Can ABC Come Back To Catch NBC For 3rd Place In Adults 18-49?

Categories: Broadcast TV

Written By

February 27th, 2010

As I noted earlier this week, with its Winter Olympics boost, NBC has moved ahead of ABC for 3rd place in the all important (because it determines advertising revenue) adults 18-49 ratings for the season. Now Variety wonders whether ABC has the ratings juice to take back 3rd place.

While it's clear that NBC has more problems in primetime than any other major network -- it possesses only two of the season's top 20 entertainment series -- gaudy ratings for sports (both the just-concluded Winter Olympics and a record-setting year for the NFL's "Sunday Night Football") have padded its average to the point that it carries a nice lead over third-place ABC into the season's final 12-plus weeks.

NBC was projected to finish the week of Feb. 21-28 (which ended with the Closing Ceremonies from Vancouver) with a 3.0 season average in adults 18-49 to a 2.65 for fourth-place ABC. That 13% advantage likely will be trimmed to about 10% the following week, though, as the Alphabet airs the Academy Awards.

And from there, it's a race to see if the Peacock can hold on.

via - Variety.

Of course, the "horse race" order of finish is only a PR boasting point (and for sites like ours to focus on!), the absolute ratings are what really matters (i.e. NBC would rather finish 4th with a 3.5 rating than 3rd with a 2.5 rating).

After this week (#23 of the 35 week season), if NBC's season average 18-49 ratings lead is the 3.0 to 2.65 that Variety guesses (reasonable based on last weeks numbers), my back of the envelope calculations are that ABC will need to beat NBC by nearly a full adults 18-49 ratings point each week to overtake them for 3rd place by the end of the season.

Update: My earlier calculations were in error, overstating the amount that ABC would need to top NBC on a weekly basis. It's going to be much closer than I thought.

Here are my revised calculations

Net 18-49 Ratings Average After 23 weeks Rating Point Weeks
NBC 3.0 69
ABC 2.65 60.95

So in the final 12 weeks ABC needs to make up slightly more than 8 ratings point-weeks or 0.67 ratings points per week. That margin is within the realm of possibility. I change my guess to "it's a toss up".

Can ABC Do It?

I don't think so, even with a big margin next week for ABC from the Academy Awards.

Based on my revised calculations, I think it's a toss up.

After the first two weeks of the season last fall, ABC's regular lineup, with no repeats, was doing about a 2.7 adults 18-49 weekly rating. Even with the addition of Lost this spring, I don't see them averaging more than  2.8 over the 12 weeks starting Monday.

As terrible as I anticipate NBC's 18-49 ratings to be for the rest of the season starting Monday, I just don't see them averaging a 1.8 rating on a weekly basis. (I think something in the 2.2 range is more likely.)

ABC's crack PR staff will have to work overtime. Let me suggest a headline:

"Of All Networks Not Overloaded* With Sports Programming ABC Finishes First In Adults 18-49 For 2009-10!"

* our College Football and NASCAR telecasts do not = "overloaded".

 
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