be the series finale.

9) Real people still cry. Doesn't make for an exciting finale though, as "The Apprentice" (the new title for realtor Kendra Todd) is trounced by the second-half of the "CSI" season finale. In its second hour, "CSI" exploded with a 20.3/31, completing what will probably be a record breaking night for the drama. Viewers, meanwhile, showed only tepid interest (9.1/14, roughly half of CSI's audience... the norm this season with Trump) in watching Kendra win the third season of "The Apprentice" on NBC. Perhaps "truthful hyperbole" pales in comparison to the truth. Hopefully, Martha will do her best to dispel that.

And finally... 10) Networks still don't get it. And it's not just about CSI vs. TPIR either, although I still don't get that one myself. Subpar reality gets subpar numbers, yet cablers still see it as fitting television. Need a hit? Don't have the money? Throw together a reality show! Hey, worked for MTV.

Yeah, worked so much that UPN gave us their own twisted tales of newlyweds... Just goes to show you that viewing audiences in general are smarter than networks tend to believe. Call that lesson #11.

We're going to take a little recess from crunching numbers until the summer. Until then, remember... the numbers never lie.

Chico Alexander
asked Travis for #7. Anything you learned this sweeps? Let's hear about it at chico@gameshownewsnet.com.


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