October 27, 2014

NIELSENWAR: Fall Network Ratings – Night By Night Chart & Analysis


We’re now 5 weeks into the fall TV season, and although some major changes in the schedule are ahead, mostly due to CBS’s half-season of Thursday Night Football coming to an end, there’s enough data to come to some conclusions about how the season is going for each network.  The following chart shows the Live + Same Day Adult 18-49 ratings on a nightly basis, with comparisons to the same period in 2013.  Let’s dig in.

Weeks 1-5 Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
ABC 2013 2.1 2.0 2.5 2.5 1.4 1.8 1.6
  2014 1.9 1.4 2.2 3.0 1.5 1.7 1.7
  % chg -10% -30% -10% +18% +4% -1% +6%
CBS 2013 2.2 2.7 2.4 3.0 1.5 0.7 2.4
  2014 2.8 2.2 2.3 5.4 1.2 0.7 1.9
  % chg +30% -18% -5% +83% -18% -10% -19%
NBC 2013 4.2 3.2 1.6 1.3 1.2 0.7 6.6
  2014 3.5 2.8 1.6 1.2 1.1 0.6 6.5
  % chg -16% -12% +0% -8% -9% -14% -2%
FOX 2013 2.3 1.6 2.8 2.4 1.1 1.6 3.4
  2014 2.2 1.5 1.6 1.2 1.1 1.0 3.8
  % chg -3% -6% -42% -52% -1% -35% +14%

ABC:  The awful 30% drop on Tuesday is a bit misleading, because the first few weeks of the 2013-14 season were by far the strongest for Agents of SHIELD, which has been on the decline ever since its launch.  Still, the night is an obvious problem for the network:  SHIELD had no sophomore growth at all, Forever is continuing ABC’s streak of failing at 10PM, and Manhattan Love Story has already been canceled.  Although Selfie survives for the moment, it doesn’t show any of the potential ratings strength of last fall’s The Goldbergs, and the fact that ABC will be burning through 2 Selfie episodes per week when it returns after its holiday preemption this week isn’t a good sign.  On the other hand, the “TGIT” Thursday, better and more accurately known as Shondaland Thursday, is going great blazes.  The night’s first hour will get tougher with the return of The Big Bang Theory this week, but the triple threat of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder is already fearsome.  Elsewhere in the week, the 10% drop on Wednesday may seem a bit surprising, considering how well The Goldbergs and Black-ish are doing, but it reflects erosion in the night’s veteran shows.  ABC’s Sunday is actually worse than it looks, because Resurrection and Revenge have been moving steadily down, hitting new series lows last night.

CBS:  Both Monday and Thursday are in the process of being re-launched, so the CBS pictured here is already a thing of the past.  Naturally the addition of Big Bang Theory on Mondays gave a temporary dose of adrenalin to that night, which was also boosted by the successful launch of Scorpion and the big gain at 10PM with NCIS: LA swapped for HostagesThursday, as expected, almost doubled thanks to football.  Still, all is not well at the Eye.  That 18% drop on Tuesday is worrisome, and indicates the aging of NCIS, which has led to a moderate launch for NCIS: New Orleans.  The move of The Amazing Race to Friday has seriously hurt that show without helping the night, also driven down by aging dramas, in this case Blue Bloods and Hawaii 5-0.  On Sunday, though, while Madam Secretary is underperforming compared to last fall’s Amazing Race, the night’s drop seems to be more about the network having fewer late afternoon NFL games during the limited timeframe.

NBC:  Although Sunday Night Football has given NBC the win every week this season until last week (and that was because of the World Series), the news is far from great for the network.  That nasty 16% drop on Monday is due to The Voice and The Blacklist both slipping considerably from last fall–and since, football aside, those are the cornerstones of the network’s schedule, losing half a ratings point each in a single year is a bad trend.  The Voice‘s slippage also affected Tuesday, while the swap of The Mysteries of Laura for Revolution gave NBC precisely nothing in 18-49s (the result would be different with older-skewing viewers).  Thursday is a wreck, but NBC isn’t really trying this fall, launching a pair of B-level sitcoms (I’m being kind) and waiting until February for its Big Move of The Blacklist to that night.

FOX:  The 35% Saturday drop is about sports rather than regular programming, but Wednesdays and Thursdays are catastrophes, down 42% and 52% respectively.  (Tuesdays are in terrible shape too, but since that was already true last fall, the year-to-year difference isn’t as sharp.)  Gracepoint is already a limited series–although not limited enough–and Red Band Society only survives if FOX is giving up for the season on trying to fix Wednesdays.  The successful launch of Gotham is FOX’s best news of the fall, but it still only kept Monday treading water, down 3% from last fall.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."