February 3, 2014

NIELSENWAR: The Value of a Super Bowl, and Midseason, Part I


Everyone knows that the Super Bowl is by far the highest rated show of each season, but what does it mean for a network’s big picture?  Here were the season-to-date averages for the broadcast networks as of a week ago:

NBC:  2.47

FOX:  2.11

CBS:  2.07

ABC:  1.67

CW:   0.54

And here are the new averages as of this morning:

FOX:  2.55

NBC:  2.41

CBS:  2.04

ABC:  1.64

CW:   0.55

The Super Bowl alone vaulted FOX into 1st place for the entire season, upping its average by almost half a ratings point in a single night.  (FOX’s average for the week should be something like 10.5, with CBS around 1.5 and NBC/ABC about 1.25.)  That impact will lessen as the season extends from February into March–and of course NBC is about to have 18 nights of primetime Winter Olympics coverage to help it out–but that one broadcast will still serve to distance FOX from ABC and CBS.

Thinking of the Olympics… The other networks are mostly going into hiding beginning on Thursday and letting NBC run with its coverage, which among other things will allow all the networks to preserve more fresh episodes for the March-May home stretch of the season.  However, there were several moves made in January.  Unfortunately for the networks, just about all of them seem to have failed.

FOX:  RAKE, which was FOX’s single highest-profile pick-up last May (and very possibly its most expensive), and which was supposed to give a lift to the second half of the season in the way 24 and THE FOLLOWING have done for FOX in the past, has already shrunken past being “disappointing” and looks like a flat-out flop (1.3 last Thursday), more proof that viewers don’t care about big star names (in this case, Greg Kinnear) in a show they have no interest in watching.  Even worse, The Following itself, after a football-boosted premiere, came back with a new series low 2.0 rating.  FOX may have made a major mistake in retaining last season’s villain and blood-soaked, torture porn tone for 2014.  And AMERICAN IDOL, far from slowing its decline, is down 30% from last season despite changes in format and judging panel, and it seems inevitable that this year Idol will discover what it’s like to have a rating that starts with a “2”.

ABC:  Although the network still has several big moves coming (including the launches of RESURRECTION, MIND  GAMES and MIXOLOGY), January saw the demise of THE ASSETS and KILLER WOMEN (the latter will limp on until the Olympics end), and the very underwhelming season debuts of THE TASTE and SUBURGATORY.  Thursdays, in particular, are a wreck, and ABC will have to hope its GREY’S ANATOMY and SCANDAL fans return en masse when their shows do.

CBS:  As usual, the paragon of network stability doesn’t have much going on for midseason (FRIENDS WITH BETTER LIVES will launch following the finale of HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER in late March).  But any hope that INTELLIGENCE would rescue the Monday 10PM slot died quickly, as the weakly-received high-tech procedural is barely doing better than HOSTAGES managed last fall, with 1.5 last week against a CASTLE rerun.

NBC:  Of course the Peacock will use its Olympics coverage to promo the crap out of its midseason launches, which will include ABOUT A BOY and GROWING UP FISHER getting prime post-THE VOICE slots on Tuesday, the arrival of post-football Sundays, the return of HANNIBAL on Fridays and something as-yet unannounced to replace SEAN SAVES THE WORLD on Thursdays.  But its January moves yielded little, as CHICAGO PD looks like a mediocrity on Wednesdays (1.7 last week against a CSI rerun), and the return of Dan Harmon only excited the COMMUNITY faithful on Thursdays.  Both of those shows may very well be renewed, given NBC’s non-Voice-related track record, but they’re hardly game changers.

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."