Magna Midseason Analysis: NBC Loses Ground, Fox Shines
Both ABC and NBC are the only networks that have improved, versus a year ago. CBS is slightly down, but stable. Fox, however, is lagging far behind. The new CW is at virtually the same levels as WB and UPN at this time in 2005.
Starting in 2007, it all changes, says Magna Global USA in a recent report.
The agency expects NBC to lose ground because its "Sunday Night Football" telecast is ending, similar to what ABC went through after its "Monday Night Football" season concluded. NBC will fill the void with one old and one new reality series: "The Apprentice" and "Grease: You're the One That I Want." Magna's prediction: watch NBC lose young male viewers.
On the flip side, Fox is expected to show its true midseason colors. The nuclear bomb known as "American Idol" will return Jan. 15, ready to wreak havoc in prime time. So, too, will "24" make its return. Both shows should drive Fox to first place again.
ABC is a wild card. Despite its strong lead so far, analysts worry about what could happen to its Tuesday and Wednesday lineups. It had nice numbers with "Dancing with the Stars" on Tuesday, but that show will be on a break when "Idol" arrives. On Wednesdays, "Lost" has been down some 20% this season--all without "Idol" in the picture.
Magna Global, like other media agencies, commends CBS for its stability. While CBS suffered a drop among 18-49 viewers this season--taking a hit from the incursion of ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" on Thursday night--media analysts like the fact that even in reruns, its ratings decline is less than other networks.
Among 18-49 viewers, ABC still is tops with a 4.2 rating, up 2%; CBS is at a 3.9, down 4%; NBC is 16% better at a 3.8; Fox is down 8% to a 3.0. The CW is at a 1.5, virtually the same levels of WB and UPN of a year ago. For its closer-to-home 18-34 demo, The CW is at a 1.7, also at the same levels as WB or UPN of a year ago.
Looking closer, Magna says ABC has really made improvement among women, young and old. ABC is up 15% in each of the key female demos--12-34, 18-34, 18-49, and 25-54--the leader in all categories.
Fox lost most of its audience this year with young women, down 12% in the 18-34 demographic. The network gained in areas they probably don't welcome--a 3% improvement among adults 50+.
NBC made the best improvements of any network with younger viewers 18-34, picking up a big 21% for the season to date. No doubt the rise is attributable to younger-skewing shows, like "Heroes" and "Sunday Night Football."
"America's Next Top Model" has kept CW competitive among female and younger demos in the fourth quarter, says Magna Global. Other analysts note, however, CW is only a bit better at times than either WB or UPN--and it's nowhere near the net's promise to be nearly twice as strong as one of those networks.
Another big issue is "live" ratings, which is what most media agencies want. Magna thinks it would be better to look at "live plus seven day DVR ratings" to gain a more accurate reflection of a network's performance--at least for this year.