Longtime readers of the site may have from time to time encountered The Gunsmoke Rule which we humorously coined because comparing today’s broadcast television ratings to those of long ago is nonsense.
“The Gunsmoke Rule”: No comparing the ratings of any individual show this season to a show in any season except the previous one. “How could CBS have canceled Gunsmoke, for some dreck like NCIS? Gunsmoke averaged a 40 rating and a 65 share in 1960!
In today’s Gunsmoke Rule violation, The Hollywood Reporter does just that:
Following its 90120 lead-in, the rookie drama delivered 2.84 million total viewers for the CW and a 1.2 rating in the adults 18-49 demographic (and broadening the network’s demos). Though it marked the network’s best performance in the time period in three years, Gellar’s Buffy effort — a midseason entry replacing Savannah on March 10, 1997 — launched to 4.8 million total viewers and a 2.0 in the 18-49 demo during the 9-10 p.m. hour. Among adults 18-34, Buffy, which ran in a very different television landscape from 1997 to 2003, drew a 1.9 rating. (It premiered with a two-hour telecast from 8-10 p.m.)
A very different television landscape indeed.
Since 1997, overall broadcast television primetime ratings have declined by about 1/3. Pretty much every entertainment show on broadcast primetime in 1997 on any given network rated substantially higher than any show today on that network.
Comparisons to long past broadcast shows *always* reflect poorly on current broadcast shows, prove nothing, and make no sense!