General News

Reviewing the Sweeps: Why NBC Lost February

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Mar 19, 2001 | 11:51am EST

The 2001 The cast of 'Friends'

February ratings sweeps are over, and ABC emerged the clear winner thanks to "Who Wants to be a Millionaire," which was shown at least four times a week in prime time.

But ABC didn't win without a struggle.

NBC tried harder then any other network to win the Feb. sweeps-and failed the most miserably. What follows is a lesson in shamelessness:

NBC's Attempt

1. "Must See" Thursday. Marred by the success of CBS' "Survivor,” NBC lapsed into desperation, creating a new contest that rewarded the viewers who actually watched the lineup, which included the show that refuses to die, "Friends."

2. The Monday Night Character Kill-Off. Monday night's lineup was also a target of sweeps sensationalism, as "Third Watch" killed off Bobby Cannavale's character -- paramedic Caffey -- in a stunning shooting. But the decision may have been coming for months.

"It was a mutual decision. We have a fairly large ensemble and Bobby felt he was not being used enough, so it was time to retire his character," said "Third Watch" co-creator Ed Bernero.

3. The XFL Debacle. NBC shamed their viewing audience the most when they debuted the XFL -- a trashy takeoff of the NFL, complete with even trashier cheerleaders and coaches wearing microphones for the world to hear. NBC: go back to quality.

Other networks tried to compete with ABC's "Millionaire" in slightly less offensive ways, though also without success. CBS scored with "Survivor," but ended up in third place overall and fourth in the key 18-49 demographic (behind FOX).

The next ratings sweep commences May 1.

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