Although CBS will win the TV season by any traditional measure, the network and its broadcast rivals continue to experience challenges in making viewership gains.
One day before the TV season traditionally ends, CBS is poised to take top honors when it comes to key 18-49 viewers that advertisers actively pursue. Through May 22, CBS’ prime-time Nielsen live program- plus-same-day time-shifted ratings are averaging a 2.3 rating/8 share. NBC is at a 2.1/7, followed by Fox at 1.9/6; ABC, 1.8/6; and the CW, a 0.8/3.
CBS and CW posted flat results, with NBC down 13%. ABC has slipped 18% and Fox is down 5%.
Growing sports programming continues to play a major role in the results.
CBS was buoyed by having the Super Bowl this year, while NBC was hurt by not having the big TV event versus a year ago. The Super Bowl -- annually the most-viewed U.S. TV show -- pulled in an overwhelming 112 million viewers this year.
Both CBS and NBC benefit from other highly rated prime-time NFL programming.
For its part, ABC says without any sports in prime-time -- NBC’s top rated “Sunday Night Football,” CBS, “Thursday Night Football” (the fourth highest-rated prime-time series), as well as ABC’s own college football series on Saturday night, and the NBA playoffs -- it would have tied CBS for first place, a 1.9 18-49 rating.
Overall, prime-time viewers went in the same direction. CBS led with 10.9 million viewers -- but was down 3.5% from a year ago. NBC slipped 6% to 8.1 million, while ABC fell 15% to 6.8 million. Fox was even at 5.8 million and CW was down 7% to 2.0 million.
Over the past year, Fox benefited from greater stability as a result of its big “Empire” series -- the second highest-rated 18-49 series in prime time.
While traditional TV measures -- Nielsen same-day program ratings -- continue to point lower, all TV networks believe a different story would be told if unaccounted time-shifted viewing after seven days -- through VOD, digital media and other platforms -- were added into the mix.
It's a race to the bottom and CBS seems determined to be the last to die. 30 years ago, these would be the ratings and shares for PBS.
Before we jump to conclusions it should be noted that these figures are mainly for a single sellergraphic---adults 18-49---and do not include delayed viewing beyond one day nor added exposure via digital venues. Also, the broadcast networks' core audience---whether or not they will admit it----is the 50+ "demo", except for CW ---and here the losses are far smaller. It is also logical to anticipate that whatever viewership the networks get via delayed audiences and, especially, the digital option, will be far younger and more upscale that the "live" plus one day delay stats indicate ---which is excatly what is happening to local TV/radio stations, newspapers and magazines as they expand their online audiences.
Douglas, PBS never drew much better than an average 3 share---a few exceptions for individual shows and/or telecasts aside, and CBS was always the old folks primetime network. As a guess. it topped PBS by about 20-25 to 3 in primetime 18-49 shares in days of yore. Now it probably leads by 8 to 2.