Broadcast Nets to Viewers: OK, People, Holiday's Over
By John Consoli -- Broadcasting & Cable, 1/18/2013 2:04:55 PM
Nielsen data shows that during the holidays, based on viewership for all primetime programming, ABC lost an average of 714,000 viewers per night when comparing its season-to-date numbers for the week ending Dec. 16, 2012, and the week ending Jan. 13, 2013. During that same period, CBS was down 271,000 per night, The CW was down 89,000, Fox was down 79,000 and NBC lost 65,000 per-night viewers.
Among adults 18-49, ABC fell from the 2.0 it was averaging on Dec. 16 to a 1.8 on Jan. 13, CBS dropped from a 2.4 to a 2.2, NBC fell from a 2.7 to a 2.6 and The CW dropped from a 0.6 to a 0.5. Fox, meanwhile, held steady, averaging a 2.1 on both Dec. 16 and Jan. 13.
Christmas shopping clearly was the culprit for most of those declines, along with the networks airing repeats in December, mixed in with special holiday programming that may not have tickled viewers' fancy. However, January will start what the networks hope will be a strong resurgence as they begin to bring back historically strong shows such as Fox's American Idol, along with premiering assorted midseason series.
That's the plan on paper, anyway. Unfortunately, the broadcast nets have not gotten off to a promising midseason start. Idol premiered on Wednesday night with 17.9 million viewers, down almost 17% from last year's season premiere, and with a 6.0 18-49 rating, down 19%. While the 6.0 demo rating was the highest for any regularly scheduled non-sports series episode this season, it still shows that the Idol juggernaut continues to bleed sizable audience numbers, which can't be a good thing for Fox, a network with very little else to crow about on its schedule right now. Fox has to be hoping that its new crime drama The Following, starring Kevin Bacon, lives up to the predictions of TV writers who are saying it should become a viewer favorite (despite all the press related to its violent subject matter).
A couple of other new midseason series on NBC and The CW do not seem to be the hits their respective networks were hoping for. On NBC, drama Deception premiered with 5.6 million viewers and a 2.0 18-49 rating in its Monday at 10 p.m. time period two weeks ago, but this Monday fell to 4.1 million viewers and a 1.6 demo rating, meaning the cancellation clock could already be ticking. On The CW, The Carrie Diaries premiered with 1.6 million viewers and a 0.6 18-49 rating. While the bar is lower for the millennial-skewing network, if compared to its new freshman hit Arrow, The Carrie Diaries was a disappointment. Arrow is averaging better than three million viewers this season, and it is not likely that The Carrie Diaries will double its viewership in week two.
The broadcast networks have been posturing that the steep declines would begin to level off as unsuccessful new series were dropped and viewers returned to normal viewing patterns. However, Nielsen data through 16 weeks still shows the broadcast networks, except for NBC, are down significant percentages in viewers and, more importantly, in the 18-49 demo.
Through 16 weeks for all primetime programming, Fox continues to show the largest season-to-date decreases, down 20.5% in viewers to 6.01 million per night, followed by ABC, which is down 10.9% to 6.83 million viewers. CBS is down 8.2% to 9.85 million and the CW is down 3% to 1.43 million. The CW, with its lower audience base, has gotten a sizable lift from Arrow's 3.1 million average viewers in its first season. NBC is up 15.4% to 7.8 million viewers, and as has been widely reported, just about all of that increase is due to the network airing two nights of singing competition The Voice, which it did not air during the same period last season.
Through 16 weeks in the 18-49 demo season-to-date, Fox is down 19.2% to a 2.1 from a 2.6, CBS is down 18.5% to a 2.2 from a 2.7, ABC is down 14.3% to a 1.8 from a 2.1 and The CW is down 13.1% to a 0.53 from a 0.61. NBC is up 18.2% to a 2.6 from a 2.2. Why so big a chunk for The CW? True, Arrow brought in lots of new viewers, but many of them are much older than the network's traditional millennial audience. Looking at the Nielsen data, The CW rating for the 50-plus demo is up 20.8% to a .058 and its 45-64 demo rating is up 12.5% to a 0.63.
The broadcast networks have not had a very successful year so far introducing new programming, but some of their veteran series continue to do well and show a consistent pattern of season-to-season stability.
CBS' The Big Bang Theory is averaging 16 million viewers and a 5.0 18-49 rating through 16 weeks this season. The entire last season, Big Bang averaged 13.5 million viewers and a 4.7 demo rating, which represented a growth from 2010-11 as well.
The second-highest rated scripted series on broadcast in the 18-49 demo is ABC sitcom Modern Family, averaging a 4.0 with 10.5 million viewers. That compares to a 3.5 last season with 10 million viewers and a 3.8 with 9.6 million viewers in 2010-11.
CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men, which many critics predicted would finally fail this season, is doing quite the opposite. It is averaging a 3.7 18-49 rating and 12.7 million viewers. Last year, with all the early viewer interest in Ashton Kutcher replacing Charlie Sheen, it averaged a 4.4 demo rating and 12.6 million viewers. Two seasons ago, it averaged a 3.5 and 11.6 million.
These shows are part of a pattern of consistency among TV's most popular primetime series:
- CBS drama NCIS: This season-to-date, 3.4 18-49 rating and 18.7 million viewers; last season, 3.3 18-49 rating and 17.3 million viewers.
- CBS sitcom 2 Broke Girls: This season, 3.4 18-49 rating and 9.6 million viewers; last season, 3.4 18-49 rating and 9.9 million viewers.
- ABC drama Once Upon a Time: This season, 3.2 18-49 rating and 9.5 million viewers; last season 3.3 18-49 rating and 9.5 million viewers
- ABC drama Grey's Anatomy: This season, 3.1 18-49 rating and 8.9 million viewers; last season 3.1 18-49 rating and 8.6 million viewers.
- CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother: This season, 3.1 18-49 rating and 8 million viewers; last season 2.9 18-49 rating and 8.5 million viewers.
- CBS sitcom Mike & Molly: This season, 2.9 18-49 rating and 9.2 million viewers; last season, 3.2 18-49 rating and 10.2 million viewers.
- CBS drama Criminal Minds: This season, 2.8 18-49 rating and 10.9 million viewers; last season 2.9 18-49 rating and 11.2 million viewers.
- CBS drama NCIS: Los Angeles: This season, 2.9 18-49 rating and 15.7 million viewers; last season 2.8 18-49 rating and 14.2 million viewers.
- CBS drama Person of Interest: This season 2.8 18-49 rating and 13.9 million viewers; last season 2.6 18-49 rating and 12.2 million viewers.
If anyone needed evidence as to why CBS is still seen by media buyers and planners as the most stable broadcast network, there it is.
On a smaller scale, ABC drama Revenge has shown some solid growth in its second season. The network liked the series and felt it had a smaller but loyal audience in its 10 p.m. Wednesday time period and wanted to keep it on the air. So it moved the series to Sunday at 9 p.m. to go head to head with veteran CBS drama series The Good Wife. While The Good Wife wins the viewer battle each week, Revenge wins the 18-49 demo scrimmage. This season, Revenge is averaging a 2.6 18-49 rating through 16 weeks, compared to a 2.1 it averaged all of last season. And it is averaging 7.9 million viewers -- not a huge number for Sunday night, but one million more than it averaged last season.
There are still four months left in the current broadcast television season and lots can happen. Many of these averages can change. But that's not the issue for the networks. Their struggle has been and will continue to be finding more series that can score like the reliable ones listed above, and continue to draw a consistent number of viewers year after year. That, for networks, would indeed be the gift that keeps on giving.
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