I love sweeps!!

‘American Idol’ favored for gold over Olympics
TV’s February sweeps, usually a hotly contested month full of specials and stunts, is an Olympic feat this year.
The ratings period that starts Thursday, which is used by local stations to set future ad rates, will instead be marked with a triple-axel asterisk: NBC’s Winter Olympics competes on 17 of its 28 days.
Never mind that CBS will air the Grammy Awards and ABC has the season’s top-rated Super Bowl.
Fox has a little talent competition called American Idol, which, at its torrid pace, probably will become the first series in eight years to outmuscle the Olympics. The show faces the Games on five nights.
“I do think it will beat the Olympics,” says Magna Global USA analyst Steve Sternberg, except during figure skating finals that involve the U.S. team.
All of which leaves rivals combing for leftovers, especially among young viewers and men, who tend to be less interested in winter gold.
“We’re not throwing in the towel; we’re still programming aggressively,” ABC scheduling chief Jeff Bader says. “But the combination of the Olympics and American Idol creates some time periods where those programs will dominate no matter what airs against them.”
Still, ABC plans mostly original series opposite the Games, although it will air a repeat of Lost’s pilot Feb. 22 opposite the Olympics and a two-hour Idol.
In addition to Idol, which adds a Thursday semifinals results show for three weeks starting Feb. 23, Fox plans new episodes of 24 all month. WB’s series will sit out the second week of the Olympics, and the network will air a weeklong movie marathon.
CBS plans a rerun-filled lineup, along with Survivor, some new comedy episodes and a Valentine’s Day special in which Dr. Phil offers love advice to Paula Abdul.
In deciding where to parcel out fresh episodes, “you probably don’t get maximum value against the Olympics,” CBS scheduler Kelly Kahl says. “Even though it’s sweeps, they’re probably better utilized somewhere else.” On the bright side, look for fewer repeats than usual in March.
Despite NBC’s Olympics marathon, analysts say, the network is too far behind to count on the Games to vault it anywhere close to first place. Instead, Sternberg predicts that ABC, CBS and, by mid-March, Fox will be in a razor-thin race for first among young-adult viewers.
So none can afford to sit out the month entirely. Says Sternberg: “The network races are so close, whoever’s ahead season-to-date (as February ends) has a very good chance of winning the season.”