April 6, 2012

The Sked: Accelerating Broadcast Declines & Forecast Full Season Ratings

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Written by: Mitch Salem
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>The ugly second half of the 2011-12 television season rolls on, and its not getting any prettier for the broadcast networks.  In fact, the combined rating for the broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX) the past two weeks are down a stunning 17% and 14% from the same weeks last year.  The current week (April 2-8) is a little more than halfway over and is running about 10% behind last year’s pace.  Overall, the pace of decline for broadcast television in primetime is picking up momentum since the Super Bowl.

          Combined Adult 18-49 Rating
          Primetime — Four Networks

Week of:     2012  2011   Change
 02.06       10.8  10.4    +4%
 02.13        9.3   9.6    -3%
 02.20        9.6  10.7    -10%
 02.27        9.4   9.9    -5%
 03.05        7.9   8.6    -8%
 03.12        7.9   8.6    -8%
 03.19        8.0   9.7    -17%
 03.26        8.4   9.7    -14% 

In the past eight weeks since the Super Bowl, the broadcast declines have been heavily concentrated on FOX, as American Idol collapses.  Over this period, FOX has fallen to second place behind CBS, an unusual turn of events as FOX normally would be padding its lead or catching up to CBS when American Idol was at its formerly high levels.  Ever consistent, CBS is averaging a 2.6 rating the past eight weeks (the same as its season average) and even with last year at this time.  But who will win the season? Read on.

ABC is down 6% the past few months and trying to hold the line at a 2.0 rating each week.  While NBC’s past eight weeks are up 14% from last year, it is important to note the yearly comparisons have been declining each week.  For the four weeks between February 6 and March 4, NBC averaged a 22% increase over the same week last year.  Between March 5 and April 1, the weekly increases have slowed to 7% on average as The Voice has cooled off. 


          Primetime Adult 18-49 Rating

               CBS   FOX   ABC   NBC
Feb 6-Apr 1    2.6   2.5   2.0   1.8 
 vs last year  -0%   -25%  -6%   +14%

Sep 19-Apr 1   2.6   2.8   2.1   2.3
 vs last year  -2%   -12%  -5%   +5% 

As the season draws to a close before Memorial Day, CBS looks very likely to hold at a 2.6 rating for the entire September-May season.   FOX will probably hold on to first place and finish the entire season at a 2.7 rating if it continues its recent pace.  (The only way FOX can hold on to its current 2.8 season average is if it averages a 2.75 rating each week between now and the end of the season — very unlikely.  Conversely, FOX would have to fall all the way down to a 2.20 between now and the end of the season to finish in a tie with CBS at a 2.6 season rating — and that’s not going to happen either.)  

There is a similar situation in the race for third place.  Season to date, NBC (2.3) is ahead of ABC (2.1), thanks to a lot of Sunday Night Football earlier in the season.  That margin is going down a little each week since the end of the NFL season but not at a fast enough rate for ABC to catch NBC in all probability.  If ABC averages a 2.00 and NBC averages a 1.85 between now and the end of the season, NBC would end the season with a 2.2 from September-May and ABC would just barely round up to a 2.1.  However, if NBC averages a 1.60 between now and the end of the season, the network would fall to a 2.1 rating for the entire season and have to share third place with ABC — not a particularly great claim to fame considering the Super Bowl is included in that average.  But most likely, the final standings for the 2011-12 broadcast season are #1 FOX (2.7), #2 CBS (2.6), #3 NBC (2.2) and #4 ABC (2.1).    


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."