There was a sudden ratings shock to the system on Wednesday for network television from eye-popping lower viewership results -- giving TV programmers a second day of indigestion this week.
The first two weeks of the season offered up good results for many networks -- but now in the third week of the season, things seem to be getting ugly.
For example, on Wednesday night, total ratings points collectively among the five networks dropped to a 10.9 among 18-49 viewers. This compares with the 12.0 rating of a week before. Also, there were two million less total viewers on October 7 versus the week before -- 33.7 million versus 35.7 million.
"That's a fairly substantial drop," says David Scardino, entertainment specialist for Santa Monica, Calif. media agency RPA.
Part of the problem is that Wednesday has many new shows that went south versus the week before: NBC's "Mercy", with a Nielsen preliminary 1.8/5; ABC's "Hank", at 1.6/5; ABC's "Eastwick", with a 1.8/5; and ABC's "The Middle", at 2.1/6. Also contributing: CBS's "CSI:NY" with a 2.9 /8, series low numbers.
More trouble followed as ABC's two big comedies of the first two weeks -- "Modern Family" and "Cougar Town" -- were down from their 4-plus ratings among 18-49 viewers. But both landed lower with still-decent 3.2/9 and 3.1/8 ratings, respectively.
Scardino says eight new shows contributed to the problem: "The sampling would be a little more volatile than the other nights."
He also says NBC's "The Jay Leno Show" continues to deflate numbers versus a year ago -- although all this was expected by media agency executives.
The better news comes with Fox, which witnessed its "Glee" rising to a 3.2/8. At 8 p.m., Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance?" earned a 2.5/7, winning the time period.
For the year so far, Fox, for one, has shown a massive improvement -- especially on Monday -- up 91% in total viewers and 78% in 18-49 viewers. Scardino says that "House" and "Lie to Me" have shown big gains versus "Terminator" and "Prison Break."
Tuesday witnessed 41.1 million total viewers for the five networks -- that's down from a 41.7 million the week before. Total 18-49 viewer ratings slipped a bit, to a 12.5 total rating from 12.8 rating the week before.
Scardino says that one positive for the season so far is that the second week rating fall-off compared to the first week -- a frequent trend -- has been smaller than the second week compared to the first week of a year ago.