Network isn't expected to hold onto first place for long
Not only did Super Bowl XLVIII break viewership records for Fox, it appears that it will also likely land the network in first place for the season overall — temporarily at least.
Fox projects that when final Sunday numbers for all networks become available on Tuesday, it will leap past NBC — moving from third to first — to take over the top spot in the season-to-date ratings race for the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demographic.
Fox says that it will soar to a 2.9 average in the key demo versus NBC's 2.8. Another network tells TheWrap that Fox may land as high as a 3.0 due to the Super Bowl Sunday boost. After all, the last time that Fox carried the Super Bowl, in 2011, its season average improved that week by 0.5 of a point (up to a 3.4 from the prior week's 2.9). The same result would net the 3.0.
Season averages prior to the current week were: NBC, 2.9; CBS, 2.6; Fox, 2.5; ABC, 2.1.
An insider from a third network concurred that the third-to-first leap is likely, but added that it will be “very temporary,” guessing that the victory lap will last maybe a week, “two at most,” telling TheWrap that NBC's Winter Olympics coverage — which launches competition on Thursday and the opening ceremony on Friday — would soon reverse Sunday's leap.
In reality, Fox is aiming for second place overall when the season ends, but knows that third is a possibility. Network Chairman Kevin Reilly has predicted several times that Fox would likely not win the season in the key demo.