July 2, 2014


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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The broadcast networks are putting an unprecedented amount of original programming on their airwaves this summer.  With the exception of CBS, which just began ramping up its summer campaign with the return of Big Brother last week, most of the networks have aired at least a fresh hour per night Sunday-Thursday throughout June, and there are several all-new nightly line-ups on the schedule.

The results, so far, have been bleak.  To be sure, the programming the broadcasters have been airing is mostly quite inexpensive, compared to regular season offerings.  And cable networks aren’t faring all that well either, with notable declines for summer hits like Pretty Little Liars and True Blood, and debuts that have been moderate (The Last Ship, The Leftovers) or worse (Tyrant, Halt and Catch Fire, Chasing Life).  Cablers, though, can re-run their shows incessantly to accumulate a number, and they also get much of their revenue from subscription fees that aren’t directly ratings-dependent.  (Entirely so, in the case of the pay networks.)  The broadcast networks feel the effect of their dwindling ratings at once.  Of course, the real issue isn’t so much the summer numbers themselves, which will never be huge compared to those of the regular season, but what they could portend for the fall.  Every year, the networks watch their viewers leave for the summer, and hope they’ll come back 4 months later–and every year, fewer return.

Through most of June (June 2-29, to be precise), the network averages were:

ABC 1.73 (-19% from 2.14 last year, and -23% from the network’s average during the regular season)

NBC 1.30 (-19% from 1.60 last year, and -43% from its regular season average)

FOX 0.92 (-20% from 1.16 last year, and -55% from its regular season average)

CBS 0.88 (-10% from 0.98 last year, and -53% from its regular season average)

CW 0.31 (+22% from 0.25 last year, and -40% from its regular season average)

The crucial note on the numbers above is that ABC’s include the NBA Finals, which greatly boosted the network’s June average.  With those games done, and with the regular-season-priced Rising Star proving to be the exact opposite of its title, the network’s July results are likely to be much, much worse.  (The network was even unlucky with its basketball this year, as the Finals went only 5 games, ending before the ratings bonanzas of Games 6 and 7.)  NBC, for its part, is largely driven by America’s Got Talent, the biggest summer hit on any network.  CW has benefited from airing 2 weekly hours of Whose Line Is It Anyway, which rates as well in reruns as it does with fresh episodes.  As noted above, CBS just launched Big Brother last week, and last night’s Under the Dome season premiere isn’t included above.  (The network also has the high-profile Extant premiering next week.)

Last week’s network averages (June 23-29, Live + Same Day)

NBC 1.06 (down from 1.21 last week, which included an extra run of America’s Got Talent)

CBS 1.01 (up from 0.80 last week, thanks to Big Brother)

ABC 0.99 (slightly down from 1.01 last week)

FOX 0.95 (steady with last week)

CW 0.23 (down from 0.32 last week)


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."