May 25, 2012

The Sked: The Broadcast Season Final Results

With the end of the broadcast season comes a flurry of press releases from the broadcast networks.  FOX had the most to crow about as it won the entire season and the May sweep with Adults 18-49.  FOX’s headline: “FOX sets new broadcast industry record with eight consecutive victory among adults 18-49”.  FOX went on to claim “American Idol takes top spot in Adults 18-49 for ninth season in a row”, ignoring that Sunday Night Football, a legitimate television series, out-rated Idol by almost two rating points (7.99 for SNF and 6.16 for Idol Wednesday).  FOX also claimed  “New Girl emerges as #1 new series among young adults”, cleverly shifting the focus to Adults 18-34.  (2 Broke Girls is actually the #1 new series with Adults 18-49, the demographic most meaningful to advertisers.)  It’s totally legitimate to talk about 18-34, but “young adults” in the headline could just as easily have meant 18-49. 


For a spin-free ranking of the networks and the top 25 programs this past season, click “read more”


ABC shifted the focus to the May sweep in its release, as it has a second place finish in May as opposed to its fourth-place finish in the broadcast season.  When it did mention the broadcast season, ABC pointed out it “overpowered the NFL-driven NBC by 20% in Adults 18-49 (2.4 vs 2.0)” when all sports were excluded from the season, while “excluding just the Super Bowl, NBC’s season average dropped 2-tenths of a rating point, putting NBC -4% behind ABC for the season (2.4 vs. 2.3)”.  Perhaps the most unimpressive claim in any release: “ABC is home to the top 2 TV shows on the major nets for ‘Family Coviewing'”.  And the answer to that future Jeopardy! question: What are Wipeout and America’s Funniest Home Videos?


NBC opened its release with its 9% gain versus last year with Adults 18-49.  It didn’t break out how much of that gain is attributable to the Super Bowl, but we are sure the ABC Research department will be happy to oblige.  The network also pointed out it was “#3 outright for the first time in eight years” in its headline and then made clear (to FOX) that SNF “is primetime’s #1 series for the season, snapping the eight-year streak of American Idol“.   NBC went on to discuss the median age of each network’s audience, citing entirely different numbers than FOX used.  According to NBC, FOX’s median age is 46.3 and about a year older than last year.  While FOX, staring at itself in the mirror, claimed its median age was 41 and younger than last year — the only network with younger audience this year, dammit!  


Sitting out was CBS.  A solid second place for the season and a disappointing third place in May (edged out by ABC by the closest of margin) are not the stuff of a powerful release.  The one thing CBS could crow about is winning the season with Viewers 2+, but they have moved beyond that and have their eyes firmly fixed on the 18-49 ratings crown next season.  To get an early peek at next season’s ratings, check out our predictions for each night on The Sked.  


And for the record, here are the key stats for the season just past.  The ratings for the networks averages and the individual shows are a combination of Live+7 Day DVR Viewing (whenever available) and Live+Same Day DVR Viewing (for episodes since May 7).    



          2011-12 Broadcast Season

         Prime Time — All Programs


            Adults 18-49     Viewers 2+

            Rating  %chg     (millions)


       FOX   3.2     -9%      8.9

       CBS   3.0     +3%     11.7

       NBC   2.5     +9%      7.4

       ABC   2.4     -4%      8.4



Top 25 Programs           Adult 18-49



 1 Sunday Night Football     7.99     NBC

 2 American Idol Wednesday   6.16     FOX

 3 The Voice                 6.12     NBC

 4 Modern Family             5.54     ABC

 5 American Idol Thursday    5.53     FOX

   Big Bang Theory           5.53     CBS

 7 The OT                    5.24     FOX

 8 Two and a Half Men        5.10     CBS

 9 X Factor Wednesday        4.36     FOX

10 2 Broke Girls             4.35     CBS

11 Grey’s Anatomy            4.23     ABC

12 New Girl                  4.20     FOX

13 X Factor Thursday         4.18     FOX

14 The Voice Results         4.17     NBC

15 How I Met Your Mother     4.12     CBS

16 Once Upon a Time          4.10     ABC

17 NCIS                      4.01     CBS

18 Survivor (fall cycle)     3.99     CBS

19 Family Guy                3.79     FOX

20 Mike & Molly              3.77     CBS

21 Criminal Minds            3.73     CBS

22 Rob                       3.71     CBS

23 Glee                      3.66     FOX

24 Terra Nova                3.58     FOX

25 Desperate Housewives      3.57     ABC




Nielsen People Meter

Sep 19 2011-May 6 2012 “Live+7 Day” DVR Viewing

May 7-May 23 2012 “Live+Same Day” DVR Viewing

Programs under 15 minute duration excluded from ranking






About the Author

Mitch Metcalf
MITCH METCALF has been tracking every US film release of over 500 screens (over 2300 movies and counting) since the storied weekend of May 20, 1994, when Maverick and Beverly Hills Cop 3 inspired countless aficionados to devote their lives to the art of cinema. Prior to that, he studied Politics and Economics at Princeton in order to prepare for his dream of working in television. He has been Head of West Coast Research at ABC, then moved to NBC in 2000 and became Head of Scheduling for 11 years.