Through nine weeks of the season--Sept. 22 through Nov. 23--new broadcast shows among the four big networks have averaged a 2.2 live-plus-same-day program rating among 18-49 viewers. This is down from a 2.7 number in 2007, and almost a full rating point under the 3.1 of 2006.
"The threshold continues to be lowered," says Brad Adgate, senior vice president and corporate research director for Horizon Media, who put together the report. "Cable continues to offer stiff competition, and the [writers] strike of a year ago hurt development."
All this has led to a more conservative approach to launching new shows. This year, among the four networks, there were 15 new shows that launched in the fall. Last year, there were 22 new shows. In 2006, there were 29 new shows.
ABC in particular is down, with just two new shows so far this year: "Life on Mars" and "Opportunity Knocks," which has already been canceled. The alphabet network had eight new shows a year ago, and seven shows in 2006.
This season, CBS has been the best network performer among the big four for news shows. Through nine weeks, "The Mentalist" is earning a 3.6 rating--the second-best among all new shows. The network's comedy "Worst Week" is at a 3.1 rating, with "Eleventh Hour" at a 3.0 number.
The best new show is Fox's "Fringe," at a 3.8 rating after seven episodes. A year ago, ABC's "Samantha Who?" was the best-rated new show, with a 4.5 rating. "Private Practice" was a close second at a 4.3.
In 2006, NBC had the best new show--"Sunday Night Football," with a 6.6 rating. After that came NBC's "Heroes" at a 6.1. ABC's "Brothers & Sisters" was in third place with a 5.2 number.
Ironically, many troubling shows in 2006 that were canceled would be good ratings contenders this year.
For ABC, shows like "Help Me Help You" earned a 3.1 rating among 18-49 after nine weeks; "The Nine" was at a 3.2 number; and "Six Degrees" earned a 3.9 rating. CBS had four shows that were above the three rating range: "The Class" (3.0); "Jericho" (3.2); "Shark" (3.9); and "Smith" (3.2). NBC's "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" earned a 3.6 after over two months of the season.