ABC, CBS, Fox Primetime Ratings Getting Crushed vs. Last Season

Categories: 1-Featured,Broadcast TV,TV Business

Written By

October 9th, 2012

In the three decade decline trend for broadcast TV primetime ratings there are seasons that are a bit better than the trend (like last season), and some seasons that are worse than the trend.

After two weeks of the 2012-13 season, it's shaping up to be a lot worse.

In first two weeks of the 2011-12 season, in the advertiser important adults 18-49 Live+Same Day DVR ratings, this season ABC was down 21% in week 1 and 10% in week 2, CBS was down 27% in week 1, and 17% in week 2, Fox was down 24% in week 1 and 19% in week 2. Mostly by virtue of its move of The Voice to the Fall, NBC is the only network to rise, it's up 12% in both week 1 and 2 vs. last season. No valid comparison yet for the CW, unlike recent seasons when they started their shows "early", this season they are starting "late".

The broadcast networks know this season's drop from last season isn't pretty, and their PR operations will be putting out a blizzard of Live+this and Live+that DVR ratings to distract attention from it, but you can look past that to the reality.

While the C+3 Day commercial ratings are all that *really* matter to the business of the broadcast networks, their trends are likely highly correlated with the trend of the Live+Same Day program ratings, and I'd be startled if they showed trends that were much different than the Live+Same Day program ratings.

However, if any network PR department would like to provide me with your season to season C+3 day commercial ratings trends and prove me wrong, I await your emails!

 
  • Simon

    John M

    Blocking a company in court like Apple, come on mate. Stop it. Who’s gonna win that fight.

  • Freddy Arrow

    @Clarkwood

    “@MoHassanie, no you couldn’t record it on tape. Unless you did so with another tv. When you recorded on tape it was whatever the tv was tuned on to. So, if you pressed record then started watching your show and then switched to say ESPN or the game to catch the score and then switched back, when you watched the tape back you would see just what you saw, ESPN/sports game and all.”

    This would only be true if you didn’t know how to split the analog line coming into your TV or if you wanted to watch two premium cable channels at the same time. DVRs have certainly made it easier to time shift TV shows, but its not like it was THAT hard with a VCR.

    In the 90′s I recorded most things I wanted to watch that were on before 9pm because I was usually busy putting my kids to bed during that hour. However, I tended not to skip commercials. It just wasn’t as easy with a VCR as it is with a DVR.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Bill Gorman

    “I think the pretty clear answer here is for the networks to start charging higher carriage fees”

    They are doing that as much as possible, and that’s one of the ways their business models have evolved.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Bill Gorman

    “the product placements take over and become the whole reason behind the show. It’s nothing but ads. DVRs become moot.”

    Lots of people like to suggest product placements, but many categories of advertising just don’t work as product placement.

  • Holly

    @Clarkwood

    Maybe, 1 sponsor for each break or even the whole show. So we get a 3 minute y/t like spot or an 9 or 18min “show”.

    I’m pretty sure the CW tried something similar. They had some teen-girl focused company (clothing I think) that had commercials throughout the night with an ongoing storyline. CBS also had one of the frozen food companies (Bertoni?) sponsoring the Monday comedy block that commented on what was happening in the shows during the commercial.

  • Holly

    @tjw,

    I think the pretty clear answer here is for the networks to start charging higher carriage fees.

    They’re trying, ergo the battles and the blackouts.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman

    Lots of people like to suggest product placements, but many categories of advertising just don’t work as product placement.

    But plenty of them that are never used as product placements would work great if everyone involved could stomach it. Clearly they can’t, but you can’t convince me Mob Doctor and Fringe ratings wouldn’t be higher if they both figured out how to incorporate the Geico gecko and Allstate’s “Mayhem” as recurring characters!

  • Holly

    Lots of people like to suggest product placements, but many categories of advertising just don’t work as product placement.

    Including one of the big ones: movie premiers. You can’t have your characters going to the movies every single week, especially if they’re stranded on an island or have no power or are living in the ’60s…

  • Holly

    @Robert,

    Clearly they can’t, but you can’t convince me Mob Doctor and Fringe ratings wouldn’t be higher if they both figured out how to incorporate the Geico gecko and Allstate’s “Mayhem” as recurring characters!

    Wasn’t there an ABC comedy that tried that ;)

  • Anthony Parello (AP076)

    “Including one of the big ones: movie premiers. You can’t have your characters going to the movies every single week, especially if they’re stranded on an island or have no power or are living in the ’60s…”

    Lol, I remember when Fox’s Bones had the characters sleeping out for the premier of Fox’s (distributer) Avatar. That was one time too many for me. :-)

  • Kevin

    NBC finally redeem themselves after all the mistakes the Peacock network has been through since the 2004-05 TV season. CBS still has something to prove now that its returning series has been too old these days like NCIS, CSI, Survivor & Two and a Half Men to name a few. ABC still needs some life left now that two rookie shows are in danger already: LAST RESORT and 666 PARK AVENUE and Fox may want to consider on how renewing X FACTOR for a second season was an after thought and what will happen on the new season of IDOL if it’s still an after thought.

  • eridapo

    @ MoHasanie

    My in-law bought one of those Samsung SmartTVs, and it is amazing. I want one. Lets you search for content, and it displays similar type content on your screen. It uses Hulu+, NetFlix, and other streaming services. It also gives you access to the net…

    That type of TV will be the future with ads gear to the individual based upon viewing history and likes.

  • eridapo

    Watch the future of ads using MS Kinect’s device. I think this technology can eventually be incorporated to any smarttv or cable box.

  • THE OLD MAN

    No real surprise here at all–will have to wait thru to Nov Sweeps to have a more accurate figure

  • Nicole

    I dvr most of the shows I watch just because I don’t have time to watch tv at 8-9 pm. I don’t frankford through all the commercials but most of the time I do. When watching on demand though, there is no ff and they do show commercials.

  • craigcuk

    @Simon

    Part of what you said on 9th Oct is true but what you haven’t touched on is the extraordinarily disjointed built in cost loading for any network show, there was a fantastic posting by one of the producers of The Sarah Connor Chronicles a while back http://hucksblog.blogspot.co.uk/2009/06/boy-in-bubble.html that clearly indicates to me a big problem in the business is the way these costs are built in and supported by the networks.

    You should know with your background from the UK (and I’m a LonTerey time splitter these days) that really good TV can be made at a fraction of the cost if you took the loadings out.

    The reason they’re left in is twofold:-

    The first is that while the advertisers continue to commit the same amount of money at the upfronts http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/14/upfront-ad-sales-yield-higher-rates-steady-volume/ then there is no desire to change the existing model.

    The whole existing TV infrastructure supports not only the show talent but also the backlot, producers, agents and assorted fluffers from the Network.

    The disparity between cable and network advertising rates is laughable and although not supportable on any logical basis while it continues to be supported by advertisers it’ll continue to exist.

    Networks obviously get heavily invested in their shows and that’s reflected in the amount of promo and puff piece airtime they’re willing to invest in them, when they’re not invested there’s little or no promotion (The Firm is a recent example that springs to mind).

    At some point the dam will break, if this is next year or ten years away nobody knows but I’m certain when it breaks the outcome will be ugly.

    I always wondered where you went after spooks.

  • Doug

    NBC’s issues started when Seinfeld left the air – so we’re talking about 14 years now. While they occasionally had a new series that plugged a gap, they never continually produced hits like CBS, got their hands on an American Idol, like Fox, or had a banner year like ABC in 2004/2005. People blaming the NBC mess on Leno is rather funny – Leno certainly didn’t help, but he didn’t cause the mess. The number of night-building new hits that they had from 2002-2012 – shows that didn’t flame out in two seasons – is pretty much limited to The Office, The Biggest Loser, The Voice, and The Apprentice (somewhat). It looks like they’re turning it around in some way, or that they’ve at least stopped the gush.

  • Emily

    While a lot of people do own a DVD player, and watch stuff online, the vast majority of us still watch it traditionally live on TV, however the people who do watch online/DVR are more likely to be the sorts of people who go on sites like this, so while it seems like everyone is streaming stuff, its still pretty low

  • Justin121 re: NBC

    re: NBC

    The only thing that went right was The Voice — no one had doubts about that.

    Outside Mondays, their schedule is still a disaster (kind of ironic goven how the past few years the TVBTN mantra was that Moondays were the black whole of NBC’s schedule. Wednesdays was, too, but to a lesser extent).

    Now they’ve got the worst possible shcedule on Wednesday, Thursday, half of Tuesday, and post-football Sunday — so not much has changed, really, except as I mentioned the four hours occupied by The Voice and Revolution.

    Well, I guess 4 out of 15 is a start.

    The only saving grace they still have is The Biggest Loser but I expect that to fill Mondays 8-10 between Voice cycles, so the number of “fixed” hours isn’t changing.

    They need The Biggest Loser to

    a) fill for The Voice
    b) save Tuesdays
    c) save Wednesdays
    d) save Thursdays

    Decision, decisions, decisions…

    (the most likely is (a), but NBC could do something stupid like TBL on Tuesdays and holding the Go On block until The Voice’s second cycle and fill Mondays with limited-run dramas *sigh*).

    Wednesdays and Thursdays are lost causes by this point. I don’t know if they can ever be fixed…

  • Clarkwood

    @ babyboomer50

    For you, but not for me. And, my dad really watched and recorded tv. So, he probably had something fairly modern and what a decent amount of viewers had. Not picking a fight btw. I guess some could watch one and record another. Though some couldn’t. Until I was in a TiVO household, this was not possible for me. Unreliable as it is.

    @ FreddyArrow

    Same for you. Savy/foreward thinking viewers would split the cable, but not the masses. Splitting the cable, that is not what any significant portion of the viewers would do. Be reasonable.

    @ Temis

    I highly doubt the quality of those ads could be worthwhile enough to actually watch for an hour or 3 at at a time. Then again, if they want to try Sat and Friday nights they could plug a 30min – hour or more program. What would they call it though? SNL’s self made commercials that “mock” fake products are very fun to watch, not all of them but still.

    @ Holly

    Yes, some channels have had 1 sponsor for a break/whole show. TNT has done it for Lexus and other car companies. But the commercials still aren’t worth watching. I didn’t see the ones you mentioned. Were they any good? Did you want to not get up and finish watching the story of the commercial? I hope they don’t scrap the idea. Things don’t stick with one try. Even if it didn’t work, it’s not common enough to have a real solid chance to work.

    To all, yeah some products can’t work as product placement but can work as a full commercial break. What about instead of 18min in 6, 3min breaks, 12, 90sec breaks? Doesn’t stop DVR FF, & live pausing, but does stop the currently 50% that don’t have DVR from taking a long break. I’d also suggest for hour long shows, like Castle does, 9-10min beginning of the show but instead of 3min after that, only 90sec, you can have a 3min break 40-45min in to make up for that 9-10min intro.

    @ AP076

    Oh that was for Avatar. They had a lot of the show focused on the premiere scene, even sex in the tent. I thought that was actual material not an ad. But since I didn’t remember the Movie Name, besides it being sci-fi/fantasy, I guess it wasn’t that effective. Maybe live tv viewers who had commercial breaks and popups did remember it.

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