December 3, 2013

NIELSENWAR: The Midseason Battles Begin, “Walking Dead” Chews On Fall Finale Record


NOTE:  Season To Date and Weekly Network Ratings Charts Are Below

NBC made a surprise move today, announcing that THE BLACKLIST, rather than following the pattern of last season’s Revolution and airing only with The Voice as its lead-in, will broadcast three new episodes next month starting on January 13, making tonight’s fall finale a relatively brief one.  For the network, this is both an opportunity and a risk.

The clear target of NBC’s move is CBS, which had already scheduled the regular timeslot launch of its midseason action thriller INTELLIGENCE to debut on January 13.  (Intelligence will first air a “preview” on Tuesday January 7.)  The Blacklist has been feeding on the failure of CBS’s Hostages all fall, and CBS thought it would have the chance to get a leap on Blacklist by building an audience for its new show before Blacklist returned after the Winter Olympics.  Now the shows are going head-to-head, and the presumptive advantage goes to Blacklist, already the biggest breakout hit of the season.

There’s a potential downside here for NBC, though.  While the last couple of weeks of Blacklist numbers have been encouraging, holding steady despite declines in its Voice lead-in, there’s a big difference between airing with a low-end Voice to start the night and having American Ninja Warriors as your lead-in, which will be the case in January.  Blacklist could take a hit, and recent TV history suggests that once shows drop, they often fail to recover.  Also, this scheduling will give Blacklist the kind of intermittent airing the networks have been trying to avoid, with an uninterrupted fall, a 6 week break, 3 weeks on in January, another month or more off, and then a return after the Olympics.  Plus burning these episodes in January will leave three fewer available for Spring, which may force either further preemptions or an early season finale.  Fiddling with shows that have just begun to establish themselves is a tricky business, and if The Blacklist falters, NBC may wish it had left well enough alone.

The other news of the day was the release of overnight numbers for last night’s fall finale of THE WALKING DEAD.  No surprise, it was a blockbuster hit, with 12.1M total viewers for the 9PM airing and what should be a 6.2 rating in 18-49s.  Those numbers are huge, and up from last year’s fall finale 10.5M/5.4, although down from this year’s fall premiere, at 16.1M/8.2, and also down from last year’s season finale at 12.4M/6.4.   (Last year’s season premiere scored 10.9M/5.8, so the decline from fall premiere to fall finale is somewhat steeper this year as well.)  Even if we’re starting to see the first glimmer of the show having peaked, it’s still–in more ways than one–monstrous.


Week by Week Prime time Averages


2013 Season — Last Five Weeks
Adult 18-49 Rating (Live+Same Day)












Season to Date Averages
Weeks 1-10
Prime time Adult 18-49 Rating (Live+Same Day)
           2013……..2012…..% chg




CBS….. 2.16……..2.32……-7%


FOX…..2.04……..2.15…… -5%


ABC…..1.90……..2.14…… -11%




5-Net….9.44…. 10.00…… -6%


Note:       2013: 9.23-11.26.2013 official nationals, 11.27-11.30.2013 fast nationals, 12.1.2013 adjusted fast nationals


                2012: 9.24-12.2.2012 official nationals




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."