MBPT Spotlight: ABC Didn’t Win The November Sweeps But It Did Grow Where Others Didn’t

The Big Five English-language broadcast networks drew about 3% fewer total viewers and 10% fewer 18-49 viewers in this November sweeps period compared to last year, and things could have been worse if it weren’t for a handful of freshman series that pulled in sizable viewership to offset some of the losses of most returning series.

Overall, the five networks averaged 7.2 million viewers per night in primetime, compared to 7.4 million last November, and averaged a 1.8 demo rating, compared to a 2.0, according to Nielsen data. ABC was the only network that recorded increases both in viewers and in the demo—increasing viewership by 4% to 8.1 million viewers per night from 7.8 million, and boosting its 18-49 number by 5% to a 2.1 from a 2.0. The CW increased its viewership to 1.7 million per night from 1.6 million, but was flat in the demo at 0.7.

The other three networks were all down in total viewers and down even more significantly among viewers 18-49. CBS was the sweeps winner in total viewers, averaging 9.4 million, but that was down 5% from last November’s 9.9 million average. NBC was second in total viewers with 8.4 million, but the network was also down 5% from last November’s 8.8 million-viewer average. Fox showed the most drastic November sweeps decline—down 19% from 4.7 million to 3.8 million.

In the 18-49 demo, NBC was the winner with a 2.4, but that was down 14% from last November when it recorded a 2.8. ABC was second with a 2.1. CBS was third with a 1.7, down 15% from last November’s 2.0, and Fox was fourth with a 1.4, down 18% from last year’s 1.7.

The most-watched freshman series during the November sweeps this season were NCIS: New Orleans on CBS, which averaged 15.4 million viewers; Madam Secretary on CBS (12.7 million); Scorpion on CBS (10 million); How to Get Away With Murder on ABC (9.2 million); and Mysteries of Laura on NBC (8.2 million). Cumulatively, they averaged 11.1 million viewers each week.

The most-watched freshman series during the 2013 November sweeps were The Millers on CBS (10.8 million); The Blacklist on NBC (10.6 million); The Crazy Ones on CBS (8.3 million); Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on ABC (7.6 million); and Chicago Fire on NBC (7.4 million). Cumulatively they averaged 8.9 million viewers each week.

Both sets of Top Five freshman shows averaged a cumulative 18-49 rating of about 2.5.

The two most-watched broadcast network shows during the November sweeps this year were the same ones as last year—CBS drama NCIS and CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory. This November NCIS averaged 17.2 million viewers, down from 19.4 million last November, while Big Bang averaged 16.1 million viewers, down from 16.4 million. The third-most-watched show was freshman series NCIS: New Orleans, which averaged 15.4 million, followed by CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes which averaged 15 million viewers. Rounding out the Top 5 was ABC’s Dancing With the Stars, which averaged 13.9 million viewers.

In the 18-49 demo during the sweeps, the No. 1 series was Big Bang, averaging a 4.2 rating, down from 4.5 last November. Second was ABC’s Modern Family, averaging a 3.5, down slightly from a 3.6 last November. Third was the Monday edition of NBC’s The Voice, which averaged a 3.1, down from a 3.6, and ABC’s Scandal, which also averaged a 3.1 but which was up from a 2.9 last November. Fifth was The Voice Tuesday edition with a 2.7, down from a 3.3 last November.

Among viewers, a couple of CBS dramas recorded big losses during the November sweeps compared to last season. NCIS: Los Angeles has been hurt all season by its move from Tuesday night at 9 leading out of NCIS, to Monday night at 10 in a much more competitive time period. But the viewer losses were particularly pronounced during the November sweeps. This November, NCIS: Los Angeles averaged 8.8 million viewers and a 1.5 18-49 demo rating. Last November it averaged 14.2 million and a 2.4 demo rating. NCIS: New Orleans made up those numbers, but a couple of other CBS dramas in their same time periods were down.

Person of Interest averaged 9.3 million viewers and a 1.6 demo rating, compared to 11.3 million viewers and a 2.0 demo rating last November. Criminal Minds averaged 10.3 million viewers and a 2.2 demo rating, compared to 11.2 million viewers and a 2.6 demo rating.

On ABC, its most-watched series, Modern Family was close to flat in both viewers and in the 18-49 demo. Modern Family averaged 10.4 million viewers and a 3.5 demo rating this November compared to 10.5 million and a 3.6 last November. Scandal was up, averaging 9.8 million and a 3.1 in the demo, compared to 8.9 million and a 2.9 rating last November. Sitcom The Goldbergs was up significantly to 7.6 million and a 2.2 in the demo, from 5.6 million and a 1.6 demo rating. What also contributed to ABC recording sweeps viewer and demo increases was new series How to Get Away With Murder, which averaged 9.2 million viewers and a 2.9 demo rating, considerably higher than the series it replaced in the Thursday night lineup.

Two NBC series were up during the November sweeps—Law & Order: SVU averaged 8.3 million viewers and a 1.6 demo rating, compared to 5.9 million and a 1.6 demo rating last November, while Chicago Fire was up slightly in both viewers and in the demo. But all of the network’s other series were down in viewers and in the demo, including The Blacklist, The Voice and even Sunday Night Football.

Fox had the worst November sweeps among the broadcast networks. Drama Sleepy Hollow, which averaged 6.9 million viewers and a 2.5 demo rating last November, fell to an average 4.5 million viewers and a 1.5 in the demo, and that was leading out of Fox’s most watched drama Gotham (6.4 million and a 2.3).

A couple of Fox series were close to doing cable-size numbers. The Mindy Project during the November sweeps averaged 2.5 million viewers and a 1.1 demo rating, while new series Mulaney averaged 1.8 million and a 0.8 in the demo.

Three annual specials on ABC also saw audiences decline this November. The American Music Awards drew 11.6 million and a 3.8 demo rating, solid numbers but down from last November’s 13.1 million and 4.5 in the demo. The Country Music Awards also did solid numbers but fell from last November. The CMAs drew 16.2 million viewers and a 4.6 demo rating, down from 16.8 million and a 4.7.

Finally, the Halloween special It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, which aired on the first night of the sweeps (Oct. 30), averaged 6.3 million viewers and a 1.7 demo rating, down from 7 million and a 2.2 rating last sweeps.

While the sweeps used to be a period where the networks put on their best programming, NBC used this November to burn off episodes of two canceled freshman sitcoms—A to Z and Bad Judge. The network ran four episodes of each on Thursday nights. A to Z averaged 2.5 million viewers and a 0.7 demo rating, while Bad Judge averaged 3.7 million and a 0.9 rating.

Also after the sweeps, Fox announced that freshman drama Red Band Society was not being renewed, while NBC announced it was canceling freshman drama Constantine. During the sweeps, Red Band Society averaged 2.9 million and a 0.9 demo rating, while Constantine averaged 3.3 million and a 1.0 in the 18-49 demo.

Out of 21 freshman series that aired during the November 2013 sweeps, only 10 were renewed for this season.