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Nielsen Ratings Sun Feb 17: CBS Losing Badly With Younger Audiences

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February 18th, 2008

Scoreboard for Sun. Feb 17, 2008 ABC NBC CBS FOX CW
Total Viewers (million) 11.11 10.00 9.22 7.30 .84
rating/Share: Adults 18-49 3.7/9 4.0/10 2.1/5 3.2/8 0.3/1

Dexter on CBSABC won the night in total viewers, but the peacocks at NBC will be puffing their chests out about winning the 18-49 demo.  ABC has a Sunday night hit on its hands with Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.  There were two hours worth last night and more people watched it than any other show on Sunday. Unfortunately for ABC, Brothers & Sisters at 10pm does not have mainstream appeal.

NBC scored with 2 hours worth of the American Gladiators season finale and then two hours of the movie, Knight Rider.  In the last half hour, Kit and Michael had over 13 million viewers.  I'd probably have bet heavily against that.  Will the series be revived? They must at least be thinking about it.

The real story here for me is CBS.  And I'm sure I'll take some hate mail for it, but the problem this network faces is in attracting 18-49 viewers.  Indeed, CBS came in last or next to last (beating only the CW) in the 18-49 demo every single half hour of Sunday night.   The problem is that on this Sunday, at least two of the four shows it aired, Big Brother and Dexter are aimed at younger people.  How bad is the problem?  It's really bad.  In the 7:30p half hour, 60 Minutes had 13.12 million people tuned in and American Gladiators had only 6.94 million and still beat CBS handily in the 18-49 demo.

What happened to Big Brother?  It finished next to last, in both viewers AND the 18-49 demo, beating only the CW.   What happened to Dexter?  It finished last (by 10pm, FOX and CW were off the primetime grid or it would have at least thrashed the CW) in viewers and the 18-49 demo.

Dexter did a bit better than Jericho and it also did better than Big Brother, but all three of these shows have the same problem, they seem to be targeted at an audience who don't actually watch CBS much. 

Still Dexter averaged over 8 million.  And this is one of the reasons why I don't want to hear from Jericho fans (even though I am one!!) about online watching, downloads, and DVR.  Dexter has been out a while.  Dexter torrents are all over the Internet, Showtime made downloads available, the DVDs are out, etc.  Two seasons aired on Showtime already and it's been all over the on demand.  But Dexter still wound up with more viewers than the Jericho premiere.

CBS has a problem - its audience is older, and when it puts on new shows targeted at younger people it doesn't find them in bulk (compare even its Cold Case,  which doesn't target so much to the youth to Big Brother and Dexter in the table below).  In light of that and other factors, I thought Dexter performed well.

See the full night's half hourly details:

sorry TVBigshots players, all I got was the half hourly data and no HH Ratings info was available at press time,  but you can see the HH rating info on Zap2it.

Time Network Show Viewers (Millons) 18-49 Rating/Share
  ABC America's Funniest Home Videos 7.59 2.3/7
  CBS 60 Minutes 11.67 2.0/6
  NBC American Gladiators 5.24 2.0/6
  FOX NASCAR 11.87 4.5/13
  CW CW Now 0.67 0.3/1
         
7:30 ABC America's Funniest Home Videos 10.3 3.3/9
  CBS 60 Minutes 13.12 2.1/6
  NBC American Gladiators 6.94 2.9/8
  FOX King of the Hill (Repeat) 5.08 2.2/6
  CW Everybody Hates Chris (Repeat) 0.72 0.2/1
         
8:00 ABC Extreme Makeover: Home Ed. 11.86 3.9/10
  CBS Big Brother 9 7.16 2.3/6
  NBC American Gladiators 7.88 3.3/8
  FOX The Simpsons 7.81 3.6/9
  CW Everybody Hates Chris (Repeat) 1.06 0.4/1
         
8:30 ABC Extreme Makeover: Home Ed. 13.18 4.3/10
  CBS Big Brother 9 6.3 2.1/5
  NBC American Gladiators 9.13 3.8/9
  FOX King of the Hill 6.46 2.9/7
  CW Aliens in America (Repeat) 0.92 0.4/1
         
9:00 ABC Extreme Makeover: Home Ed. 13.82 4.7/11
  CBS Cold Case 9.45 2.1/5
  NBC Movie: Knight Rider 12.35 4.8/11
  FOX Family Guy 7.23 3.6/8
  CW Girlfriends (Repeat) 0.86 0.4/1
         
9:30 ABC Extreme Makeover: Home Ed. 15.12 5.4/12
  CBS Cold Case 9.78 2.2/5
  NBC Movie: Knight Rider 12.61 4.9/11
  FOX American Dad 5.35 2.5/6
  CW The Game (Repeat) 0.79 0.4/1
         
10:00 ABC Brothers and Sisters 8.83 3.1/8
  CBS Dexter (CBS Premiere) 8.3 2.3/6
  NBC Movie: Knight Rider 13.12 5.2/13
         
10:30 ABC Brothers and Sisters 8.18 2.8/7
  CBS Dexter (CBS Premiere) 7.99 2.2/6
  NBC Movie: Knight Rider 13.12 5.2/13

Nielsen Ratings Source: Nielsen Media Research. Full night's results available via Marc Berman/Mediaweek.

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  • Daniel C

    I guess I'm confused by your surprise. Of course CBS is losing in the 18-49 battle. In any chart I've seen since I can remember, CBS has always had the oldest skewing audience. Furthermore, CBS has the fewest “unscripted” shows of any net, 5 by my count (8 on ABC, 7 on NBC, and 7 on FOX). This is a rough guess based on shows featured on each networks web site, but I think it is evident that CBS is very dependent on scripted shows and will do very well when they come back from the strike.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman

    Daniel, it's not new, and it's not a surprise, but it is getting worse. Further, your assertion is not quite true. CBS does very, very well (and OK in the demo too) with its scripted dramas in the crime/mystery genre. Its franchise of CSI along with shows like Criminal Minds and Without a Trace are great performers (along with the comedy, Two and a Half Men).

    The question is, could CBS successfully launch new scripted dramas that are not the modern day equivalent of Murder She Wrote and attract a big audience.

    The answer seems to be no.

  • Jericho Fan

    Just to clarify, Dexter did not do better than Jericho in the 18-49 demo. Only in households.

  • Andy

    Hi all. The Sunday premiere of BB8 got 5.85 mil viewers. I just looked it up. So while the #s are pretty bad, it's still similar to what it did during the summer. Of course, it gained significant momentum as the summer wore on. I don't know if it will be able to get that same momentum now, considering its competition.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman

    Good point Jericho Fan, Jericho did a 2.5/7 in the 18-49 in the overnights vs. 2.3/6ish for Dexter.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman

    In the summertime there are many fewer viewers to attract. Doing as well as it did in the summer during February sweeps is not just pretty bad, it's very bad.

    You'd have to hope it would do at least as well as it did later in the summer run (~8 million). Also BB is down huge in the demo from (I belive) the summer finale that did ~8 million and a 3.2 in the demo. It has lost a lot of 18-49 viewers since the Tuesday, Sept 4 airing.

  • Daniel C

    Yes Robert, I agree that CBS does do very well with its scripted shows. That is why, I believe, it is not doing well with the strike hurting those shows.

    I was thinking that, if CBS REALLY wanted to promote to a younger audience, we'd see promos on Comedy Central, MTV, VH1 and the other Viacom networks. Even though CBS and Viacom split, Sumner Redstone still head honcho for both.

    I'm convinced that CBS is playing the “high tide raises all boats” programming card trying for as many eyeballs as possible, regardless of age.

  • Lola

    CBS is the network your parents watch.
    If they want to reprogram the audience's thinking, then they might have to take a short-term hit in the ratings until the youth demo gets used to finding certain shows on CBS. But if they keep trying out new shows and then dump them right away because of lower ratings, they will never be able to change. And young viewers will only grow to hate CBS even more because they tend to not like having shows they like getting yanked off the schedule. They took Moonlight off the schedule so they could put on a show for my grandma to watch. Way to go, CBS.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman

    Daniel C, then it seems silly to me that they would put on anything that wouldn't achieve raising all boats. Publicly they will say they don't care about the youth demo because that is what the CW is for. Of course, if the CW had any performance whatsoever, I might cut them some slack on that.

    Also, insiders at CBS say they do focus on the 25-54 demo in their ad pitches, but these days, most of CBS' viewers(well over 50% typically) are outside of that demo.

  • Andy

    But BB has a lot more competition than in the summer. And if one looks at the trend of all BB series, they start slow… and build throughtout their run. Plus it's cheap as dirt to make. I think it should settle in to around 7 mil an episode, be on for 8 weeks, and then it will go back to being a summer series.

  • Daniel C

    I guess I’m confused by your surprise. Of course CBS is losing in the 18-49 battle. In any chart I’ve seen since I can remember, CBS has always had the oldest skewing audience. Furthermore, CBS has the fewest “unscripted” shows of any net, 5 by my count (8 on ABC, 7 on NBC, and 7 on FOX). This is a rough guess based on shows featured on each networks web site, but I think it is evident that CBS is very dependent on scripted shows and will do very well when they come back from the strike.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman

    Andy, I've made a few inquiries regarding residual payments on reruns, etc. The consensus is, regardless how cheap BB is to make, if they would get twice as many viewers sticking on an hour of reruns of 2.5 Men, CBS is losing a measurable amount of money by running BB (or any poor performer) instead. And let me clarify, it's not that CBS is not making money anyway — it indeed is. Its just not optimizing to make as much money possible. That's a disservice to its shareholders.

  • Andy

    Thanks for your info Robert. Another question if I can ask… about DVRs. When those ratings are included, is it just a sample (like normal TV ratings), or is every DVR included?

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman

    Andy, it's not every DVR or even close. What Nielsen did for the 2007-2008 is increase the panel representation from about ~9% (I think) to 21%. So it should be that 21% of the Nielsen “sample” have DVRs.

    Unfortunately short of what you could buy from Tivo data wise, the Nielsen DVR data is still the best freely available stuff. Consider that Tivo now represent less than 20% of the overall DVR market with Comcast, Time Warner, Dish, DirectTV etc. having the other 80%. While they can certainly collect data from the set top boxes, that data isn't available (at least to us).

  • Andy

    Oh, I was curious if my DVR viewing would matter. But clearly it doesn't. Thanks for the explanation.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman

    it may matter to someone (not sure which DVR, who your provider is, etc. and whether they are selling your data), but unless you're a Nielsen family, it does not matter to the Nielsen data.

  • Andy

    Unfortunately, not a Nielsen family…it drives me crazy when I see my favorite shows doing poorly and I can't do anything about it! haha… I guess that's how everyone feels.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman

    Daniel, it’s not new, and it’s not a surprise, but it is getting worse. Further, your assertion is not quite true. CBS does very, very well (and OK in the demo too) with its scripted dramas in the crime/mystery genre. Its franchise of CSI along with shows like Criminal Minds and Without a Trace are great performers (along with the comedy, Two and a Half Men).

    The question is, could CBS successfully launch new scripted dramas that are not the modern day equivalent of Murder She Wrote and attract a big audience.

    The answer seems to be no.

  • Jericho Fan

    Just to clarify, Dexter did not do better than Jericho in the 18-49 demo. Only in households.

  • Andy

    Hi all. The Sunday premiere of BB8 got 5.85 mil viewers. I just looked it up. So while the #s are pretty bad, it’s still similar to what it did during the summer. Of course, it gained significant momentum as the summer wore on. I don’t know if it will be able to get that same momentum now, considering its competition.

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