CBS, ABC, NBC Slow Declines vs. Last Season For Adults 18-49

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December 18th, 2008

After 12 weeks of the 2008-9 broadcast prime-time season (through December 14), all the major English broadcast networks continue to be down across the board vs. last season. Recently, those declines seemed to be stabilizing in many cases, but compared to last week, CBS, ABC and NBC pared their losses vs. last season for the important adults 18-49 demo. Across the board, CBS is still approaching a flat trend vs. last season, which compared to the competition, and the long term trend of the shift away from broadcast television to cable, has got to be viewed as a "good news"

I also pointed out last week, that the CW which had been up on a season to date basis for adults 18-34 as recently as mid-November and was now down vs. last season. That gap grew again this week and the network is now down 7.4% overall for adults 18-34. A good share of that decline is due to the fact that the CW began airing new shows several weeks before the official beginning of the 2008-9 season (on 9/22) and so has shifted into reruns earlier than they did last season. The effects of that shift should be somewhat reduced as the season goes on, but likely not eliminated entirely.

My guess is that CBS, CW and ABC will begin to see some improvement vs. last season in early 2009 when prior year comparisons to the strike damaged portion of the 2007-8 season get a lot easier. NBC may be another matter, their results last season actually improved on a relative basis during the strike, but they have the Super Bowl this year, which will also lead to a huge spike in their averages making comparisons tricky.

MyNetworkTV (MNT) is up drastically over last season, thanks mainly to the addition of Friday Night Smackdown!. Note just their numbers, because their bars are truncated. The scale for the other networks would be useless if I adjusted the scale for them. Univision, which sported big gains vs. last season earlier, is drifting towards a no growth pattern as the season progresses.

Our chart shows broadcast network prime-time season to date average prime-time viewership for the 2008-9 season compared to the 2007-8 season. Click the image for a full sized chart.

Nielsen TV Ratings Data: ©2008 The Nielsen Company. All Rights Reserved.

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