One refrain we sometimes see is "of course it won its time period, it had no competition!" We heard such rumblings last night with regard to Glee's season-best performance. Not having as much competition on the broadcast networks certainly can't hurt a show's chances, but the notion of no competition is silly.
Bill is wont to say that on any given night 60% of adults 18-49 are watching cable TV.
It's Not Quite 60%, but close enough for conversational purposes
Through Tuesday night, cable is averaging a 54% share of adults 18-49 in primetime, with the bulk of it coming from advertising-supported basic cable (48%), other cable (2% , including non ad-supported nets like Disney) and premium pay cable services (4%). The 6% or so that’s missing from Bill’s conversational estimate are made up of other broadcast networks (like ION and several Spanish language nets aside from Univision), independent local channels and PBS.
This isn’t a new trend, the flight from broadcast to cable has been afoot for over 25 years.
People sometimes don’t notice the cable competition in the overnight reports because it isn’t included in the overnight reports (we would report it if it were available, but the cable information isn’t available until the afternoon, which makes it impossible to include in the overnight reports even if we had regular access to the data).
But you can approximate this on any given night by adding up the 18-49 share info for primetime that we post for ABC, CBS, CW, FOX, NBC and UNI. If it adds up to 40%, that means 60% were watching something else – with almost all of that being cable.
Sadly, I don’t have any granular historical data because one of the trends that immediately jumps out at me is the half hourly share trends for cable in primetime. For adults 18-49, through December 1:
18-49 primetime average share for all cable S-T-D through December 1:
(hat tip to @TVBill for the cool data)
Don't Blame Jay Leno (at least not for all of it)
Obviously the 10pm hour is very interesting, and I’ll see if I can dig up any data for last year. I know the “Jay Leno Killed Broadcast TV” zealots will point and say, “SEE! SEE! HE’S KILLING BROADCAST!” but a lot of things go on at 10pm.
For one, networks like FOX and smaller networks like CW don’t even program there. That cable deliberately programs a lot of its best content at 10pm is not a new trend due to Jay Leno. FX, USA and Bravo have traditionally put some of their best shows on at 10pm. Undeniably, more people are watching cable at 10pm, but there are causes beyond Jay Leno.
That is not to say that Leno’s presence Monday-Friday hasn’t made the numbers more pronounced, but I’m guessing if I can dig up the S-T-D numbers from last season, the half hourly trends will look similar, with more share from 10-11p.