Masked Scheduler's Ratings Smackdown

Let's end the week with some Masked Mail.
CM frets, "I have been following Neilsen ratings for over 25 years. Lately I find the decline In the demo and overall audience numbers to be quite alarming (for the networks, not really for me).
I know it's May and with the summer season, viewership is going to decline, but I was stunned that on May 9 not ONE SHOW had a total audience over 10 million. I know this is same-day viewing and the L+7 numbers are coming but, at this rate, how long do you see Broadcast TV surviving?
I see the handwriting on the wall. TV as we knew it is changing, but what is the next step? I mean, how many pay platforms can the general public tolerate? Would love to hear your thoughts!"
I think I have addressed this recently, but I do not see the broadcast networks going away. Even with the possible Disney/21CF deal looming on the horizon -- assuming Comcast doesn't muddy the waters -- the FOX network will go on. After all, they have a five-year commitment to the NFL, and a deal with the WWE appears to be imminent.
The networks continue to evolve and find new ways to monetize the content of the shows through streaming, VOD, international, etc. I also believe all the networks and their cable platforms will eventually offer suites of channels for a fee. Sure, some networks will benefit more from this than others, and some streamers may not make the cut, but that's way down the road.
The broadcast nets continue to be a great platform to build awareness and sampling for the shows mostly produced by their sibling studios and can still reach more eyeballs at one time than any other platform, so don't write the obit just yet.
WQ has two questions. First: "Shouldn't the five networks be churning out more new shows in the
fall than a puny 20? After all, the fall season still represents a fresh new start, and if networks are to make a splash, wouldn't they stand a better chance at drawing in more viewers with more new fare
rather than increasingly sticking with the same old stuff that inevitably keeps declining in the ratings?
"Time was, back in a 3-network universe, 25%-30% of a fall season's programming was
comprised of new shows. Now it's about half that percentage in a 5-network era, with each new season feeling staler than the last."
This is the age-old dilemma for the networks. If you cancel too many shows and add too many new shows in the fall, the odds are you will see your overall ratings decline. When I was in the game, I always felt that we were too quick on the trigger finger. People's jobs were on the line, and development execs love to eat their young so they can get more on the air. Also, the more new series you added, the larger your marketing cost, and then you had to make choices about which of your new series you were going to bet on.
The other dilemma was when to premiere your shows. There was a moment when the networks tried to avoid a "premiere week" and spread out their debuts. I think it was to the detriment of the new shows, and we are back to something resembling a premiere week. That is a good reason to hold off on several new shows and wait for January-February or even later to launch a second wave of freshman shows.
It's a difficult balance. That’s why program planners get paid the big bucks, or at least they should.
WQ continues: "Also, doesn’t splitting a show’s season in two, i.e. fall and spring runs with a hiatus in between, impact more negatively on its ratings than if it ran uninterrupted throughout the season so as to better sustain a viewer's interest in the show? CBS appears to be the only network to have not plunged heavily into splitting its shows' runs, which may possibly explain why the network has won 15 of the last 16 seasons in total viewers."
This is one example of what I call "cable envy," where broadcast networks try to imitate the cable nets by splitting series into a fall and midseason cluster, often putting a short order series between the two parts.
I happen to agree with you and believe that if the networks just ran a series with a break in December and returned it to the sked in January, they would be better off. This also forces the networks to think up a "fall finale," which can sometimes give the viewer a reason to jump off the train.
I don't believe viewers like the long splits, and all this may be pushing more of them away from linear and toward binging these series on streamers.
The recent trend is to wait until March to return a series. That means the show returns after daylight saving time, which can also impact the ratings. Another tough decision for the networks to make.
Email is and Twitter @maskedscheduler.

Broadcast primetime live + same-day ratings for Thursday, June 7, 2018

Note: NBC’s live NHL broadcast may result in greater adjustments than usual in the final ratings.

The numbers for Thursday:

Time Show Adults 18-49 rating/share
Viewers (millions)
8 p.m. Stanley Cup Finals Game 5 (NBC) (8-11 p.m.) 1.9/9 6.02
Celebrity Family Feud (ABC) – R 1.1/5 5.89
The Big Bang Theory (CBS) – R 1.0/5 6.56
The Four: Battle for Stardom (FOX) (8-10 p.m.) – P 0.7/3 2.43
Supernatural (The CW) – R 0.2/1 0.84
8:30 p.m. Young Sheldon (CBS) – R 1.0/5 6.20
9 p.m. The $100,000 Pyramid (ABC) – R 0.9/4 4.71
Mom (CBS) – R 0.8/4 5.08
Black Lightning (The CW) – R 0.1/1 0.68
9:30 p.m. Life in Pieces (CBS) – R 0.6/3 3.95
10 p.m. To Tell the Truth (ABC) – R 0.7/3 3.51
SWAT (CBS) – R 0.5/2 3.81


The Washington Capitals’ first Stanley Cup win delivered strong ratings to NBC Thursday night. Opposite hockey, “The Four” started smaller for FOX.

Pending updates, NBC’s Stanley Cup telecast led the night with just over 6 million viewers and a 1.9 rating in adults 18-49. That’s the highest mark of the five-game series; the game’s 5.0 household rating in metered markets was ahead of the 3.8 for the prior two games (1 and 4) that aired on NBC.

The Season 2 premiere of “The Four: Battle for Stardom” fell off quite a bit from its series debut in January. Thursday’s show drew a 0.7, down half a point from its January premiere.

ABC, CBS and The CW aired repeats.

Network averages:

Adults 18-49 rating/share 1.9/9 0.9/4 0.7/3 0.7/3 0.2/1
Total Viewers (millions) 6.02 4.70 2.43 4.90 0.76


Late-night metered market ratings (adults 18-49, households):

11:35 p.m.

“Jimmy Kimmel Live” – R: 0.5/3, 1.7/5

“The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”: 0.4/3, 2.6/7

“The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”: n/a, delayed by NHL overrun

12:35 a.m.

“Nightline”: 0.3/3, 1.1/4

“The Late Late Show with James Corden”: 0.2/2, 1.2/4

“Late Night with Seth Meyers”: n/a, delayed


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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