Even Before Nielsen Revelations, New Broadcast Shows Weren't Doing So Well

Where’s the growth going to come for broadcast networks? In the past, many analysts said they should look to new shows. But it’s a more complicated story.

Looking at Nielsen’s live plus same day 18-49 ratings for the first two weeks of the season, this year’s new broadcast shows have been performing worse than new shows did last season.

Then, to perhaps make matters worse, Nielsen now says its national ratings may, in some small part, have been overstated. That can’t help much.

Medialife magazine reports that 18 new broadcast network shows are down 20% -- to a live plus same day 18-49 average of 2.0.  Last year, 20 shows had a 2.5 average.

Last year’s highest-rated debut was ABC’s “Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D,” with a 4.7 rating. This year’s leader, ABC’s “How To Get Away With Murder,” only got a 3.7.



What about time shifting or L3 or L7 program ratings? Those numbers don’t relate much to advertisers. The metric that does matter -- C3 ratings, the average commercial rating plus three days of time shifting -- is close to those live plus same day program ratings.  That’s important, because those ratings are available the next day. With C3, advertisers need to wait anywhere from two to three weeks.

So, what does this lowered viewership for new shows mean? Is it about setting a new bar in figuring out what’s a good rating these days --- or something more?

Take some thinly viewed new shows this year: NBC’s “A To Z” had a 1.0 rating among 18-49ers, and 3.6 million viewers overall, for its most recent episode. On the same night, Fox’s “Gracepoint” had a 0.9 rating among 18-49 viewers and 3.9 million viewers.  Analysts don’t give these shows much of a chance.

But on cable, CNN’s new “Somebody’s Gotta Do That,” a reality show about unusual jobs, posted a sharp rise from the network’s previous 9 p.m. ratings.  Sounds great, but it was only watched by 943,000 viewers and 507,000 in the key adults 25-54 demo.

But 6.1 million total viewers for a cable show sounds likes a hit --- whatever that means – or at least a cable hit. That’s how many people watched Wednesday’s season premiere of FX’s “American Horror Story.”

The good -- or perhaps head-scratching -- news, is that no new broadcast shows have been canceled, not even the very-low-rated late summer period/early fall Fox reality show “Utopia.”

Have lower thresholds been reached? Do the networks know something we don’t?


1 comment about "Even Before Nielsen Revelations, New Broadcast Shows Weren't Doing So Well ".
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  1. Chuck Lantz from, network, October 13, 2014 at 3:11 p.m.

    What puzzles me is that, despite the emerging new ways viewers are watching programs, including time-delayed and on portable devices, the method for delivering promos for the new programs has remained fairly static. Maybe stagnant is a better word. I watch a bit more TV than average, and yet I'd never heard of most of the shows until reading this article. So, either my short-term memory is shot, or the standard style promos aren't getting through to the potential viewers.

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