Ten weeks into the new season, the networks are holding their own -- and with some help from sports, could be headed for their first year-over-gains in some time.
According to Nielsen's "most current" season-to-date estimates, the English-language broadcast nets combined are flat or up a tick in all key ratings categories vs. last year.
Reading that you'd think that ratings were probably OK, and, of course, that's what Variety, always the suck up, wants you to think.
It's true that if you combine all the broadcast networks together things are nearly even vs. last year, but the problem with that sort of sloppy (or intentionally fuzzy) analysis is that Fox is the only network up vs. last season and all the rest are down!
Here are the year over year % changes in season to date adults 18-49 primetime ratings (on a "most current"* basis) through week 10 of the season.
Does that indicate "holding their own" to you? Take off any rose colored glasses before answering.
Of course, expect this spring to see something similar from Variety, because NBC's average will be boosted massively by two weeks of the Winter Olympics. That will likely lift NBC above last years averages, and might be enough to boost English broadcast networks as a whole above last years averages, but does it really indicate a break in the long term trend of broadcast declines?
And note that you can't just average those four numbers together to get an overall average since Fox only programs 15 hours of primetime, while the other 3 program 22 hours.
Note: The CW wasn't mentioned in the Variety piece, so I am assuming their numbers weren't included. For the record, the CW's most current 18-49 ratings are up 8.4% this season, but that is entirely due to them dropping Sunday from their schedule, all of their returning shows are down in the ratings.
* "most current" ratings are mostly Live+7 day ratings which include DVR viewing within 7 days, plus Live + Same Day ratings for the most recent 2 weeks. Unfortunately you cannot compare them directly to the season to date ratings we typically report, since those are all Live+Same Day.