CBS is rightfully trumpeting the fact that it was the only major English broadcaster to finish the 2008-9 season with prime time ratings ahead 2007-8 season. But CBS also fared the worst in the strike torn 2007-8 season vs. the 2006-7 season.
But what if we skip the 2007-8 strike season altogether and just look at the two year change between 2006-7 and 2008-9?
Looking at the two season changes, CBS still has done better than all the other English broadcasters, but it's not nearly the standout as the comparison to last season shows it to be. CBS's changes, while better, are roughly comparable to Fox's vs. 2006-7.
Focusing in on the other big English networks adults 18-49 demo changes shows that their demo audience loss over the past two seasons has been immense. CW has lost 37% of its 18-49 demo audience (and 36% of its 18-34 audience), NBC 23% and ABC 20%. That's quite an acceleration of the decades long trend of audience loss for broadcast prime time.
Univision has been effectively flat in the main youth demos.
In the chart above, I have adjusted the NBC numbers to remove the effects of Super Bowl week 2009 and adjusted the CBS numbers to remove the effects of Super Bowl week 2007. My adjustments remove the effect of the entire week, not just the game, so they're crude, but they make season to season comparisons at least reasonably possible. With the data I have available I cannot make a finer adjustment.
Our chart shows broadcast network prime-time season to date average prime-time viewership for the 2008-9 season compared to the 2006-7 season. Click the image for a full sized chart. Note for those comparing other charts from the 2008-9 season, the Y axis has been changed to accomodate the numbers, so the bar lengths are not exactly comparable.
Nielsen TV Ratings Data: ©2009 The Nielsen Company. All Rights Reserved.