Masked Scheduler's Ratings Smackdown

Given the disappointing Sunday night ratings I thought this Twitter question was worth talking about:
"With TV networks suffering lower ratings on Sunday nights, could you see them considering the return of movie nights?"
That's an interesting question. By the time I got in the scheduling game in 1991, all three broadcast networks targeted Sunday night for movies (both made-fors and theatricals) and big events. All the networks had more than one movie night, but Sunday was the free-for-all.
For me Sunday night was "Bonanza" and, later on, the great CBS Sunday nights of "60 Minutes," a great 4-comedy block with "All in the Family" and "The Jeffersons" and "Trapper John"/"Lou Grant," but at some point, Sunday became movie night for all the networks.
All three networks survived in peaceful harmony for quite a while, and on any given Sunday, any one of the networks would prevail. There was enough audience to go around for everyone.
I may have mentioned here, and definitely on my blog, that I would walk my dog Bella through my neighborhood in Queens on Sunday night. I would look in the windows of my neighbors and get a sense of what movie they were watching (back then, you were generally watching one of the big three) and report to Brandon Tartikoff. It would generally give us a lead indication of which network would win the Sunday night battle.
Sunday was my favorite night to schedule since it was a cat and mouse game with my fellow schedulers. It was especially fun to schedule the night during sweeps periods.
At some point, I started to realize that original movies were a highly unprofitable form of programming, and I started to advocate the return to series. I felt NBC should be the first to get back into that game on Sunday before the other nets. I even convinced my bosses to let me schedule an all-original four-comedy block followed by an original "Law & Order." The results were inconclusive.
I soldiered on, and finally we cancelled the Monday Movie (we had two nights). By the end of the decade all the networks had moved away from Sunday as a movie night.
The problem with the return of series to Sunday is that the networks now find themselves in competition with cable, both basic and pay, for the series audience.
I think it's probably too late to go back to the movie strategy. Cost, promotion and repeatability would all be issues. As always it's about coming up with the signature show and building on it.
Finally, it's all about consistency. Looking at last night's numbers you see the established shows in the time period are the better performers.
Tough times out there.
***
Last night's sked:
- "Payback" (WWE Network) Solid main event. I could write a doctoral thesis on Roman Reigns and and the WWE fans.
- "Billions" (Showtime, L+SD) Gang, this is an outstanding show having a great season. If you like "Tom & Jerry" or Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote cartoons this show is for you.
- "Silicon Valley" (HBO, L+SD) Great episode with a sidesplitting button.

Broadcast primetime live + same-day ratings for Sunday, April 30, 2017

The numbers for Sunday bring generally positive news for the broadcast networks:

Time Show Adults 18-49 Rating/Share Viewers (millions)
7 p.m. America’s Funniest Home Videos (ABC) 1.1/5 5.38
60 Minutes (CBS) 0.8/3 8.80
Little Big Shots (NBC) – R 0.8/4 5.04
Bob’s Burgers (FOX) – R 0.5/2 1.27
7:30 p.m. Bob’s Burgers (FOX) 0.7/3 1.61
8 p.m. Little Big Shots (NBC) 1.5/6 8.73
NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS) 1.0/4 9.05
The Simpsons (FOX) 1.0/4 2.26
Once Upon a Time (ABC) 0.9/4 3.03
8:30 p.m. Making History (FOX) 0.6/2 1.39
9 p.m. Family Guy (FOX) 1.2/4 2.40
Chicago Justice (NBC) 1.0/4 6.04
Match Game (ABC) 0.8/3 3.30
Madam Secretary (CBS) 0.7/3 7.73
9:30 p.m. The Last Man on Earth (FOX) 0.8/3 1.89
10 p.m. Shades of Blue (NBC) 0.8/3 4.56
Elementary (CBS) 0.5/2 4.83
American Crime (ABC) – F 0.4/2 1.96

 

As was the case a week earlier, several shows posted improved ratings Sunday night. “Little Big Shots” led the night with a 1.5 rating among adults 18-49, its best showing since March 26.

FOX’s “Family Guy” (1.2, +0.2) and “The Simspons” (1.0, +0.1) improved on their last episodes as well. So did “Once Upon a Time” (0.9), “Match Game” (0.8) and the finale of “American Crime” (0.4) on ABC and “Shades of Blue” (0.8) on NBC, all of which were up a tenth of a point vs. the previous week.

All four of CBS’ shows were even with last week, with “NCIS: Los Angeles” (1.0) scoring the highest. “Chicago Justice” (1.0), “Making History” (0.6) and “The Last Man on Earth” (0.8) also held steady. “Bob’s Burgers” matched last week’s preliminary 0.7 (it adjusted up to 0.8 in the finals).

Network averages:

NBC ABC FOX CBS
Adults 18-49 rating/share 1.0/4 0.8/3 0.8/3 0.7/3
Total Viewers (millions) 6.09 3.42 1.80 7.60

 

Definitions:
Rating
: Estimated percentage of the universe of TV households (or other specified group) tuned to a program in the average minute. Ratings are expressed as a percent.
Fast Affiliate Ratings: These first national ratings are available at approximately 11 a.m. ET the day after telecast. The figures may include stations that did not air the entire network feed, as well as local news breaks or cutaways for local coverage or other programming. Fast Affiliate ratings are not as useful for live programs and are likely to differ significantly from the final results, because the data reflect normal broadcast feed patterns. 
Share (of Audience): 
The percent of households (or persons) using television who are tuned to a specific program, station or network in a specific area at a specific time. 
Time Shifted Viewing:
 Program ratings for national sources are produced in three streams of data – Live, Live +Same-Day and Live +7 Day. Time-shifted figures account for incremental viewing that takes place with DVRs. Live+SD includes viewing during the same broadcast day as the original telecast, with a cut-off of 3 a.m. local time when meters transmit daily viewing to Nielsen for processing. Live +7 ratings include  viewing that takes place during the 7 days following a telecast.

Source: The Nielsen Company.

Posted by:Rick Porter

Rick Porter has been covering TV since the days when networks sent screeners on VHS, one of which was a teaser for the first season of "American Idol." He's left-handed, makes a very solid grilled cheese and has been editor of TV by the Numbers since October 2015. He lives in Austin.

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