There was also good news for NBC: The net managed to increase its rating for 18- to 49-year-olds by double digits -- good enough to tie CBS's rating in that demographic.
ABC down in key demo
In what is typically the most important demographic to advertisers, 18- to 49-year-olds, ABC earned a 4.0 rating/11 share, down 9% from the year-ago sweeps period but still enough win the category. CBS and NBC both had a 3.7 rating/10 share. For CBS, that was a drop of 16% from a year ago, but for NBC those numbers represent a 12% gain.
Fox, meanwhile, struggled in the 18-to-49 category without the juggernaut that is "American Idol." The net had a 2.9 rating/8 share, a drop of 9%. New network CW had a 1.4 rating/4 share. All ratings are according to Nielsen Media Research and based on live-plus-same-day viewing.
(A share is a percentage of TV households that have their TV sets on at a given time. A rating is a percentage of all TV households, whether or not their sets are turned on. For example, a 1.0 rating is 1% of the total U.S. households with a TV.)
Sweeps -- which occurs each November, February, May and July -- measures ratings for all 210 TV markets. The importance of sweeps has declined with the advent of local-people meters in the top 10 markets, which now provide overnight ratings and demographic data.
Football key for NBC
NBC, despite being the only network to see year-over-year gains, will re-jigger its prime-time schedule at midseason. Top NBC performers during sweeps included "Sunday Night Football," "Deal or No Deal," "Law & Order: SVU" and freshman hit "Heroes."
It naturally has to replace "Sunday Night Football" and will do that with a reality series, "Grease: You're the One That I Want," followed by "The Apprentice" and "Crossing Jordan" in the 10 p.m. hour. "Friday Night Lights" will move from Tuesdays to Wednesdays at 8 p.m., replacing "30 Rock" and the canceled "20 Good Years." The program will be followed by "Deal or No Deal" (which replaces "The Biggest Loser") and "Medium" (which is taking the 10 p.m. spot previously held by "Kidnapped").
"Dateline NBC" replaces "Friday Night Lights" Tuesdays at 8 p.m. On Thursdays, "Scrubs" returns at 9 p.m., followed by "30 Rock." New midseason dramas "Raines" and "The Black Donnellys" will also join the NBC schedule at dates and times to be announced later.