There’s always a lot of discussion in our comments about one night of broadcast primetime being “tougher” than another. Fans of a show getting pummeled would typically like to argue that night’s “toughness” is a disadvantage for their show.

Although measuring the “toughness” of a night, even with ratings, is a subjective exercise, I thought it might be interesting to try.

I took each broadcast network’s nightly season average (through 5/9/10) adults 18-49 rating, and summed them by night, to get the average total rating among the five (and four) big English language broadcast networks.

By that standard,  Tuesday and Sunday are the “toughest” nights, with Tuesday edging Sunday when all 5 networks are compared, but Sunday ahead when the CW is left out. Monday is the third “toughest” night, while Thursday, thought to be the most important for advertising purposes is fourth. Wednesday, which I think the conventional wisdom would make the “easiest” night the networks care about, places fifth.

The first list is the sum of all 5 networks (including the CW), the second is a list of only ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox.

Five network nightly average ratings (ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, CW)

Night Total Adults 18-49 rating (Most Current)
Tuesday 15.84
Sunday 15.56
Monday 15.06
Thursday 14.49
Wednesday 13.69
Friday 7.80
Saturday 6.67

Four network nightly average ratings (ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC)

Night Total Adults 18-49 rating (Most Current)
Sunday 15.56
Tuesday 15.11
Monday 13.97
Thursday 13.21
Wednesday 12.86
Friday 7.00
Saturday 6.67


  • Since all I have are full season ratings averages, I can’t compare the differences between periods such as “with sports (like football)” and “without sports”.
  • I lack hourly ratings averages data. Of course, some hours are “tougher” than others on every night, but I’m unable to show that.
  • Since “Most Current” ratings are mostly Live+7 day DVR viewing, the rankings could possibly change if I was able to compare each night’s Live+Same Day ratings, but I don’t have access to those numbers.
  • Obviously, this only compares broadcast television viewing, and doesn’t take into account other TV viewing (which would be primarily ad supported cable). I could try and do something using share (the % of viewers watching TV) instead, but it didn’t seem worth the effort, considering all the other caveats.

Nielsen TV Ratings: ©2010 The Nielsen Company. All Rights Reserved.

Posted by:TV By The Numbers

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