June 9, 2012

Broadcast Network Ratings — The Rough Season Continues

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Written by: Mitch Metcalf
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Week 37 of the broadcast season (May 28-June 3) recently concluded, the first full week of summer as defined by the broadcasters with almost all scripted shows in repeats and summer reality shows dominating the airwaves.  The results were not pretty.  NBC won the week with a 1.48 rating with Adults 18-49 (thanks to America’s Got Talent), followed by a 1.30 for ABC, a 1.20 for FOX, and a 1.10 for CBS (which doesn’t get into the summer reality game until Big Brother bows in July).  How bad are these ratings?  The combined 5.07 rating for the four broadcast networks (the numbers don’t always appear to add due to rounding) is down a stunning 31% from the same week last year, when ABC won the week with a 2.92 rating (the NBA finals were on a week earlier than this year’s strike-ravaged basketball schedule), while NBC finished second with a 1.67, FOX managed a 1.51 and CBS a 1.20.

Adult 18-49 Rating (four networks)
2011-12 2010-11 % Change
Week 37 5.07 7.30 -31%
Weeks 1-37 9.13 9.69 -5.7%

This pulled the season average (from September 19 through June 3) to -5.7% behind last year’s pace through 37 weeks.  Through December, the season was running a mere -1.6% behind the prior year, but with each passing month in 2012 the season fell further and further behind.  Through January, the season was -2.4% behind last year, by February (-2.8%), March (-4.0%), and April (-4.6%).  In May, the season-to-date decline fell below -5% and now -6% is in sight.

Clearly, much of the eye-popping 31% decline last week was due to the NBA scheduling.  ABC will benefit when Oklahoma City finally takes on either Miami or Boston on network television, but given the declines on the other networks (and the rest of ABC’s schedule), it should be a long summer ahead with a typical week down 15% or more collectively for the broadcast networks.  We’ll check in throughout the summer and into next season to continue providing an overview of the state of broadcast television.

About the Author

Mitch Metcalf
MITCH METCALF has been tracking every US film release of over 500 screens (over 2300 movies and counting) since the storied weekend of May 20, 1994, when Maverick and Beverly Hills Cop 3 inspired countless aficionados to devote their lives to the art of cinema. Prior to that, he studied Politics and Economics at Princeton in order to prepare for his dream of working in television. He has been Head of West Coast Research at ABC, then moved to NBC in 2000 and became Head of Scheduling for 11 years.